portraits of christ

A Self-Paced Online Course

for critical minds & contemplative hearts

An introduction to the four gospels

cracking the geocode

Have you ever heard someone refer to the Bible as a “page turner”? Me neither. Because the Bible is distanced from us historically, culturally, and linguistically it can often seem foreign and inaccessible, with little to satiate the modern spiritual interest in meditative techniques and esoteric wisdom. It is difficult to discern a unified spiritual vision or consistent ethic among its various books. The biblical endorsement of archaic social structures and worldviews often offends the very ethical and spiritual commitments these same Scriptures inspire among Christians today. For contemplatives in particular, the Bible may seem less of a spiritual oasis and more like a literary wilderness with little to offer the interior life of prayer. Yet within its pages God draws near to us, even as we find ourselves ever more distant from the ancient world in which its words were penned.

 

Perhaps the Bible is less like a precious gem whose natural luster lures us in and more like a geode—those rather unappealing if not unsightly rocks that must be cracked open in just the right manner to reveal an unexpected display of color and crystalline beauty. How, then, might the contemplative begin to crack open the Scriptures in order to peer deep into the transformative beauty contained within? In other words, how might we approach the gospels in a way that grounds the life and practice of contemplative Christians today?

 

Modern methods of biblical interpretation have made unprecedented strides in bridging this historical divide. It is as if we have been standing over an archeological site for centuries without picks or shovels or brushes. But new interpretive tools developed since the Enlightenment have unearthed aspects of Scripture to which we never before had access. We now know more than ever about the historical context in which the Scriptures were written, the theological intentions of the authors who wrote them, the interests of the audiences for whom they were written, and the manner in which the original texts of Scripture were copied and transmitted to later generations of Christians.

 

Collectively called “historical criticism,” these modern methods of interpretation have been designed predominantly to reconstruct the past. Yet, while essential for sound interpretations of the Bible, they remain inadequate for those who approach the Bible as a place of intimate encounter with God in the present. As Olivier Clément observes, the need to transmit the “archaic mentality” of Scripture to our own day justifies these scientific methods of interpretation. But, he concludes, “Science cannot give a meaning. . . . The meaning is revealed only to prayer.”1

scope & focus

In this course, we will learn about these modern methods of interpretation not only to advance a more critical and historical appreciation of the gospels, but ultimately to advance one’s capacity to pray with scripture.

 

The scope of this course is thus threefold:

 

  1. To introduce the primary methods of historical criticism;

  2. To demonstrate how these methods open up unexpected, insightful, and often surprising interpretations of the scriptures (especially the gospels);

  3. To foster, for contemplatives, the capacity for a more prayerful rumination on the gospels.

 

 

In order to accomplish this the modules will vacillate between four areas of focus:

 

  1. The historical context in which the gospels were written;

  2. The historical critical methods themselves;

  3. The scriptural texts which they illuminate;

  4. Contemplative practices that invite prayerful rumination on the gospels in light of what we are learning.

WHAT TO EXPECT

In this course, we will learn about these modern methods of interpretation not only to advance a more critical and historical appreciation of the gospels, but ultimately to advance one’s capacity to pray with scripture.

 

The scope of this course is thus threefold:

 

  1. To introduce the primary methods of historical criticism;

  2. To demonstrate how these methods open up unexpected, insightful, and often surprising interpretations of the scriptures (especially the gospels);

  3. To foster, for contemplatives, the capacity for a more prayerful rumination on the gospels.

 

 

In order to accomplish this the modules will vacillate between four areas of focus:

 

  1. The historical context in which the gospels were written;

  2. The historical critical methods themselves;

  3. The scriptural texts which they illuminate;

  4. Contemplative practices that invite prayerful rumination on the gospels in light of what we are learning.

registration

course materials

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