Whether you are studying on your own or are responsible for the biblical instruction of others, you might find these two resources to be helpful tools for evaluating biblical literacy. First, an evaluative tool for class or study use:
I call this a “spectrum of reaction,” something that a learner can use to help assess his or her comfort level with questions posed about either a biblical text or the whole big storyline of redemptive history. By finding his or her initial reaction to a question somewhere along this line (e.g., “I understand the question, but I have no idea how to find an answer” or “I may already know a few biblical texts that address this topic”), a reader can then match that reaction with some appropriate first steps to take toward engaging the question.
I have used this reaction spectrum in adult Bible classes to help students get a sense of what parts of the biblical story they are most and least familiar with. It’s important for learners to realize that in some things, they lean more towards the “expert” end of the spectrum, while with regard to other subjects they are just beginners. Sometimes adults who are approaching the Bible seriously for the first time, or for the first time since childhood, become overwhelmed by the amount of content that they do not yet know, and so they lose confidence in what they actually do know. A little reassurance that we actually do know a few things already will encourage us to remember that we are capable of learning even more!
If you are teaching a Bible study or class, you might use the above reaction chart as you pose any significant question in your lesson. Pause to give participants a moment to react to the question, and then let them consider what role they will play as learners during this part of the lesson (whether mainly listening, actively helping to answer the question, or considering how they in turn might bring a beginner along to the knowledge they already possess).
If you are studying the Bible on your own and would like to get a sense of your literacy level and what further steps you might take to enhance your knowledge, here is a second resource that addresses biblical literacy more thoroughly. In this document you will find some intriguing questions that challenge your familiarity with the “big picture” of the biblical storyline, followed by suggested research steps categorized by biblical literacy level (Beginner, Beyond Beginner, Intermediate, and Advanced). Questions include:
What is the relationship between Abraham, Judah, David, and Jesus? What specific connections are made between David and Jesus in the NT?
How are the songs of Miriam, Hannah, and Mary alike? What was the role and era of each in redemptive history?
In what ways are the lives of Job and Joseph similar? In what ways do they prefigure Christ?
At your leisure, then, you might react to each question and, if you wish, begin to research what you do not know, using the literacy-level-based suggestions provided on the following pages. (So if your reaction fell more toward the “Beginner” end of the spectrum, you would probably want to start with one or more of the “Beginner” steps on the chart, etc.) Of course, this exercise also gives you a chance to delve into the biblical text and educate yourself even further! Parents might consider using this as an exercise for older kids, if you home school or study the Scriptures together.
Every Christian is not called to be a teacher in the church, or to know the Bible with the expertise of a seminary professor. But since the Scriptures are where we meet our Savior, increasing our knowledge of them will help all of us “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18). Who would pass up such an opportunity?
Follow the Bible Journal on Twitter at @GrassRootsTheo!