2/22/2010 7:00 PM
Regardless of whether you are teaching a story from the Old or New Testament, it is important to keep in mind that the story was not originally written down for you or me or our students. The intended audience for the Bible when it was written was different from us in many ways. They lived in a society with different customs, lifestyles and expectations. They wore different clothes, ate different foods and had different occupations (no computer programmers back then). For these reasons, it is important when teaching Bible stories to keep context in mind.
It is easy to fall into the habit of assuming students (whether they are children, youth or adults) understand the context of Biblical stories. When we have read, heard and taught these stories so many times, we can forget that not everyone knows why it is surprising when Jesus speaks to a Samaritan woman, what celebrating Passover means or why the Old Testament contains many references to the sacrificing of animals. Or perhaps we don’t think we know enough about life in Bible time to begin such a discussion. Maybe we are short on time or just feeling lazy.
Having resources available to educate teachers and to encourage them to educate themselves about life in Bible times will assist them in putting Bible stories in context and in helping students do so, as well. There are many resources available on this topic. Here a three resources that I have used and highly recommend:
- Daily Life at the Time of Jesus by Miriam Feinberg Vamosh – This book is filled with colorful photos and illustrations that make it appealing for all ages. It provides a wealth of information on many topics including politics, religion, lifestyles of the wealthy and the poor, education, food and occupations.
- Food at the time of the Bible by Miriam Feinberg Vamosh – By the same author as the above resource, this book provides detailed information (with pictures) about all things food. Its topics include food sources, preparation and etiquette. It even includes recipes!
- The Complete Bible Handbook: An Illustrated Companion by John Bowker – This resource is more encompassing and not one you would sit down and read cover to cover. In here you will find background information relating to each book of the Bible, including relevant people and customs. It is a great reference book.
Each of these books would make a good addition to a church library or a teachers’ resource center. We are fortunate to live in a society where information is abundant and easily accessible. Take advantage of this context to provide assistance for your teachers.
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