I’ve been attending a conference entitled “Biblical Scholarship and Humanities Computing” at the Lorentz Center this week. One of the questions raised was how the presence of Bible software tools (and databases) affect what happens in this classroom.
Everyone acknowledged that students were using Bible software; yet, this was not generally seen positively. Software was either inadequate (also because of its high-cost) or students relied on it too heavily to read the text (even panicking when asked to look at a text without being able to use the software). A few did mention how it could be used positively in class (e.g., students could be asked to do searches/queries), but that was more of a minority voice.
The question I continue to have is whether we’re actually addressing the fact that software changes how students do exegesis, and thus classroom techniques will have to change. If a student is asked to translate a text without software, it will take him/her longer to do it, and a higher compentence in the original languages is required. However, by translating the text without the software, he/she will most likely dig deeper into the text and more naturally ask questions about it. Unfortunately, five years after the classes, he/she will most likely no longer be using the text because keeping up that kind of language knowledge takes a lot of time and energy (which few pastors or non-biblical scholars have). So how then do you help students to learn how to ask good questions about the text? And that is the question that I still have. Even if software can be designed to do that better, the user still needs to evaluate which questions are better – such as, are word studies the best way to get into the text? looking at the verbal forms? doing a syntactical analysis? participant analysis?