Wisdom's Pedagogy: Engaging Biblical Wisdom Literature with Young People Restricted; Files Only

Cooke, Lauren (Spring 2023)

Permanent URL: https://etd.library.emory.edu/concern/etds/tq57ns34m?locale=en


This dissertation constructs a pedagogical framework for exploring biblical wisdom literature with young people in a way that cultivates wisdom, not by imparting wisdom in a way that tells young people what to believe, think, or do, but by inviting them to experience the thought processes characteristic of wisdom.

Biblical education has been an underexplored topic in the field of youth ministry, resulting in an abundance of youth curriculum that uses a “key text and takeaway” model to help young people apply the Bible to their life. However, this model of biblical education seeks to impart wisdom rather than to cultivate it by inviting young people to experience and practice wisdom’s cognitive and affective processes. This project proposes an alternative model of biblical education that is focused less on “doing what the Bible says” and more on “doing what the Bible does,” a model that invites young people to think theologically with and alongside the biblical text.

When applied to the wisdom literature, this model examines how the rhetorical and pedagogical strategies of the wisdom literature function to cultivate wisdom in the reader, and it seeks to teach the wisdom literature in ways that are informed by its own pedagogy. Examining the commonalities in the pedagogy of Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Job, I propose five pedagogical practices for cultivating wisdom: playfulness, attentiveness, wonder, reflection, and dialogue.

The second part of this dissertation draws on curriculum analysis, survey data, and interviews with youth ministry practitioners to analyze how wisdom literature is taught in youth ministry, identifying the issues in common approaches and lifting up alternative pedagogical strategies that can cultivate wisdom in youth. It concludes with a case study reflecting on the experience of exploring the book of Job with young people and offering an example of what this theory might look like in practice.

Table of Contents

Introduction 1

Project and Methodology 6

A Pedagogical Hermeneutic: Hebrew Bible Methodology 9

The Teaching Practices of Youth Ministers 16

Exploring Wisdom Literature with Youth 22

Overview of Chapters 25

Part I: Educating for Wisdom in Youth Ministry 25

Part II: Biblical Wisdom Literature as Case Study 30

Chapter One Cultivating Wisdom in Youth Ministry 34

Defining Wisdom 34

Wisdom in the Hebrew Bible 34

Modern Wisdom Scholarship 42

Toward a Definition of Wisdom 46

Can Young People Be Wise? 55

Educating for Wisdom 68

Wisdom in Youth Ministry 75

Assessing Wisdom in Youth Ministry: An Embedded Approach 80

Conclusion 83

Chapter Two Doing What the Bible Does: Biblical Education with Youth 85

The Bible as a Sacred Text 87

Implicit Curriculum and Biblical Education 91

The Key Text and Takeaway Approach 93

Cultivating Wisdom in Biblical Education 106

From “Doing What the Bible Says” to “Doing What the Bible Does” 108

Discerning What the Text Is Doing 114

Biblical Criticism and Pedagogy 117

Historical-Critical Methods 119

Literary-Critical Methods 124

Conclusion 130

Chapter Three Wisdom’s Pedagogy: How the Wisdom Literature Cultivates Wisdom in the Reader 132

Wisdom Literature as Educational Literature 132

Wisdom’s Pedagogy 139

Proverbs 139

Ecclesiastes 148

Job 152

Wisdom’s Practices 157

Playfulness 157

Attentiveness 163

Wonder 168

Reflection 173

Dialogue 179

Conclusion 184

Introduction to Chapters Four and Five 186

Chapter Four Teaching Wisdom, Part I: Overall Trends and Themes 191

Challenges and Gifts: Wisdom Literature’s Characteristic Features 196

The Wisdom Literature’s Focus on Human Experience 196

Wisdom Literature as Poetry 205

Ambiguity and Tension in the Wisdom Literature 213

Content: Main Themes Taught from Wisdom Literature 224

Friendship 225

Difficult Emotions 229

Null Curriculum: Creation 236

Chapter Five Teaching Wisdom, Part II: Proverbs, Ecclesiastes,and Job 243

Proverbs 244

Interpretation 244

Content 247

Challenges 250

Pedagogy 256

Case Studies: Matt and Sara 258

Ecclesiastes 265

Interpretation 265

Content 268

Challenges 274

Pedagogy 277

Case Studies: Brianna and Lydia 280

Job 286

Interpretation 286

Content 293

Challenges 300

Pedagogy 304

Case Studies: Danielle and Adam 306

Pedagogy: Trends in How Wisdom Literature is Taught 312

Conclusion 317

Chapter Six Theological Collage: Exploring the Book of Job with Youth 319

Methodology and Curriculum Design 322

Exploring Job as a Polyphonic Text 324

Thinking Theologically Through Collage 332

Engaging Complexity Through Collage 340

Conclusion 347

Conclusion 349

Bibliography 357

Appendix A: Survey Questions 373

Appendix B: Interview Questions 378

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