Beacon Press: Discussion Guide: Understanding the Bible
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Understanding the Bible by John A. BuehrensDiscussion Guide: Understanding the Bible: An Introduction for Skeptics, Seekers, and Religious Liberals

Guide only available in PDF format (requires free reader).

This discussion guide divides Understanding the Bible into nine two-hour sessions. Encouraging both critical thinking and "imaginative compassion" (as Buehrens puts it), the program aims at enabling participants to become responsible interpreters and theologians in their own right.

Due to its length, the complete guide is only available as a PDF. You may view the table of contents below.


  • Introduction
  • Getting Started
  • PART I: The Hebrew Bible
    • SESSION I : As We Begin-Reasons, Traditions, Versions, and Interpretations
      • Activity 1: Introductions
      • Activity 2: Uses of the Bible for Good and for Ill
      • Activity 3: Covenant-Guidelines for Exploring Together
      • Activity 4: Context-A Biblical Timeline
      • Activity 5: Engaging with the Text-Genesis 3:1-24
      • Handout 1: Guiding Questions for Engaging with Biblical Texts
      • Handout 2: Program Outline and Suggested Homework
      • Handout 3: Resources
    • SESSION II : Creations and Generations-Genesis
      • Activity 1: Engaging with the Text-Creation
      • Activity 2: Themes in the Hebrew Bible
      • Activity 3: Engaging with the Text-Thematic Stories
      • Activity 4: The Power of Language-Defining Our Terms
      • Handout 4: Terminology and Definitions
    • SESSION III : Liberations and Institutions-Exodus to 2 Kings
      • Activity 1: Engaging with the Text-The Exodus
      • Activity 2: The Still Small Voice
      • Activity 3: Prophecy and Liberal Religion-Accommodation or Liberation?
    • SESSION IV: Exaltations and Frustrations-Psalms, Wisdom Literature, and Job
      • Activity 1: Listening and Responding-The Psalms
      • Activity 2: The Voice of Wisdom
      • Activity 3: Engaging with the Text-Job and Ecclesiastes
    • SESSION V: Redemptions and Expectations-The Prophets
      • Activity 1: Prophetic Themes
      • Activity 2: The Prophets in Context
      • Activity 3: Engaging with the Text: The “Dramedy” of Jonah
  • PART II: The Christian Scriptures
    • SESSION VI: Proclamations and Passions (part one)-The Teachings of Jesus
      • Activity 1: Introductions
      • Activity 2: Context and Interpretation-Writing “After the Fact”
      • Activity 3: Responses to the Reading-Our Own “Guiding Questions”
      • Activity 4: Understanding Sources-Two Healing Stories
      • Activity 5: Engaging with the Text-Matthew 25:31-36
    • SESSION VII : Passions (part two) and Resurrections-The Death and Resurrection of Jesus
      • Activity 1: Imaginative Compassion-The Passion Stories
      • Activity 2: Engaging with the Text-The Resurrection
    • SESSION VIII: Incarnations and Salvations-The Gospel of John and the Letters of Paul
      • Activity 1: The Metaphor of Thirst-Jesus and the Samaritan Woman
      • Activity 2: Engaging with the Text-Paul and the Galatians
    • SESSION IX: Revelations-The Journey Continues . . .
      • Activity 1: Continuing the Conversation: Faith “and/or” Works?
      • Activity 2: Engaging with the Text: The Gospel of Mary
      • Activity 3: Touring Our Accomplishments
      • Activity 4: Sharing What We Have Learned