For my course on reading selected biblical texts, I’ve indicated that we’ll read excerpts from the Mishnah, the whole of the Didache, the Epistle of James, and the Gospel of Matthew. We’ll read the Pirkê Aboth as part of the Mishnah reading, and I’m inclined to read tractates Berachoth and Yadaim — unless someone has a better idea. (That’s an invitation.)
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Interesting list of texts – what sort of things do you hope the students might get from them?
The secret plan is to help students read Matthew (and James) within the cultural ambit of first-century Judaism. We’ll read the Mishnah first, then the Didache, then James, and then Matthew — in the hope that by acclimating ourselves to less-familiar texts that espouse a Judaic flavor of faith in Christ, they’ll be somewhat more receptive to seeing Matthew in that same vein.
We’ll see how well it works. Since I don’t intend to give a full, fair treatment of the Mishnaic texts, but only an introductory representative sample, I don’t have high expectations — and it’s very hard to induce students to let go of the inherited axiom that Pharisees are villainous people — but setting the stage for Matthew by way of other texts may help a little bit.
Oh I wish I could be a student again! Do you know the work of James Davila over at St Andrews? Though I think he is a fairly traditional early Christian theologian / historian he has used blogs for many years to enhance knowledge transfer – but what is cool about his blogs is that he has used them as an arena for students to get feedback on their own essay abstracts.