I took my first divinity-school test this morning. It was the first test I’ve taken in 18 years— 1998!—when I took the patent-bar exam that would allow me to practice law before the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office. I’ve had lots of “tests” as a lawyer and litigator, but it isn’t the same.
The test today was in our Old Testament Interpretation class and covered the many subjects we’ve studied over the past 6 weeks:
- The make-up and origin of the various versions of the Hebrew Bible and the Old Testaments
- Where the Old Testaments in our modern English-language Bibles come from
- The ancient (or at least very old!) manuscripts underlying those Bibles
- Modern methods of Biblical study
- Early history of the Near East (Mesopotamia, Egypt, Canaan, etc., from roughly 3200 B.C. to 100 B.C.)
- Ancient Near East religions, legends, and myths
- Genesis 1-Exodus 5:
- Adam & Eve
- Abraham & Sarah (& Hagar)
- Isaac & Rebekah
- Lot and his family
- Jacob & Rachel (& Leah & Bilhah & Zilpah)
- Judah (& Tamar)
- Joseph and his brothers
- and lots of stuff in between….
Our textbook, John J. Collins, Introduction to the Hebrew Bible (Fortress Press 2d ed. 2014), is good but not great. It is packed with substance, but it crams too much into a small space on the page, rather than having frequent paragraph breaks, headers, etc.
The study bible we are using, The Jewish Study Bible (TANKH translation, Oxford University Press 2014), is fantastic. It is easy to read, and the study notes are clear and very interesting. The only real complaint I have about it is that there needs to be more room in the margins to write. We are occasionally also assigned an academic article to read.
Our professor asks that we complete all of our reading before each class, and then he lectures on some (but not all) of the topics mentioned in the reading. The material we read is fair game for the test, even if he doesn’t lecture on it, and there were subjects on the test today that were not discussed in any detail in class. It is a lot of reading, but I have been able to complete it all before class each time so far.
Our professor is a wizard–he’s extremely knowledgeable and is a great lecturer. The class time flies by.
I studied a lot for today’s test. I felt very well prepared, and I think I knew the answers to all the questions on the test. But I don’t know what kind of grade my effort today will yield.
I was reminded of a lesson I learned long ago in relation to test taking, but apparently forgot until 10 minutes before the end of class today: manage your time carefully and move quickly. I spent too much time giving detailed answers to the short-response questions and not enough time on the longer-essay question.
A second lesson I learned is that writing with a pen for an hour and twenty minutes straight is not something I am used to doing. Typing on a computer for 80 minutes, yes. Writing on notebook paper for 80 minutes, no. My writing at the start of the test looks very nice. The writing at the end, not so nice.
Lessons learned! (I hope.)
(Picture: One I took tonight of our textbook in the Old Testament Interpretation class.)