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Journal of Moral Education

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Allowing the biblical text to do its pedagogical work: connecting interpretative activity and moral education
Elie Holzera a Bar Ilan University, Israel

To cite this Article Holzer, Elie(2007) 'Allowing the biblical text to do its pedagogical work: connecting interpretative

activity and moral education', Journal of Moral Education, 36: 4, 497 514 To link to this Article: DOI: 10.1080/03057240701688044 URL:


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Journal of Moral Education Vol. 36, No. 4, December 2007, pp. 497514

Allowing the biblical text to do its pedagogical work: connecting interpretative activity and moral education
Elie Holzer*
Bar Ilan University, Israel
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Drawing upon scholarly literary approaches to biblical narratives, this article offers both a theoretical view and a method for teaching and learning which connect interpretative activity of biblical narratives with moral education. The theoretical section of the article discusses the pedagogical rather than propositional nature of biblical narratives and illustrates how the former is mediated through calculated literary devices in the text. The article then attends to the experiential nature of the interpretative dynamic between learner and text, with special attention to the learners filling of literary gaps and the potential of this for moral education. The article concludes with a discussion of the pedagogical rationales behind a method for teaching and learning designed to engage the learner in an interpretative and reflective activity on biblical narratives, which holds potential for effective moral education.

Introduction One of John Deweys important contributions to educational discourse was his conception of the pedagogical aspects of teaching as a focus of educational goals (Dewey, 1916). According to Dewey, pedagogy should be evaluated on the basis of its educational impact on the learner. This view obliterates the radical dichotomy of pedagogy and content (or means and ends) that characterises major schools of thought in education (Dunne, 2001). In this article I explore a relatively overlooked form of pedagogy, which I term the pedagogy of the text. This term refers to pedagogical effects of literary texts on the reader. Following the work of two theoreticians of literary approaches to biblical narratives, Robert Alter (1981) and Meir Sternberg (1985), the article discusses the potential for moral education provided by the pedagogy of the text in the context of

*33 Halamed Heh Street, Jerusalem 93661, Israel. Email: ISSN 0305-7240 (print)/ISSN 1465-3877 (online)/07/040497-18 # 2007 Journal of Moral Education Ltd DOI: 10.1080/03057240701688044

498 E. Holzer Bible study. These theoretical views are implemented in a pedagogical method which is intended to realise the educative and moral potential embedded in these scholarly approaches to biblical narratives. To be sure, the Bible has long served as a source of truths, ethical principles and moral imperatives in societies influenced by the Judeo-Christian tradition. This has been particularly the case for communities of learners who attributed a normative status to the Bible a priori, for example on the basis of what people believed to be its divine inspiration or the eternal character of the truths it claims. Adopting Rosenblatts (1994) terminology, learners who perceive the Bible as a normative source approach it with an efferent reading stance. That is, they are predisposed to take the information from within the text and to internalise it as true knowledge about somethingor as a set of injunctions of moral action or belief. Didactically, in this approach to the study of the Bible, the learner is assumed to first engage in an interpretative process, which serves as a means to access what the Bible says. Only then is the learner able to appropriate what it says. In this regard, the literary turn in Bible study, of which Alter and Sternberg are representative, marks an important change in the approach to Bible study. Both scholars consider the literary aspects of biblical narratives as an expressive medium for the religious ideas of the Bible. They view this intertwining of form and content as an essential mode of expression of the Bibles religious views and goals. In the approaches they have developed, the thematic meaning of text (What is the text speaking about?) is inseparable from its expressive meaning (How does the text speak?). In educational language, I say that Alter and Sternberg view the literary constituency of biblical narratives as an intended and calculated pedagogical device designed to embody and convey the Bibles most important ideas to the learner in a non-propositional manner. This article explores the nature of the learners subsequent hermeneutical activity to illustrate one potential implication of this view for moral education. The literary turn in Bible study, as represented in the works of Alter and Sternberg, also marks an important change with reference to moral education. While their scholarly approach to the biblical text is not to be characterised as normative in the classical sense (that is that the Bible is believed to be a source of truths and true moral injunctions), biblical narratives nevertheless hold the potential for moral deliberation and effect because of its literary character and the type of hermeneutical activity with which it engages the learner. I have extrapolated his educational view from Alter and Sternbergs works on biblical narrative, conceptualized it and then applied it as a pedagogical method. On the literary turn in Bible study First the literary turn in Bible studies is introduced in greater depth.
A woman and a man stood beneath the soaring stained-glass window, the most inspiring of all the glorious parts of the cathedral. As the woman looked in silence from a distance, the man stepped close, peering at the glass and moving from panel to panel. As they walked away the woman said: Did you ever see such a magnificent picture? I felt as if I was in paradise as I stood in front of it. Oh yeah, the man replied, but you

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Connecting biblical interpretation and moral education 499

know, that glass is rather hard to see through. I could barely make out the trees outside. (Macky, 1979, p. 34)

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For generations, people have related to the biblical text as a window through which a referent located beyond the text is sought: the referent being constituted, for example, by theological ideas, the authors psychological message or an historical event. However, by focusing on the trees beyond the stained glass, this approach to biblical study may overlook the possibility that the carefully and artistically crafted shapes and colours in the glass are more than mere bridges or obstacles in this search, but are the very loci and expressions of meaning. This perspective is, in a nutshell, one of the essential features of what is now known as the literary turn in the interpretation of the Bible, which locates the meaning of the Bible text in its literary forms. Any attempt on my part to summarise or analyse the numerous approaches to the study of the Bible, that have been developed over the last 100 years or so, is both presumptuous and beyond the scope of this article. Nevertheless, to clarify the unique nature of literary approaches to biblical narratives, I must first situate these in the larger field of approaches to Bible studies and the role of the text. Several major approaches to Bible study share a distinction between the text and its referent, and aim to learn something that is provided or facilitated by the text. This object of learning is the referent, which may be constituted by different types of knowledge, such as historical, theological or literary knowledge. Traditional approaches to Bible study, as well as critical approaches influenced by historicism, consider the referent to be beyond or external to the text. In these approaches, the referent is the ultimate focus of the learning process, while the text functions as a mere gateway. In traditional pre-critical approaches, the biblical text is considered to provide unmediated and objective information about referents that are theological, philosophical ideas or historical events. Here, the biblical text is the starting point leading to a greater understanding of key biblical ideas. In critical approaches to Bible study, the set of potential referents is expanded to include: a. The various original sources and texts from which the biblical was composed (source criticism). b. The original genre and social context in which the biblical texts were written (form criticism). c. The Ancient Near Eastern counterparts of the biblical text that illuminate the biblical text (comparative criticism) (Brevard, 1979). In canonical criticism for example, individual biblical texts are studied through the lens of the Bible in entirety, as canonized Scripture that holds significance for a canonical community (Brevard, 1979). In inner-biblical criticism, one biblical text is used to interpret, and is interpreted through, other biblical texts; that is, biblical texts are mutually referential (Fishbane 1985; Zakovitch, 1993). Pre-critical and critical approaches share a conception of the biblical text as the key to information and elucidation lying beyond the text, to which the text leads the reader. Moreover,

500 E. Holzer the texts interpretation allows the reader to restate the referent of the biblical text independently of the text or its literary form. Consequently, once this restatement is achieved, there is no need to revert to the original text or to its literary forms. In contrast, approaches that belong to the literary turn in biblical study seek meaning in the exploration of the text itself. In literary approaches, the referent is intimately embedded in the fabric and the texture of the Bible. It resides within the literary forms and devices of the specific and particular biblical narrative and is communicated through these literary structures. Consequently, literary approaches pose new questions, such as What is the part played by the omissions, redundancies, ambiguities, alternations between scene and summary or elevated and colloquial language? (Sternberg, 1985, p.15) or What effects may these literary structures have on the reader? Alter and Sternberg highlight the experiential and transformative nature of the subsequent interpretative process in which the text and the reader interact. Due to the experiential dimension conveyed by the narrative structures of the text, the referent can never be detached from or restated other than in, and through, the specific literary forms of its own text. In my view, it is this experiential aspect of the literary approach, grounded in the text and its interpretation, which warrants consideration from both a pedagogical and moral education perspective. Robert Alter: text and indirect discourse Robert Alter offers a systematic literary approach to his reading of biblical narratives, which he perceives as an interfusion of literary art with theological, moral and historiosophical vision. According to Alter, the Bibles literary forms serve more than a mere aesthetic purpose for readers, and function as a matrix illuminating the Bibles religious worldview: The biblical tale, through the most rigorous economy of means, leads us to ponder complexities of motive and ambiguities of character because these are essential aspects of its vision of man, created by God, enjoying or suffering all the consequences of human freedom (Alter, 1981, p. 22). Alters close reading of the account of Joseph in Genesis (Chapter 3746) may be considered as one of his best illustrations of this approach. For instance, the narrator uses thematic keywords such as the Hebrew verbs haker (recognise) and yadoa (know) (Genesis, 42, v. 23) to shape the central theme of knowledge versus ignorance: on behalf of Joseph (Genesis, 42, v. 23); on behalf of the brothers and Jacob, (Genesis, 42, v. 8) and on behalf of the unknowing Jacob (Genesis, 37, v.32) who is manipulated in a manner similar to that in which he manipulated Isaac, where the word haker also features in the text (Genesis, 27, v.23). The narrator also uses the reiteration of motifs. For example, in the different actions he takes towards his brothers, Josephs motives are carefully concealed by the narrator, in order to drive the reader to consider possible causes of Josephs behaviour (e.g. Genesis, 43, v. 30). According to Alter, the narrators aim is philosophical, rather than purely aesthetic:
the narrators refusal to supply specific connections between Josephs remembering and his speaking conveys a rich sense of how the present is over-determined by the past;

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Connecting biblical interpretation and moral education 501

for in this characteristic biblical perspective no simple linear statement of causation can adequately represent the density and the multiplicity of any persons motives and emotions. Joseph is not unknowable either to God or to the narrator but he must remain in certain respects opaque because he is a human being and we, the readers of the story, see him with human eyes. (Alter, 1981, p. 164)

To summarise, Alter characterises biblical narratives as an indirect discourse on the main themes of life, mediated through narratives and the literary techniques employed by the text (Alter, 1981, p. 155). This means that specific biblical narratives are not to be perceived merely as carrying moral injunctions, such as in the Joseph story, which may be interpreted as teaching the importance of brotherly love and the adverse consequences of failing to meet ones moral responsibility. According to Alter, the ultimately representational purpose (Alter, 1981, p. 176) of the formal literary means in the Joseph story is to indirectly express the experience of being a person with a divided consciousness (loving and/or hating your brother; being resentful and/or contemptuous of your father; stumbling between disastrous ignorance and imperfect knowledge). Literary devices are also used to express a variety of views of God. For example, the biblical narrator, who generally refrains from commenting on the story itself, intervenes using a mode of omniscience, implied to be from God, the one who knows what is happening. Using this technique, the biblical narrator discards the marks of his own personal identity and assumes Gods all-encompassing knowledge, presumably expressed directly by Himself. Another example is the use of the narrative art to stress the duality of human freedom on the one hand and the preestablished divine historical plan on the other, thus offering for discussion the issue of mans free agency and moral responsibility (Alter, 1981, p. 112113). It is the indirect nature of the biblical discourse that draws our attention as it suggests that the Bibles ideas and views (some of which are of moral importance) are conveyed through the effects of the texts pedagogy. The biblical narrative triggers the reader to use and follow the various clues and literary devices offered by the text, and engage actively in a hermeneutic activity of retrieval of the Bibles most profound and hidden ideas. It is in this sense that the biblical narrative text creates a dynamic that is pedagogical rather than propositional. Moreover, choosing to engage the learner in an active, explorative interpretative activity rather than merely offering him the information, might be motivated by the desire to engage the learner in an experience with transformative potential. This pedagogical dynamic initiated by the text may offer new venues not only for pedagogical practice (e.g. the role of the teacher, the role of the text) but also for moral education. But before I elaborate on these two aspects, let us first turn to the work of Meir Sternberg (1985) to further explore this view of the pedagogical and morally educative character of biblical narrative texts. Meir Sternberg: text-reader interaction and moral transformation The title of Meir Sternbergs book, The poetics of biblical narrative: ideological literature and the drama of reading, emphasises that biblical narratives are works of literature

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502 E. Holzer which engage the reader in a reading process of dramatic character. Sternberg views the Bible as multifunctional discourse regulated by the three interacting principles of ideology, historiography and aesthetics. The aesthetic principle is manifest in a broad range of literary devices that are masterfully represented in his book. Examples of these devices are dialogue, motivation, internal speech, heavenly counsel, repetitions, verbal chains, wordplay and shifts in perspective. In this respect, Sternberg reflects the basic tenets of Alters approach, which conceives of the literary elements as embodying the Bibles religious views. Sternberg, however, expands the discussion by addressing yet another facet of the study of biblical narratives, namely the impact of the hermeneutical activity performed by readers engaged with biblical narratives. More explicitly than Alter, he discusses how both the implied meaning embedded in the literary structure of the work and also the interpretative activity engendered by the text, that in and by itself is potentially transformational for the reader, matter. Specifically they matter because two key biblical ideological messagesGods omniscience and Gods omnipotence, as well as their counterpart, the human beings finite existential conditionare not presented by the Bible in propositional terms. Indeed, Sternberg claims that one of the Bibles characteristic features is its use of anti-didactic moves. Instead of presenting its ideas in a straightforward way, the narrator artfully uses literary devices as a means to draw the reader to engage in a discovery process of these ideas. This stance adopted by the Bible is designed:
to build the cognitive antithesis between God and humanity into the structure of the narrative. Not the premises alone, but the very composition must bring home the point in and through the reading experience. This exigency calls into sacred play all the choices and techniques [mentioned earlier] under the rubric of aesthetics, for what they have in common is the effect of twisting, if not blocking, the way to knowledge. (Sternberg, 1985, p. 4647)

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Gap filling and the potential for moral impact In general, says Sternberg, ones reading of a literary work is informed by a series of questions such as, What is happening or has happened and why? What connects the present event or situation to what went before, and how do both relate to what will probably come after? What are the features, motives or designs of this or that character? How does he view his fellow characters? And what norms govern the existence and conduct of all? (Sternberg, 1985, p. 186). However, literary works, such as biblical narratives, provide only limited information to answer these questions. They purposefully omit the relevant information and create gaps in the text. Using a few insights similar to Isers theory of gap filling (Iser, 1978), Sternberg emphasises that the object of these intended omissions can take several forms in biblical narratives, for example omitting information on what happens between two events or creating ambiguity about their causal linkage or temporal sequence. In other instances, gaps are created by displacing relevant information so that what happens at a certain temporal point of the narrative is communicated earlier or later

Connecting biblical interpretation and moral education 503 (Sternberg, 1985, p 235). In this case, the reader is left to ponder about the potential effect and meaning that is suggested by the displacement. Of particular interest for its potential moral effect on the learner are gaps caused by the Bibles omission of the characters motives, feelings, perceptions and thoughts while providing information about their deeds and utterances (Sternberg, 1985). As with her experience of real-life situations of moral consequence, the reader lacks knowledge of the characters motives or the causes and consequences of events. Yet, challenged by the texts pedagogical device in the form of gaps, the reader discovers possible insights by tentatively filling these gaps: History unrolls as a continuum of discontinuities, a sequence of non sequiturs, which challenge us to repair the omissions by our native wit. (Sternberg, 1985, p. 47). To this end, the reader is called to relate to the characters action in relation to their potential moral or immoral motivations, the characters perceptions of the reality they face, their perceptions of other characters and their potential inner moral conflicts or lack of conflicts. This interpretative activity, which is nurtured by the activity of gap filling, calls the reader to engage in the moral evaluation of the biblical characters involved, not only at the end of the story, but even more so at the various stages of the unfolding plot, when these gaps are encountered. Yet these interpretations and moral evaluations do not always lend themselves to unequivocal and definitive conclusions:
far beyond the normal demands of interpretation, and with no parallel in Oriental literature, therefore, the world and the meaning are always hypothetical, subject to change from one stage of the reading process to another, and irreducible to any simple formula. (Sternberg, 1985, p. 47)

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The experiential character of this type of interpretative activity is supported by literary theories that are inspired by philosophical hermeneutics. Ricoeur (1981), for example, stresses that the narrative text does not refer to a situation that is present here and now to either reader or writer. This abolition of a direct reference provided by the text frees it to project a world of its own. This is how in interpretation, the reader explores the dimensions of reality beyond the limitations of her own immediate situation. In other words, by reading texts, the reader escapes from her immediate situatedness in the here and now into a world formed by values, expectations and imagination. The reader inhabits, as it were, the fictional world of the story:
The moment of understanding corresponds dialectically to being in a situation: it is the projection of our ownmost possibilities at the very heart of the situations in which we find ourselves[]For what must be interpreted in a text is a proposed world that I could inhabit and wherein I could project one of my ownmost possibilities. That is what I call the world of the text, the world proper to this unique text. (Ricoeur, 1991a, p. 86)

Thanks to the complex work of imagination, the reader dwells as a reactive, judging, feeling and perceptive agent in the world of the text. She interacts with the fictional characters, comparing, contrasting and finally making judgements about them (Ricoeur, 1988; Evans, 1995). This is how specific literary approaches and the development of moral imagination and moral judgement are connected (Nussbaum,

504 E. Holzer 1990, 1995; Pardales, 2002). The focus of this conceptualisation is the readers encounters with the inner lives of characters and life situations. Through participation in what Ricoeur calls the world of the text, the reader is invited to undergo an imaginative variation of her ego (Ricoeur, 1981 p. 189). The experiential elements of this exposure affect the reader and invite her to wonder about herself in relation to similar moral issues (Ricoeur, 1988; Nussbaum, 1990). Similarly, Sternberg states that one of the purposes of the biblical narrative is to mirror to the reader the human condition of real life in the midst of which she is called to make moral decisions: surrounded by ambiguities, baffled and misled by appearances, reduced to piecing fragments together by trial and error, often left in the dark about essentials to the very end (Sternberg, 1985, p. 4647). Biblical narratives, pedagogy, hermeneutics and moral education are intimately related at this educationally significant crossroad. In fact, the biblical literary constituency uses pedagogical devices, such as gaps, in order to purposefully impact the learner by challenging her to repair the omissions by pulling herself into the life conditions provided by the narrative while she misses information, is surrounded by ambiguities and misled by appearances. One important outcome of Sternbergs approach seems to be that biblical narratives are not meant to offer straightforward moralistic injunctions but rather to imaginatively engage the reader in complex moral situations, calling her to partake in an interpretative experience of trial and error, leaving her, at different stages, in a state of uncertainty and perplexity due to the lack of information and the alternative potential interpretations she discovers. Recognising the potential connection between literature and moral effect, also renders meaningless the conceptualisation of stories as pure fiction that have nothing to do with real life. Because of its profound moral potential, reading is not to be categorised as an activity of an aesthetic nature only, but of moral effect as well. It seems, however, that the dynamic between text and learner, described by Alter and Sternberg, overlooks the active contribution of the learner in what she contributes during the process of meaning making of the text. Both authors appear to hold a relatively strong objectivistic view about both the nature of the text and the nature of interpretation. They refer to the text as embedding a real message (which could also include indeterminacy) that was purposefully codified and artfully crafted into the text by thoughtful and talented authors. However, in light of the vivid debates surrounding theories of hermeneutics, I believe it is no longer possible to assume a simple objectivistic view of a texts embedded meaning which the learner merely retrieves (Palmer, 1969). Following Gadamer (1996) and Ricoeur (1991a; 1981) (to name only two theoreticians of philosophical hermeneutics) and the reader-response theory of Iser (1978), I believe that the learners interpretative activity is more complex. The reader, too, always carries with her a world of knowledge, beliefs and assumptions, which affects the ultimate outcome of her hermeneutical engagement with a text. In other words, we must also attend to what Ricoeur calls the world of the reader (Ricoeur, 1991a, 1981). At the same time, it is in the engagement of her world with a text that the reader may also learn something

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Connecting biblical interpretation and moral education 505 about her own beliefs, values and assumptions on the matter at stake (Iser, 1978; Ricoeur, 1991a; Gadamer, 1996). From scholarship to pedagogical practice In this section of the article I discuss some implications of these views for teaching and learning. First I discuss a conceptual outcome of Alter and Sternbergs views from a pedagogical perspective, while attending to both the role of the teacher and the role of the student. I then discuss an example of a pedagogical method for the teaching of the story of David and Bathsheba, which applies the conceptual insights of these scholars views of biblical narratives. The emphasis on the texts pedagogical effects and the dynamic interaction between reader and text it may produce point to at least one interesting implication for teaching of narratives and moral education. Interpretations should not be delivered explicitly by the teacher to the student, since it is only in and through the learners engagement and involvement in the interpretative process that the type of experiential interpretative activity with a potential for moral effect which Sternberg talks about, can take place. This complex, deliberative and experiential hermeneutic experience, which also includes the need for the students moral judgement, is, according to Alter and Sternberg, inherent in the substantive and the syntactic nature of biblical narratives (Schwab, 1964; Grossman et al., 1989). Needless to say, this type of hermeneutic engagement requires prior knowledge of the learner, and the cultivation of skills and dispositions necessary to engage in a close reading of the text. For instance, the learner must be familiar with the larger literary context in which the story takes place; she will have to be able to identify various types of literary devices, such as gaps, and be able to fill these gaps in using data from the text. She will have to cultivate the disposition to explore multiple interpretations acknowledging that the interpretative process may hold an inherent dimension of indetermination. This demands patience, specifically, the ability to delay the gratification of immediate answers and to cope with ambiguous and/or metaphorical concepts. The pedagogical work of teachers should therefore focus on the development of learning tasks designed to foster this type of interpretative exploration by learners, and cultivate this type of disposition to enable and facilitate the dynamic interaction between the text and the learner and enhance its potential for moral effect on the learner. One important outcome of these conceptual views pertains to the teacher: ultimately, she allows the text to do its pedagogical work by engaging the student in the hermeneutical process. The story of David and Bathsheba How might these ideas be translated in the actual classroom? I discuss a method that represents a potential application of these ideas for students of college age (see Appendix 13) that draws on the roles of teacher and learners as described above.

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506 E. Holzer This method seeks to take advantage of the pedagogy of the text, especially through the literary device of gaps, in order to engage the learner in this type of mimetic hermeneutic activity, which has potential for moral engagement and impact. The story of David and Bathsheba (Samuel 2, Chapter 11) is of particular interest for moral education both because of its content and the presence of multiple gaps in the text. In terms of content, the chapter addresses matters of moral consequence, namely King Davids crimes of adultery and murder, the complicity and responsibility of others (e.g. Uriah, Bathsheba) and other issues, such as the abuse of political power for personal interests. The events are unaccompanied by any moral judgement or comment (with the exception of its closing sentence to which I shall return), thereby delegating the moral judgement to the reader. At the same time, the narrator of this text makes a subtle use of omission and displacement of information. He leaves the inner lives and motivations of the characters beyond direct access, narrating the events and the actions of the characters but not their fears, emotions, values, potential conflicts of interest, motives or perceptions. As Sternberg brilliantly shows, even the expositional parts of the text are communicative in subtle ways, using a variety of literary devices such as, for example, contrasting the royal custom of accompanying troops to war with Davids decision to remain in Jerusalem (v.1). For an analysis and discussion of the actual moral insights provided by the literary effects of this narrative and the presence of gaps in particular, I refer the reader to Sternbergs exposition (Sternberg, 1985). I now discuss a pedagogical strategy, which draws on Sternbergs theoretical views, his literary analysis and the implied educational principle I have discussed. However, this method is not necessarily meant to lead the learner to Sternbergs own moral insights based on this text. As I said earlier, it is only when engaged in the interpretative dynamic that the student becomes engaged with the ambiguity created by several potential interpretations based on the various gaps that need filling. The following pedagogical method builds on and maximises the aspects of this activity that are particularly conducive for moral education in the sense discussed above. Planning insights As previously mentioned, the teachers task is primarily to create a learning opportunity for students to engage in this kind of interpretative activity, by allowing the biblical text and the student to interact. The method is based on the following insights. The relatively invisible nature of gap filling. One major characteristic of gap filling is that it remains largely invisible: it often takes place within the learner even though it is an outcome of the interaction that takes place between her and the text. This invisibility makes it difficult for students to ground their gap fillings in the data provided by the text. For these reasons, the teacher needs to find ways to help make this central element of the interpretative process more visible. This enables students to experience the process more consciously by increasing their attention to the various parts and literary devices of the text and, in particular, to gaps that require

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Connecting biblical interpretation and moral education 507 special attention. Furthermore, making the process of gap filling more visible invites the students diligence in identifying potential fillings, for example, pertaining to the characters motivations. This increases the likelihood that the student may be faced with alternative fillings, which may express a range of different motivations and values by which the literary character might be driven. This is one way to enrich the range of possible moral evaluations of the characters actions in connection with their moral choices and thus to maximise the pedagogical effects of the biblical text on the student while she experiences what is sometimes the complexity and the uncertainty of moral judgement. The intensity of the interpretative process. Not only is the interpretative process complex, it is also a very intense process that takes place within a limited period of time, since reading is usually performed at high speed. This makes it particularly difficult for the learner to gain maximum benefit from being affected by the texts various pedagogical effects and to explore or ponder various potential interpretations, which may draw on different parts of the information provided by the text. To attend to both these concerns, the teacher needs to create visual gaps in the text, based on the keys and insights provided by Sternberg (see Appendix 1). Moreover, in order to engage the student to the greatest possible extent in the fictive world of the protagonists, the very first reading of the story places the learner who is unfamiliar with the story, in a position of limited knowledge, that is, as she reads the text, with no foreknowledge of the entire plot, she is forced to fill the gaps as the story unfolds. This is done by slowing down the interpretative process by concealing the remainder of the text so that the student attends to the gaps based exclusively on the information available up to that point in the text (see Instructions to Student in Appendix 1). Subsequent reading may trigger the student to revise these interpretations in the light of information that is disclosed later in the story. As the example shows, the student records her interpretations and subsequently reflects on their relative validity while evaluating the pros and the cons of each interpretation (Appendix 2). This method maximises the theoretical insights from the work of Alter and Sternberg, in order to create an opportunity for the student to engage in an hermeneutic activity, triggered by the literary devices employed by the text, specifically gap filling. When applied to a narrative involving moral issues, I say that it uses the study of biblical narratives for purposes of moral education by building on the connection between literature, moral judgement and moral imagination and by capitalising on the effect of gap filling. The gaps immerse the student in a process of reconfiguring the protagonists motivations, perceptions, dilemmas and decisions of moral character. Overall, the method is based on an Aristotelian view of ethics for which a virtuous person is someone who consciously and knowingly chooses the virtuous action, based on the proper reasons and what he considers to be good dispositions. This view of ethics (Aristotle, 1947) emphasises the moral character of the person, inner dispositions and the conflicts of desires versus the good. Weighing the pros and cons of various interpretations, the student harnesses her literary

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508 E. Holzer imagination to develop images of the characters moral dimensions, which may also reflect the complexity of the characters inner struggles which are of moral consequence. Finally, drawing on the final line of the story, which is also the only judgemental message in the chapter (The thing that David had done was evil in the eyes of the Lord. v. 27), the student is called on to evaluate the character(s) in general, at the end of story, while mobilising moral arguments (see Appendix 3, Question 1 and 2). This is intended to cultivate students ethical thinking by requiring them to use moral reflection to develop systematic moral judgement. Ultimately, such reflection enhances their responsiveness to the moral themes and questions that emerge from the narrative, both during and at the end of the interpretative process itself. In addition, since I believe that gap filling reflects something of the students own moral values, she is asked to reflect on these as well, by critically analysing some of her own interpretations (see Appendix 3, Question 3). Finally, Appendix 3, Question 4 orients the student towards an important idea proposed by Alter and Sternberg, namely, the importance of experiencing the concept of human limitations through the interpretative process. Conclusion Socrates reportedly held a negative view of written texts. He considered texts to be univocal and to represent dead speech:
You would imagine that they had intelligence, but if you want to know anything and put a question to one of them, the speaker always gives one unvarying answer. (Plato, Phaedrus, 275)

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In contrast, modern literary and hermeneutical theories have directed our attention to the specific nature of texts, their relation to living speech and their potential effects on readers (Ricoeur, 1991b; Gadamer, 1996). The discussion has focused on how a literary approach to a particular subject matter, namely biblical narratives, entails even its own pedagogical intent and potential moral effects on the learner. One outcome for teaching is that the teachers pedagogical move must sometimes allow the student to be directly exposed to and engaged by the texts pedagogical effects and its subsequent interpretative activity. It is by enabling these effects to take place, and building on them, that the teacher is able to transform the actual hermeneutic interaction with biblical (and literary) text into an additional locus for moral education. References
Alter, R. (1981) The art of biblical narrative (New York, Basic Books). Aristotle, (1947) Nicomachean ethics, R. McKeon (Ed.) (New York, The Modern Library). Brevard, C. (1979) Introduction to the Old Testament as Scripture (London, SCM Press). Dewey, J. (1916) Democracy and education (New York, The MacMillan Company). Dunne, J. (2001) Back to the rough ground: practical judgment and the lure of technique (Notre Dame, IN, University of Notre Dame Press). Evans, J. (1995) Paul Ricoeurs hermeneutics of the imagination (New York, Peter Lang).

Connecting biblical interpretation and moral education 509

Fishbane, M. (1985) Biblical interpretation in ancient Israel (Oxford, Clarendon Press). Gadamer, H. G. (1996) Truth and method (New York, Continuum). Grossman, P. L., Wilson, S. & Shulman, L. S. (1989) Teachers of substance: subject matter knowledge for teaching, in: M. C. Reynolds (Ed.) Knowledge base for the beginning teacher (Oxford, Pergamon Press), 2336. Iser, W. (1978) The art of reading (Baltimore, MD, Johns Hopkins University Press). Macky, P. W. (1979) The coming revolution: the new literary approach to New Testament interpretation, Theological Educator, 9, 3246. Nussbaum, M. (1990) Loves knowledge: essays on philosophy and literature (Oxford & New York, Oxford University Press). Nussbaum, M. (1995) Poetic justice: the literary imagination and public life (Boston, MA, Beacon Press). Palmer, R. E. (1969) Hermeneutics (Evanston, IL, Northwestern University Press). Pardales, M. (2002) So, how did you arrive at that decision? Connecting moral imagination and moral judgement, Journal of Moral Education, 31(4), 423437. Plato, (1995) Phaedrus (Indianapolis, IN, Hackett Publishing Company). Ricoeur, P. (1981) Hermeneutics and the human sciences (New York, Cambridge University Press). Ricoeur, P. (1988) Time and narrative (Vol. 3) (Chicago, IL, University of Chicago). Ricoeur, P. (1991a) From text to action (Evanston, IL, Northwestern University Press). Ricoeur, P. (1991b) Mimesis and representation, in: M. J. Valdes (Ed.) A Ricoeur reader reflection and imagination (Toronto, ON, Harvester Wheatsheaf), 137158. Rosenblatt, L. M. (1994) The reader, the text, the poem: the transactional theory of the literary work (Carbonsdale and Edwardsville, IL, Southern Illnois University Press). Schwab, J. J. (1964) Education and the structure of knowledge (Chicago, IL, Rand McNally). Sternberg, M. (1985) The poetics of biblical narrative, ideological literature and the drama of reading (Bloomington, IN, Indiana University Press). Zakovitch, Y. (1993) Introduction to inner biblical interpretation (Even Yehuda, Reches).

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Appendix 1. Interpretative exploration of Samuel 2, Chapter 11

Instructions You are about to engage in a careful, detailed reading of the story of David and Bathsheba. Please cover the entire page with your coversheet. Slide your coversheet slowly down while reading the lines of the story. Stop each time you reach an empty box. a. Filling the gaps in. This text is characterised by the use of many gaps, especially in relation to the characters internal lives. The story below is purposefully interrupted by empty boxes which you are asked to fill in while relating to the character whose name is mentioned. Attending carefully to the information, fill these gaps in with what you understand to be the characters inner feelings and/ or, perceptions, fears, hope, thoughts or motivations at this point of the plot. I encourage you to consider and write more than one answer! Please do not continue to read the following lines of the story until you have written your answers in the box.

510 E. Holzer b. Multiple readings. As you continue reading the story, you may wish to revise your answers to previous questions. Please do so without erasing what you wrote earlier, simply add your new thoughts on the issue.

Samuel 2, Chapter11 1. At the turn of the year, at the time when kings go forth to battle, David sent Joab and his servants with him and all Israel, and they ravaged the Ammonites and besieged Rabbah. And David stayed in Jerusalem. 2. One evening, David arose from his bed and walked about upon the roof of the kings house What do you think David was thinking or doing?
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and saw from the roof a woman bathing; and the woman was very good looking. 3a. And David sent and inquired about the woman. What might have been Davids thoughts, feelings or motivations?

3b. And one said, Is not this Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite? What might have been Davids thoughts, feelings, motivations, dilemma?

4. And David sent messengers and took her, and she came to him and he lay with her, What might have been Davids thoughts, feelings, motivations, dilemmas? What might have been Bathshebas thoughts, feelings, fears, motivations, dilemmas?

and she was purifying herself from her uncleanness, and she returned to her house. 5. And the woman conceived, and she sent and told David, I am with child. What might have been Davids thoughts, feelings, fears, motivations, dilemmas? What might have been Bathshebas thoughts, feelings, fears, motivations, dilemmas?

Connecting biblical interpretation and moral education 511 6. David sent words to Joab, Send me Uriah the Hittite. And Joab sent Uriah to David. What might have been Joabs thoughts, feelings, motivations etc? What might have been Uriahs thoughts, feelings, motivations?

7. And Uriah came to him and David asked how Joab fared, and how the people fared, and how the war fared. David:
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8a. And David said to Uriah, Go down to they house and wash thy feet. David: Uriah:

8b. And Uriah went out of the kings house and there went out after him a gift from the king. 9. And Uriah slept at the floor of the kings house with all the servants of his lord, and did not go down to his house. David: Uriah:

10. And they told David, saying, Uriah did not go down to his house. And David said to Uriah, Hast thou not come from a journey? Wherefore didst thou not go down to thy house? David: Uriah:

512 E. Holzer 11. And Uriah said to David, The Ark and Israel and Judah dwell in booths, and my lord Joab and the servants of my lord are encamped in the open field; shall I then go to my house, to eat and to drink and lie with my wife? As thou livest and as thy soul lives, I will not do this thing. David: Uriah:

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12. And David said to Uriah, Stay here today also and tomorrow I will let thee depart; and Uriah stayed in Jerusalem that day and the next. 13a. And David invited him, and he ate in his presence and drank, and he made him drunk; David: Uriah:

13b. and in the evening he went out to lie on his bed with the servants of his lord, and did not go down to his house. David: Uriah:

14. In the morning David wrote a letter to Joab, and sent it by the hand of Uriah. 15. And he wrote in the letter, saying, Set you Uriah in the forefront of the hardest fighting, and retire from him, that he may be smitten and die. David: Joab: Uriah:

16. And when Joab surrounded the city, he assigned Uriah to the place where he knew that valiant men were. 17. The men of the city came out and fought with Joab; and there fell among the people some of the servants of David, and Uriah the Hittite died also.

Connecting biblical interpretation and moral education 513 18. Joab sent and told David all the matters of the war. 19. And he instructed the messenger, saying, When thou hast finished telling all the matters of the war to the king 20. and if the kings wrath arises and he says to thee: Wherefore did you go near the city to fight? Did you not know that they shoot from the wall? 21. Who smote Abimelech the son of Jerubbesheth? Did not a woman cast a piece of millstone upon him from the wall, so that he died in Tebez? Why did you go near the wall? Then you say thou: Thy servant Uriah the Hittite is dead also. Joab: The messenger:

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22. The messenger went, and came and told David all that Joab had sent him to tell. 23. And the messenger said to David, Indeed the men prevailed against us and came out to us into the open field, and we drove them to the entrance of the gate 24. And the archers shot at thy servants from the wall, and some of the kings servants died, and thy servant Uriah the Hittite is dead also. David: The messenger:

25. David said to the messenger, Thus shalt thou say to Joab, Let not this thing be evil in thy eyes, for the sword devours now one man and now another: make thy battle stronger against the city and overthrow it. And encourage him. 26. Uriahs wife heard that Uriah her husband had died and she made lamentations over her husband. Bathsheba: 27. The mourning passed and David sent and brought her into his house, and she became his wife and bore him a son. David: Bathsheba: Joab: The servants:

514 E. Holzer Now, please begin a close reading of the entire story once again. Do not erase your previous comments or ideas. If you wish to revise them or comment on them, simply add your new thoughts to the relevant boxes.

Appendix 2 Please attend to the boxes in which you wrote more than one interpretation or idea. Take the time to evaluate your interpretations, and the arguments that support each of them in the light of what the text offers as well as your overall understanding of the character in the story.

Appendix 3
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After completing two close readings of the story, please read the closing line of the chapter carefully: 27b. The thing that David had done was evil in the eyes of the Lord. 1. What do you understand the thing to refer to? Make any revisions you wish to your previous answers pertaining to King Davids actions. What would you define as the most crucial moments of Davids moral failure? Explain why. While verse 27b explicitly condemns King David, the thing may also mean the entire story, in which evil was also committed by other characters who were all drawn into the situation because of David. Revise the actions of each the other characters of the story in the light of your interpretative additions. Please point out what you believe to be the moments of moral failure of each character. Explain what motivations or principles seem to have been at play in these moments. Please reflect critically on your answers to Question 1 and 2. Attend to your interpretative additions to the story and to your moral judgements in Question 2. How would you characterise the moral values by which you judged the characters? Finally: you may have experienced moments of uncertainty while trying to imagine what one of the protagonists in the story was going through at this specific moment of the plot. Please describe one of these moments. What did it feel for you to experience this type of uncertainty?