National Lutheran News

Luther Seminary develops online biblical resource

Professional and lay leaders alike will benefit from vast collection of pertinent material

A new interactive Web site launched last month by Luther Seminary, St. Paul, is designed to be an aid in lifelong study of the Bible. Sunday school teachers, students, laity, and pastors will be able to choose their own study path. For example, users can find who wrote a particular book of the Bible, a summary of the content, and the context in which it was written. It will also be easy to define biblical terms.

David Lose, associate professor of biblical preaching who has a lead role in the seminary’s lifelong learning area, told Metro Lutheran, “EnterTheBible.org is the most recent attempt by Luther Seminary to help everyday Christians and their pastors understand and enjoy scripture so that the biblical story of God and the people of God can inform and shape their lives. In many ways, life-long learning is most centrally about helping people see and believe that God can use all that they are, and have, to participate in the ongoing story of God’s work in the world.

“The Bible tells the great story of God. This story begins at the beginning in Genesis and ends at the very end in Revelation. We, as Christians, live somewhere between the Acts of the Apostles — telling the story of the birth and early spread of the church — and Revelation. Our job is to help people understand that story and find their place in it. And the more they enjoy and understand the Bible, the easier it will be for them to do that.”

As constructed, the Web site includes 175 video clips of Luther Seminary faculty members talking about various topics. According to Sally Peters, director of lifelong learning, the Web site will “extend the knowledge of faculty members beyond the campus [and] share their knowledge with the world.” A side benefit can be enhancing the image of Luther Seminary as a “quality institution.”

Maria Thompson, director of communication at the seminary, said traffic to the Web site will likely begin through seminary alumni and those who attend conferences and assemblies as well as those who receive magazines and e- mail newsletters. She expects word-of-mouth to bring people to this “wonderful resource for the church.”

The Web site includes resources on hundreds of passages from all 66 books of the Bible, covering 16 different periods. Twenty-two faculty members contributed material.

Four years in development, the Web site includes a vast array of artwork, maps, and information. Twenty unique maps were prepared specifically for this site, and, at this point, 77 works of Christian art are presented. Peters said that, as far as she knows, no other seminary anywhere has produced this sort of Web site. It is expected that there will be thousands of hits each month.

Peters said the writing for the Web site is in an easy-to-understand style. Authors of various sections are identified, and there will be biographical sketches and photos. Included in the site is an opportunity for feedback which will be used to guide improvements as time goes along.

Fred Gaiser, professor of Old Testament and Web site editor, said, “The technical goal in editing, beyond the standard issues of style and usage, was to make sure there was some measure of consistency in the material — sometimes a challenge given the number of authors — but without thereby removing the individual ‘voice’ of the writers. People who know the authors will recognize them in their material. They will hear people of faith speaking with conviction.

“We also wanted to make sure the material was accessible to the reader. We were writing here for a wide audience (most of whom we will never meet), not primarily for students or scholars. At the same time, there has been no attempt to oversimplify real and complex issues. The Bible is an open book, available to all, but it is adult literature, and authors have not shied away from serious issues.

“It is always enlightening, while editing, to overhear the work of my colleagues. These are insightful readers of scripture, and every time I read their work I learn something new — despite having taught scripture myself for over 35 years. Editing is always a chore, but sometimes it is only a chore. This time it also provided a continuing education course on the whole Bible and thus became an opportunity and — on most days — a joy.”

Matt Skinner, associate professor of New Testament, traced some of the history of the project: “I started working on the EnterTheBible.org project way back in fall 2004. Rolf Jacobson, an associate professor of Old Testament here at the seminary, served as consultant, working with others to plan the basic structure and functions of the Web site. That work was largely about content, what information should be included, and how a user might access it and for what purposes. Once a working shell of the program/Web site was ready, Rolf and I recruited faculty colleagues to write content; that was in 2006. I wrote some pieces for the site, and I also served as editor of the New Testament content until I had to drop out when my sabbatical began in July 2008.

“In the editing process, we tried to keep in view the people we imagined would find this site helpful. Like a helpful study Bible, we try to shed light on the biblical text so people can become more informed, more attentive readers. We tried to avoid technical terms or theological buzzwords so it would be accessible to church-going adolescents and adults, and also to students. We encouraged our writers to comment on why the individual biblical books and selected passages matter for Christian belief and life. We’re not conveying dry information but trying to help scripture come alive for believers who want to be nourished by it.

“We wanted writers to be engaging and intelligent, so that this site can become the first stop for people using the Internet to dig deeper into Scripture. We’re not trying to give all the answers but to draw people into a deeper engagement with Scripture and, ultimately, with the God about whom the Scriptures speak.”

The Web site can be visited at EnterTheBible.org.