Exploring Scriptural Sources is an innovative, ecumenical textbook enabling students to explore key aspects of the early Christianity using primary texts. The interactive aspect of the case study methodology (problem-based learning) is personally engaging and enables persons with no background in textual criticism to learn it rudiments effortlessly. This textbook is a natural choice for introductory New Testament courses. An online teacher's manual is available.

What I say to students about to try their first Case Study

Most people like to discover things for themselves and not simply to be told. Adult learners, more especially, appreciate a direct involvement in what they are learning. By taking charge of their own learning, adults invariably find that they learn more easily, more enjoyably, and more deeply. Deep learning immediately results in noticeable changes in the settled instincts whereby leaerners perceive, evaluate, and enjoy life. These interior changes, in their turn, provide an enlarged sense of competence and mastery in the arena of biblical studies.

The Case Studies within this textbook were designed for and perfected by adult learners. Each Case Study was crafted to build upon and enlarge what you already know and experience. At the same time, there will be surprises: you will be exploring dimensions of the church which you have never closely examined before. Progressively, you will become fascinated with and rooted in the past--gaining a new freedom, a new discernment, and a new responsibility to live in the present. From time to time, you will even find yourself struggling to sort out how the origins and early history of Christianity square with what is going on in your church and your society today.

Each Case Study will allow you to independently investigate some aspect of the early Christianity through a direct examination of primary sources. For the first Case Study, the source will be Acts 10. Using the clues offered by Luke, "the first church historian," you will play the role of a Sherlock Holmes. Your mission will be to solve a mystery which is entitled "How Conservative Peter Became the Daring Innovator." As you move through the Case Study, you will undertake a guided investigation of the "clues" that Luke left behind. You will puzzle over these clues. You will make hunches and test them out. In the end, you will decide to what degree you have been able to synthesize the clues in such a way as to say, "Mystery solved!"

As you go, you will make notes for yourself and to yourself. Past experience demonstrates that writing with a pen in the spaces provided is best for this. Pencil smudges. Along the way, you might decide to abandon certain hunches that you have already recorded. It's easy to draw a line through such bad hunches and write in your new ones. In this way, you can later easily spot what lines of investigation you have ruled out as unsatisfactory or improbable.

What I say to teachers considering this textbook

Get ready! When students figure things out for themselves, this leads to a deep learning which, not unexpectedly, almost always translates into changing their lives. In my setting, participants are constantly telling me at the beginning of each session how they went on to do this or do that as a direct result of the last Case Study. In fact, they often want to go out and convert the world by simply telling others what they have learned. Thus, from time to time, I have to remind them that they came to these deep discoveries about the church and about themselves by route of a prolonged investigation. Simple "telling" someone may not do the trick. What amazes me is that, when given the time, they can easily reconstruct the entire route whereby they arrived at a discovery for someone who was attentive and sympathetic. And this is possible years after having done a Case Study. This is what I mean by "deep learning" and how it is especially important to students who, for the most part, forget anything that has not become important for them. All significant learning is deep, personal, and transformative.

Questions first-time users ask

Q1. I've never done anything like this before. What should I do if I get stuck?

A1. During your investigation, you will sometimes get stuck. All good detectives do. When this happens, don't try to rack your brain so hard and so long that you wear yourself out. When a solution doesn't readily come, put a question mark in the margin and continue. When the moment is right, come back to the issue which you marked off for yourself with the question mark. The experience of adult learners demonstrates that it is far better to have gone through the whole Case Study in a reasonable period of time than to get hopelessly stuck somewhere in the middle.

Q2. Wouldn't it be better to go to a biblical commentary?

A2. To do so would be like bringing in another detective to solve the case for you. Give yourself a crack at it first. Make up your own mind on the basis of the clues offered. If, in the end, you want to check out a trusted commentary or to consult your local pastor so as to get a second opinion, go ahead. Remember, however, that every biblical commentator (no matter how many degrees or ordinations he/she may have) is also constrained to play Sherlock Holmes and to make sense of the same clues that you have encountered. Hence, don't be shy about challenging or revising what your commentator says on the basis of your own investigations. The same, needless to say, holds true for the analysis that I have prepared at the end of each Case Study. Every solution is "true" only to the degree that it can satisfactorily account for the clues given by the transmitted text.

How about the software version?

These Case Studies have been produced in two distinct formats: (a) textbook and (b) computer diskette. One can use one without the other. They are not identical, however. The book has been designed to provide broad margins, a rapid overview, and amply space for keeping track of ones investigation as it progresses. The computer edition incorporates presentational immediacy, simple animations, and a dozen hidden subroutines which take note of and assist your progress. No two people will ever progress through the computer edition in precisely the same way while, given the sequential nature of pages in a book, users of the pamphlet all progress along the same route (unless, of course, someone skips around).

The software edition of these Case Studies incorporates pleasing colors, illustrative drawings, sounds of the synagogue, simple animations, and a dozen hidden subroutines ("guardian angels") which take note of and assist your progress. Software users report that the Jewish chants, soft colors, and enriched interactive environment allows them better to focus their attention and organize their responses. The "flight of the dove" animation has been singled out as "supremely relaxing" and "enabling my spirit to soar." In the long run, I expect the software edition to be the preferred mode for experiencing the transformative power of Case Studies.

The software edition is designed for the Microsoft Windows (all versions). The setup routine is foolproof, and first-time users begin sleuthing within minutes. The eight Case Studies occupy about four megabytes of disk files. Telephone technical assistance is offered (but has proved to be unnecessary).