This Scripture series explores the pedagogical stakes of canonization and reverence. How do we teach texts deemed uniquely authoritative without being constrained by questions of authority or power dynamics? What can be learned by shifting attention from specific scriptures to the category itself?
Drawing from Asian as well as Jewish and Christian scriptures, we explore a series of pedagogical case studies in relation to Vincent Wimbush’s arresting questions: What is the work ‘humans’ make ‘scriptures’ do? And what, in turn, does scripturalization do to humans?
We inaugurate the series with a conversation about an introductory text by Wimbush, a scholar of comparative scripturalization. The second session considers pedagogical challenges posed by the story of Cook Ding, in the Zhuangzi. As teachers of sacred texts, how do we religious scholars guide students to appreciate the transformative effects of these texts without leading students to think that we are somehow “converting” or “indoctrinating” them?
The third session complements the second by focusing on an example of scripture explicitly presented as an agent of indoctrination, using selections from a Christian text produced in late Ming China (16th-17th c.). “The Gospel for the Ordinary Reader” is not scripture that invites reflective, prayerful, or meditative reading, but instead a dogmatic summary, designed to identify and curtail deviant readings. What work is this catechism doing? What relationship does it have to the work of scripture?
Speakers for the fourth and possibly fifth sessions are likely to include a teacher of Bible at a Jewish high school, and a Chinese scholar of Confucianism.