Revising my Hebrews Study Guide

I keep thinking I’ll get more regular about updating this blog (or my other two), but things remain hectic around here. If you’ve been watching the announcements from my company, Energion Publications, you have seen some of what my wife and I, along with our team of authors and contractors are working on at the moment. (Note that this is more about my work than directly about Bible study. You can consider it a commercial break with a personal touch.)

But just in case I might run out of things to do, I’m adding another task: revising my study guide for the book of Hebrews. I’ve been wanting to do this for some time, and the motivation came at the beginning of this year.

My Sunday School class completed our study of the book of Ephesians and decided they’d like to do the book of Hebrews next. I had the choice between using the current guide again, or going ahead and doing the revisions I’ve felt were needed for a few years now. So I’ve been working on the revisions and trying some of them out on the class.

I started the Participatory Study Series with this guide, working from my notes from previous times I had taught through this important book. Hebrews has a special place in the development of my personal theology. I actually started with Ezekiel, moved to Hebrews, and finished with Leviticus. But I keep coming back to all three. I’ve made the rounds several times since I published the guide. There’s a lot of meat involved in studying ideas like priesthood, sacrifice, faithfulness, grace, and many more that come from those. So I have a few thoughts to add.

I also found myself dissatisfied with my outline and even more dissatisfied with my translation. The new guide will not include a translation. Considering other additions, it will simply make the book too big. I might publish it separately along with notes that are cut from the guide itself. As I write about these passages, I find myself using way more words than are likely to be useful in a study guide.

The other factor that is leading me to revise this guide is the changes I have made in the nature of the series itself, based on suggestions and input from the authors of the continuing volumes. When I initially published it, To the Hebrews: A Participatory Study Guide was only the fourth book Energion had in print. I made it a series because I planned to publish a guide on Revelation, and possibly my general notes on Bible study.

Then Geoffrey Lentz suggested that he write a study guide to the Gospel According to Luke. Geoffrey is a former student (from his youth group days), and is now Dr. Geoffrey Lentz and pastor of First United Methodist Church of Port Saint Jo, Florida. But Geoffrey had some ideas to improve the method I was teaching. That resulted in our co-authored book Learning and Living Scripture.

From there Dr. Bob Cornwall (Ephesians) and Dr. Bruce Epperly (Philippians) each wrote a study guide and each contributed to the shape that the series is now taking.

As a result, I feel the need to improve the original guide so it can catch up with its successors. Besides removing the translation and updating the outline this will include:

  1. Improving the reading lists. Unlike the other guides, I will still have my three reading lists: Reading, Extra Reading, Advanced.
  2. Adding a discussion of each lesson, rather than just having exercises and pointing to sources.
  3. Making the exercises more generic, so that people can use different sources more easily.
  4. Including opening and closing prayers for those who like to have a printed group prayer for study. I will be using a Psalm as the prayer to open and close each session.

I will be writing a few notes as I have time, but this is keeping me fairly busy. I am certainly enjoying my time spent with this important book.



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