Ideas for Bible research project

Biblical literature oral reports

A major goal of this Oral Report assignment in Introduction to Biblical Literature is to introduce you to the usefulness of Bible dictionaries (or Bible encyclopedias as they might be more properly called).

Here's what to do:

  1. Sign up on the sheet on the classroom bulletin board that has a list of dates and topics. Write the reporting date you have chosen in your personal master calendar of assignment due dates.
  2. Prepare a 2-3 page written report on the topic
  3. Give your oral report on the date you selected
  4. Turn in your written report that same day

Drawing of young
man with tousled hair reading from a sheet of paper

Here's how to get the class excited about what you discovered:

  1. Make your oral report last 5 to 8 minutes
  2. Do not read your manuscript word for word
  3. Use creative presentation methods. Bring a visual of some kind. Make a poster. Do a handout.

Some Bible dictionaries/encyclopedias in print format

Anchor Bible Dictionary, ed. David Noel Freedman, 6 vols.,1992.
Harper's Bible Dictionary, ed. Paul J.Achtemeier, 1985.
Harper's Encyclopedia of Bible Life, ed. Madeline S and J. Lane Miller.
Holman Bible Dictionary, ed. Trent C. Butler, 1991.
Illustrated Bible Dictionary, ed. J.D. Douglas, 3 vols., 1980.
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, ed. Geoffrey W. Bromiley, 4 vols.,1979-88.
Interpreter's Dictionary of the Bible, ed. George A Buttrick, 4 vols. +suppl, 1962-76.
Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible, ed. Merrill C. Tenney, 5 vols, 1975.

Topics and starter questions

(with thanks to Dr. Dennis Bratcher)

What do we mean by a "canon" of scripture? How does the Jewish canon differ from the Christian Canon? How does the Roman Catholic and Orthodox canon differ from that used by the Protestants? Why?

Names of God
What are the major names and titles used for God in the Old Testament? Where did Israel get these names? What is their significance?

Tell Abraham's life story. How strong was Abraham's faith through this story? How does the Old Testament account compare with the New Testament view of Abraham (Hebrews 11)?

Tell Jacob's life story. What was Jacob like as a person? How does he change as in the story?

Briefly tell Joseph's life story. Did God do great miracles for Joseph? What was Joseph's final view of God's work in his life?

Tell Moses' life story. What things hindered Moses from being a good leader? How then could he have led the Hebrews out of slavery in Egypt? [ more on Moses ]

Tell Aaron's life story. Why is he an important Bible character? For what act did God punish Aaron?

What is Passover? How was it celebrated in Old Testament times? How is it celebrated by modern Jews? What significance does Passover have for Christians?

Recount the event and its importance rather than just describing the book. Describe the route taken.

Tell Joshua's life story. In what ways is he important to Bible history?

Canaanites and Philistines
Who were the various groups of people that were collectively called Canaanites? What was the relationship of the Philistines to Phoenicia and Crete? Why were both of these groups a problem for the Israelites?

What was a judge? Summarize the period of the Judges, especially emphasizing three or four of them and their time of leadership. Were these Judges godly people?

Briefly tell Samuel's life story, beginning with his mother's prayer for a child. What role did Samuel play in Israel's history? What was Samuel's relationship with Israel's first kings?

Saul (Old Testament)
Tell Saul's life story. What factors caused his downfall? What good things came out of his reign?

Tell David's life story. What were his greatest accomplishments? In what area did he fail?

How did Solomon get to be king of Israel? How would you describe his reign? What were his greatest achievements? In what areas did he fail?

Priest / Temple
What were the two main responsibilities of Old Testament priests? What role did the Temple play in Israelite society? When and why did the temple and priesthood become a symbol of disobedience to God?

Who was Baal? How did Baal fit into the worship practices of ancient Canaanites? Why did Baal worship have so much influence on the Israelites?

Recount Elijah's life story. What were his important contributions to the understanding of God?

What are two major points of contact in the Old Testament between the Israelites and the Assyrians? Why were the Assyrians so feared in the Ancient world? Why could they never totally dominate Israel?

Prophets / Prophecy
Why is the popular idea that prophets predict the future not adequate to describe Old Testament prophets? What was a biblical prophet's primary role? What does it mean to say that a prophet is "called" by God?

Amos, Hosea
When and to whom did these prophets address their message? How do the messages compare? Why is Amos so concerned with social justice? What is the significance of Hosea's use of the metaphor of marriage?

Hezekiah, Josiah
Briefly tell the circumstances surrounding the reign of these two kings. Why are they remembered so positively? What were their major achievements? In what areas did they fail?

Ahaz, Manasseh
Briefly tell the circumstances surrounding the reign of these two kings. Why are they remembered so negatively? What were their major achievements? In what areas did they fail?

Briefly recount the historical and religious situation at the time of Isaiah's ministry as a prophet. What was Isaiah's original message to Israel? How and why did it change?

What kind of person was Jeremiah? What was the basic content of his message to Israel? Was his message accepted? Why or why not?

Babylonia, Exile
Briefly recount the important aspects of the Babylonian conquest of Israel. Why did they take captured people back to Babylon? What were the conditions of the exiles in Babylon, and how did their condition affect their faithfulness to God?

Briefly tell Ezekiel's life story. What were some of the symbolic actions that he performed? At what point did his message change from negative to positive? Why?

Persia, Return from Exile
How did Persia conquer Babylon? Why did the Persian king Cyrus allow the Israelites to return home? What was the Israelite response to this freedom?

Ezra and Nehemiah
Tell their life stories. Why were they key figures in Israel's history?

Who were the Maccabees? What were the circumstances surrounding the Maccabean rebellion against Greek rule? What precipitated the rebellion? What was the result?

Rome and the Roman Empire
When and how did the Roman Empire begin to impact the Jewish people in Palestine? How did it impact Jesus and His followers in the New Testament?

Who was Herod the Great? What role did he have in the life of Jesus? Who were the different members of Herod's family that had a role in the New Testament? What were they like and what did they do in relationship to Jesus or others in the New Testament?

What office did Pilate hold? What type of person was he? What role did he have in the New Testament?

What does it mean to say that there is only one Gospel? What does Gospel mean? What led to the writing of the four gospels? How is it that we have four Gospels? How can the Gospel be one and four at the same time?

When and why did the synagogue emerge? What is its significance in the New Testament?

What was the Sanhedrin? Where was it located? What type of people were a part of it? How much power did it have? How does the Sanhedrin relate to the story of Jesus and other events in the New Testament?

John the Baptist
How do the Gospels portray the life, work, and message of John the Baptist? What are some similarities and differences between John and Jesus?

Old Testament Quotations in the New Testament
How and Why does the New Testament quote or make reference to the Old Testament? Give examples to illustrate your answer.

What references are made to the Samaritans in the New Testament? What was their origin? What are some of their religious ideas? What were their points of agreement and/or conflict with the Jews? What was Jesus' attitude toward the Samaritans?

Pharisees / Sadducees
Describe these groups. What points of agreement and/or disagreement were there between them and between them and Jesus?

What all does the New Testament say about Peter? What is his significance in the New Testament?

Briefly tell Paul's life story, making references to his letters and to the book of Acts.

Disciples, Apostles
What do these two words mean? What are the differences, if any, between an apostle, a disciple, and a follower of Jesus? How many apostles did Jesus have and why such a number? What does the New Testament say about these apostles: James, the son of Zebedee; Andrew; Philip; Thomas; Matthew.

Judaizers (see Paul's letter to Galatians)
What was their message? In what books of the New Testament are their teachings most strongly condemned?

What does the word gnosticism mean? What are some Gnostic concepts and how and why did they emerge? How are the basic ideas of gnosticism different from biblical ideas that you have learned so far?

John the Apostle
What does the New Testament tell us about the personal life of the Apostle John, his relationship to Jesus, and his apostolic role?
Tempted to cheat on a class assignment? Before you do, read Southern Nazarene University's academic integrity policy

Want to get started on your memory work?

Click hereIs your oral report not due for a while? Do you want to get started on memorizing the Bible passages? [ more ]

    -- Howard Culbertson,

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