Bible StudiesI have taken two semesters on the Bible, one on the Old Testament, one on the New. Both courses were taken from the chaplain at the VA Hospital in Tucson, Arizona. He also taught at Grand Canyon University and Pima Community College. He served in Iraq. I got A's in both courses.
I have had other religion courses, about four, and other philosophy courses some related to religion, ten or more which discussed religion and the Bible.
My personal background involves relatives and friends from an assortment of christian churches, Quakers, fundamentalist Baptists, Lutherans, Catholics, Seventh Day Adventists, Episcopalians, and Jehovah's Witnesses. My personal view is the real dispute is not so much literalism versus allegories, but what degree of literalism is used and where, for a particular interpretation or verse.
Currently, I attend a church with a Bible study that has the Gospel of Thomas as the focus with related gospel passages. I feel comfortable with either a fundamentalist person, a "progressive" interpretation, or anywhere in between, whatever a student wants. That may sound a little indecisive or evasive, but I like a wide perspective, while realizing most people do center on a particular viewpoint. I could be supportive to anyone of faith in any particular Bible interpretation, such as Creationism or Bishop Spong's "Rescuing the Bible from Fundamentalism' which seems to be really Tillich's ground of being viewpoint.
I have been surprised at how often Bible verses show up in secular places, such as on the UN building with an Isaiah quote, or Abraham Lincoln's united we stand. Obama publicly repeated Isaiah 9:10 at Ground Zero.
Years ago I learned a little Hebrew, while attending a Jewish Temple. I think Hebrew helps in the Old Testament. Geography, history and culture are useful too. I do not feel I should impose my views, which are a little indecisive anyway, on anyone. But I try to stay knowledgeable about Bible topics and current events related to the Bible.
In particular, I was surprised to see how the JEPD Torah theory is still widely presented as universally accepted, yet in the past 30 years, major criticisms and alternative theories have been advanced. Depending on your predisposition, you could use the criticism to argue Moses is the author, or to just have an alternative secular theory. I took a philosophy course from an instructor who presented JEPD as beyond dispute, as his father had been a pastor and learned it.
The book of Daniel is interesting. I took a Western Civilization or world history course and paid close attention to the corresponding secular history. Bible scholars have changed their views over the years.
I have read several C.S. Lewis books. Lewis is a literature expert, and the Bible as literature is another perspective. He has perhaps an Anglican fundamentalist Bible view.
I have never taught a Sunday school class, probably because I would feel uncomfortable trying to comply with the church's particular objectives. In contrast, I would have no difficulty trying to give a particular individual or student the objective and viewpoint they wanted, even if it may not be near what I might be thinking, but also compare their view with what the text or course seems to be requiring. Bible viewpoints are in flux, including mine.
I met a woman in a Bible study who believed in astrology. While I don't believe in astrology, I gave her verses that supported her viewpoint, the 3 wise men following a star, as astrologers, and Jesus saying look for the man carrying a water pitcher, which definitely sounds like Aquarius, following Pisces, the fish, symbol of Jesus, at least the acronym in Greek.
I am familiar with Bible translations, three Catholic versions, Jehovah's Witnesses', George Lamsa's Aramaic, Living translation or paraphrasing, King James New King James, Revised Standard and numerous others.
I have read "Science of God" by an MIT physicist, Gerald Schoeder, who looks at the Hebrew Old Testament. He translates 7 days of creation as corresponding to 13 billion years after an Einstein time translation.
More liberal interpretations focus on allegories and the moral teaching. Conservatives look to a literal translation to support the moral teaching.
I still clearly remember the senior pastor in my church, who had a doctorate in divinity while working on a 2nd doctorate, confuse Esther and Ruth, concerning which book never mentioned God. He said Ruth. I knew it was Esther and lovingly "corrected" him.
Antony Flew, the former atheist now deist, has a book, There is a God, with an appendix on how the gospels and Jesus treat women. The surprise is Jesus treated women as equals, in contrast to the Jewish culture and era of the time, and in contrast to virtually any teachings of the time, such as Aristotle and Plato or neoplatonism, other religions or cultures.