I begin my Introduction to New Testament Studies course by asking the class to give serious consideration to the question "What is the Bible?" and determine some type of class definition as a starting point. The consensus was that it is a book written that contains history and is the basis of faith for certain religions (Judaism, Christianity, Islam).
I just finished grading the final exams. One of the questions on the exam asked the students to reflect upon the original question and discuss their understandings of the bible in light of the knowledge that they gained in the course.
One student's response leapt out this year and I want to share it:
"In the beginning of the course, the bible seemed easy. I really thought I understood what it was and where it came from. In my opinion, it was a book with largely fictitious stories that formed the basis of faith for various religions, in particular Christianity. Now knowing the complex history of how the bible was created and all the nuances of how it is interpreted have changed my opinion. The bible is not a simple matter as I previously thought. Now I believe the bible to be a living and breathing text which is constantly being changed to reflect the values and beliefs of those who read it. The text has survived and found relevancy for thousands of years. What does a modern person have in common with an ancient Roman Christian? Really, absolutely nothing. But the bible was/is found relevant to both. The bible is transformed to suit the beliefs of its users...Particularly interesting was how the bible can be interpreted to encourage certain beliefs. Amazing how it is used to support suppression of women and even to support slavery."