Biblical Foundations is a one-semester course that reflects the biblical basis of Samford’s core values and provides a foundation for understanding the place of the Jewish and Christian Scriptures in human culture. Knowledge of these Scriptures is the foundation of Christian thought and action.
Professors guide students in an exploratory journey of the Christian Scriptures, including their contents, their historical backgrounds, literary genres, and theological and ethical themes. The course stresses the relevance of the Bible for contemporary Christian faith and practice.
Whoever thinks that he understands the Holy Scriptures, or any part of them, but puts such an interpretation upon them as does not tend to build up this twofold love of God and our neighbor, does not yet understand them as he ought. Augustine of Hippo
Through Biblical Foundations, students gain a foundational knowledge of biblical texts, teachings and backgrounds necessary for the Scriptures to play an informed and enriching role students’ continuing personal formation. The course also provides the foundations necessary for understanding the formative role of the Scriptures in the Western intellectual tradition, as the nourishing root for much of that tradition.
The Biblical Foundations course is taught by faculty with advanced academic training in biblical studies. In the course professors help students:
- To grasp the Bible’s narrative structure and the importance of key people and events in the biblical narrative(s).
- To appreciate what the Bible is and how it came to us.
- To develop an understanding of the various literary genres and devices in the Bible and be able to assess the effect these have on the interpretation of biblical texts.
- To reflect on the major literary, theological and ethical themes found within individual books and across the biblical canon, as well as their potential relevance for contemporary life.
- To explore how ancient socio-historical contexts and the interpreter’s context inform interpretation.
- To engage with biblical themes as they are presented in various passages in a biblical book or books and explore the relevance of that biblical theme today.
The location of Biblical Foundations within Samford’s core curriculum reflects a commitment within the university that Scripture should undergird all of Samford’s academic programs. While not all courses require skilled biblical interpretation, an intellectually rigorous and faithfully committed approach to the Bible shapes each program. A nursing student may learn a mass of information and techniques for patient care, but she or he also asks critical questions: Why is it important to care for people in the first place? How does my dispensing of care reflect my grasp of God’s purposes? How does my treatment of this particular patient draw on—or ignore—my understanding of God’s kingdom? The finance major asks similar questions about financial planning, real estate, and banking. It is our hope that students will emerge from Biblical Foundations knowing the importance of asking such questions and having the means to begin to answer them.
The Christian commitments of Alabama Baptists formed part of the underpinning of Samford when it was founded as Howard College in 1841. The College appointed Jesse Hartwell as its first Professor of Theology in 1844, though it would be another fifty years before a course on the Bible was offered for credit. Soon thereafter all students were required to take at least one Bible course. When Howard College organized itself into departments in 1916, the Bible curriculum was entrusted to the Department of Religious Education. Through various name changes, the Department of Biblical and Religious Studies has continued to offer an extensive curriculum devoted to the study of the Scriptures.
In 1997, Samford’s new core curriculum was introduced, and the four-credit Biblical Perspectives course replaced the two-course cycle of Old and New Testament Survey, of which students had to take at least one. Biblical Perspectives sought to connect the study of the Bible to the rest of the university’s core curriculum and to ensure that every Samford undergraduate studied both the Old and New Testaments.
In 2019, Biblical Perspectives was revised and became Biblical Foundations, with a greater emphasis of providing students with a solid foundation of biblical literacy, including the major literary, theological and ethical themes of Scripture and greater stress on the role of Scripture in faith formation.