Bible Short Courses

Bible short courses provide a way for people seeking to deepen their faith and spiritual understanding to engage the Biblical text. Participants explore Scripture with the help of biblical scholars and a community of learners seeking the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Our goal is that by digging into scripture together participants will learn to know and love more deeply the Story of God's love, revealed in Jesus Christ, illuminated by the Holy Spirit, and given to us in the pages of the Bible.

Courses are offered online and last six weeks each. These online courses do not typically involve live video conversations (as in a webinar) or other activities in which all class members come together at one time.

We also offer Anabaptist Short Courses.

2018-2019 offerings

Biblical Foundations for Creation Care (online)

Taught by Ben Ollenburger, PhD
Jan. 9 - Feb. 19, 2019
Early registration: Dec. 31, 2018

We care about our environment, about the natural world within which and from which we live. But when we talk about creation care, we are talking about more than the natural world. We are talking of our world, and of ourselves, as belonging ultimately to God. Creation has its source in God the Creator, and creation care has its foundations in Scripture, in the Bible.

All of us are probably familiar with the stories in Genesis about Adam and Eve and the serpent, Cain and Abel, and creation. Genesis 1 describes God's creation of an ordered world in which humans were provided everything they needed to thrive. Genesis 2 describes God's creation of the first human, a farmer, assigned to care for what God had created. The story goes on. We will look at the details.

Discussions of creation often ignore parts of the Bible beyond Genesis. In Proverbs we will encounter Wisdom, yes, in relation to creation. In the Psalms and in Isaiah, and in Job, we will encounter the characters Leviathan and Rahab, apparently enemies of God and of creation. And in the New Testament we will encounter the Word, the Word made flesh, in whom by whom all things were created: the creation for which we care.  Request a syllabus. For questions, e-mail [email protected].

Ben Ollenburger, PhD is AMBS Professor of Biblical Theology.

How Short Courses Work

Bible short courses meet online for six weeks. Readings and discussion are comparable to seminary-level work, assuming critical thinking skills and previous academic study. No academic credit will be awarded, but Continuing Education Units (CEUs) are available to those who complete course requirements. Courses are not graded. These courses do not meet any requirement of the AMBS Master of Divinity or Master of Arts programs of study.

Online short courses involve readings from textbooks and online articles and written discussion. They typically don't involve live video conversations (as in a webinar) or other activities in which all class members come together at one time.

Before you register

Online learning is not for everyone. To help evaluate your skills and abilities to benefit from an online course, please follow this link to a quiz provided by Washington Online. Question 5 asks about available time to devote to the course. Short courses require, on average, 5-10 hours per week rather than the 10-15 hours mentioned in the quiz. With this in mind, we encourage you to take the quiz and find out whether you are a good candidate for online learning.

Occasional Offerings

Make 4 Hours Count: How to Streamline Bible Study for Ministry (online)

Mary H. Schertz, PhD

This course is for pastors, Bible study teachers, and other church leaders who have some education, experience, and back ground in Bible. Other interested students would be advised to first take an introductory Bible course or comparable seminary study. The problem the course addresses is how to fit preparation of a biblical text that one wishes to use in ministry - a sermon, teaching a class, or other use - into a full, real life with its interruptions, short windows of opportunity, and many demands. My passion is to help leaders discover texts in ways that help them help their own people to discover texts - and not to take all week to do it.

Creating a Scene in Corinth: Conflict in 1 Corinthians (online)

Reta Halteman Finger, PhD

No church the Apostle Paul planted seemed to have more conflict than the various house churches in the city of Corinth. After Paul left Corinth, he received both an oral report and a letter from various believers in Corinth. They told him of conflicts between factions as well as asking questions about how to live life as a Christian in a pagan society. Paul’s reply is the letter we call 1 Corinthians.

This study of Paul’s letter will take the form of an online simulation of one house church troubled by factions and social tensions (1 Cor 1:11-13). Each student will role-play a character from a particular faction and will comment (as that character) on Paul’s controversial viewpoints in each lesson, as well as interacting with the positions of other characters. All necessary information will be found in the textbook by Reta Finger—Creating a Scene in Corinth: A Simulation (Herald Press, 2013).

In addition to this online conversation, students will write a brief journal for most lessons. This journal will include summary comments from the perspective of your character, followed by conclusions as to how this material can be applied in your church and personal lives today. A minimum of eight students will be required.

Reta Halteman Finger, PhD, is Affiliate Associate Professor of New Testament, Eastern Mennonite University

"I took a course on 1 Corinthians with Reta Finger several years ago at EMU. I didn’t know what to expect, only that scripture was important to me and I liked Reta as a teacher. This class breathed new life into scripture. Making connections into a world that usually appears so distant illuminated and excited me. Studying I Corinthians with other like-minded students was a way for me to step into this distant past and discover our ‘modern’ times have not moved so far away from problems Paul was addressing. God be praised…taking first century problems that help me on my journey now!" — David Stenson, Harrisonburg, VA.

"Never before has a class inspired so many sermons and so much productive ongoing reflection.  This is the first time a class inspired me to write a research paper which was subsequently accepted for publication.  Simulation of the Corinthian community in its social context provides far more depth engagement with the text than one might expect. Tears, outrage, and laughter were indications of how personally engaged our class had become as participants in the Corinthian experience.  I continue to be so grateful to you for enlightening us with a tremendously fruitful study of scripture." — Irvin Heishman, co-pastor West Charleston Church of the Brethren

We took part in a first century Corinthian house church simulation several years ago in our Sunday School class directed by Reta Halteman Finger.  For both of us, it was a stellar experience.  Instead of studying about Corinthians, we experienced Corinthians! We first learned about the social and cultural milieu of the church in Corinth, then focused on individuals or classes of people who were likely part of the house church, some of whom are specifically named and addressed by Paul, such as Chloe, Apollos, Timothy. This prepared us for the simulation in which we role-played characters in one house church in Corinth. The problems and issues facing the Corinthian church related very well to issues in our churches today.  Rather than looking at abstract teachings on doctrine and theology, this was Bible study thru characters and their background, real live people like (or unlike) us. Truly an eye-opener!" — Bob and Betty Lou Buckwalter

"Paul's Corinthian Letters" instructed by Dr. Reta Halteman Finger has to be my favorite class taught at Eastern Mennonite Seminary. It was so thought-provoking and never dull. I learned so much by living out the character of Euphemia, a Gentile slave, owned by Erastus. Using the unique simulation approach, the class members truly brought the characters to life. I recall many times I was angry with Valerius. He could get on your last nerve. I hope someday to reenact this class at one of my churches, because it helped me to better understand the times and the writings of the Corinthians in an exhilarating way. Class was always refreshing. The grand finale of the class was inviting the seminary to an Agape Meal. We prepared a Roman meal and used foods that were common during that time. Before the meal, the Christ, Apollo, Jewish, and Paul factions gave testimonies to those attending the meal. I am so grateful for Dr. Finger going beyond what was required of her to instruct the class." — Rev. Rebecca Van Stavern Moorefield, West Virginia

"This Christian education class on 1 Corinthians was not the usual study/reflect/discuss approach.  The role-playing immersion allowed us to grapple with the daily realities of a distant time and place.  It allowed for uncommon insight into the nature of slavery, patterns of wealth and privilege, homosexuality, role of women, and other topics that intersected with the effort of early Christians to establish what we now call church and the Good News Jesus brings.  This class refined for me the cacophony of religious viewpoints and the difficulty of living out this Good News story.  I recommend this class for anyone with some curiosity about ‘then’ and how to make the gospel part of our own community now.  I do not recommend this class for those that want ‘the same old stuff." — Hadley Jenner

Job and the Mystery of Suffering (face-to-face in Elkhart)

Safwat Marzouk, PhD

The common image of the character of Job in the popular memory is that of a patient sufferer. However, in the bulk of his speeches in the book, Job laments, protests, and questions the divine justice in light of his experience. While Job indeed blessed God when he received the news of the disasters that have fallen upon him (Job 1-2), as early as chapter three Job’s tone changes: he curses the day of his birth, he seeks divine justice, and he refuses the accusations of his friends. Job’s complaint continues through most of the book.

The book of Job offers a complex discussion of human suffering. Job, his wife, his friends, and God each address the question of suffering, most often in dialogue with one another. At times they speak past each other. Together, these multiple voices create a symphony, and at other times a cacophony, as they engage with the issue of suffering and divine justice. While Job asserts his innocence, his friends assume that he suffered because of his sin. In the divine speeches God does not address the notion of divine reward for good behavior and punishment for sin. The book thus challenges the perspective that assumes that all who suffer do so because they have sinned.

When God finally responds to Job, God answers him by putting forth long lists of questions that focus on the different realms of creation (Job 38-41). Was God’s intention to belittle and silence Job? What do snow, ostrich, Behemoth and Leviathan have to do with the suffering Job? Did Job actually repent after listening to the second divine speech or are there other ways to translate the phrase, “Therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes” (42:6)? What are the implications of other possible translations?

This course will explore the contributions of the voices of Job, his wife, his friends, and God to our theological reflection on the problem of suffering. Questions about how translation of key phrases affects meaning will be introduced and different possible answers will be discussed. The course will also invite attendees to reflect on the importance of the language of blessing and the language of protest as faithful ways of responding to suffering and injustice.

Safwat Marzouk, PhD, is Assistant Professor of Old Testament at AMBS.

God the Creator (face-to-face in Elkhart)

Ben Ollenburger, PhD

God created the heavens and the earth. The Bible affirms this in its first verse, as we all know.  We are also generally familiar with the stories in Genesis about Adam and Eve and the serpent, Cain and Abel, and creation. But these and other parts of Genesis 1 - 11 display literary and poetic artistry and possess theological depth that we too easily miss. In this course, we will examine the biblical details to see what additional insights might be gained.

Discussions of creation often ignore God acting as creator beyond Genesis.  In the Psalms and in Isaiah, and in Job, we will encounter the characters Leviathan and Rahab, creatures vastly different from Adam and Eve, seeming to be enemies of God and of creation.   How do these texts enrich or refigure or challenge our image of God the Creator?

When we think of creation, we typically think of the natural world—the world we live in and care about.  In this course, we will focus, biblically, on the Creator, the one who created us and our world.  Since our focus will be on God, it will include Jesus (Col 1:11-20).

Ben Ollenburger, PhD is AMBS Professor of Biblical Theology

Register for short courses

Continuing education units

No academic credit will be awarded but completion of course requirements can earn the participant 2.4 CEUs.


  • US $200 per course plus textbooks, before the early registration deadline;
  • US $250 per course plus textbooks, after the early registration deadline.
  • US $50 plus textbooks, if living in the Global South (5 spaces available)
  • Participants should expect to pay for one or two textbooks.


Before the early registration deadline, cancellations will be refunded, less US $50. After this date, cancellations will be granted credit, less US $50, toward a future short course within one year. Refund credits must be requested within 1 week of the beginning of the event.

Online course procedures and requirements

You will need:

  • An email account
  • A web browser
  • A word processing program
  • Basic computer skills
  • A PDF file reader, such as Adobe Reader
  • One or two textbooks selected by the professor, available from the bookstore at AMBS or from a web source

For more information

Send an email