Wake Forest class looks to the Bible, other ancient texts for answers about love

Wake Forest University professor Fred L. Horton Jr. has students wrestling with age-old questions in his course, “Love in the Bible and other Ancient Texts.”

The class is studying the Bible and texts like first-century Greek romances to find out how different religions and cultures explore questions of love. In those readings, the 15 students are learning how ancient civilizations in Mesopotamia, Egypt, Greece, Rome and Palestine characterized people’s relationships with deities and each other.

“What we discover in these readings is that the Bible is unique,” says Horton, Albritton Professor of the Bible at Wake Forest. “It describes the principal relationship between God and the world, and the world to God, as love. In other ancient texts we read about how people served deities out of a sense of fear or duty, not love.”

“Love in the Bible and Other Ancient Texts” is one of several seminar courses at Wake Forest that are designed to bring students together in an intimate class setting during their first year at the university. These classes have 15 or fewer students and often feature group projects and extensive class discussions.

“Love in the Bible” is divided into three sections: Love between men and women; love in families and among friends; and love between human beings and God. The students will make group presentations in the first two sections, and will write individual position papers for the third.

Students in the class say the open discussions are their favorite part of the course. At the beginning of the semester, during a discussion about Egyptian love poetry, Horton presented a challenge – define love. Freshman Brendan Bowen of St. Simon’s Island, Ga., said the discussion brought the students’ interaction to a more personal level.

“We tried to come up with a definition for love, and instead, we ended up mapping out certain characteristics we felt had to be present for love to exist,” Bowen said. “You have to have passion like longing and joy, action like sacrifice and respect, and you have to have certain mental acts like anticipation and fantasy. But everyone experiences all that differently, so it all depends on who you are. It was really interesting to hear what everyone added to our list.”

Classmate Melanie Jeffries, a freshman from Charleston, S.C., says lively class discussions have begun to affect her personal life.

“This class may change the way I look at things in the future,” she said. “I’m thinking back to things I did in relationships and considering what I would do differently now that I’ve thought about all these different characteristics we’re talking about.”

Monica Belford, a sophomore from Tampa, Fla., says the class has inspired her to focus on her personal relationships more deeply.

“I’m thinking more about how God loves his people and how that can translate into my life, and my relationships with other people,” she said.

For additional information, visit Horton’s syllabus at www.wfu.edu/~horton/fys/.

Note to Editors: Please contact the News Service to arrange an interview with Fred Horton Jr. or his students about the “Love in the Bible” course.

Categories: Research, University Announcement