10:30 a.m.: Judaism: The Sacred and the Secular, Pappajohn Business Building
Monday, November 3, 2014

Classroom Pass is an Iowa Now project that sent teams of writers, photographers, and videographers to 15 classes on Wednesday, Oct. 22, to showcase the breadth and strength of the University of Iowa's academic offerings for undergraduates as well as its dynamic faculty and state-of-the-art facilities. See what other classes they visited.

Class: Judaism: The Sacred and the Secular
Instructor: Jay Holstein, professor of religious studies

What did the writer of the Hebrew Bible really mean?

Longtime religious studies professor Jay Holstein helps his students decode the ancient work with a bit of metaphor, a bit of humor, and a dry erase board drawing of the Sinai Peninsula.

Learn more about the Department of Religious Studies, and read about a prestigious teaching award won in 2014 by Professor Jay Holstein.

Today’s lesson is II Kings 2, which tells the somewhat complicated story of the prophet Elijah’s ascent into heaven.

“Elijah went up to heaven in the vortex of a funnel cloud. Everyone knows that. I’m going to give you the inside story. I’m going to give you the inside scoop. I’m going to give you the significance of it,” Holstein says, as he delves into the passage.

He asks a student to begin reading through the text, asking him to pause at parts—sometimes after only a few words—which fills the classroom with laughter.

Throughout the lesson, Holstein stops to check in with students in his class. What do they think? How are they feeling today? Is he losing them? He has a way of keeping them engaged.

His entertaining banter and side stories—which ultimately play into the lesson—create a sense of comfort and camaraderie in the classroom. Nearly every student participates in the discussion.

Holstein has been teaching at the UI for more than 40 years, and his courses are among the most popular in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.