At my present place of employment, it is not uncommon for students to take "Intro to the New Testament (I or II)" as their very first graduate-level class. At my previous place of employment, no previous university classes in religion, literature, or art were required for "Portraits of Jesus" class. At another university, "Introduction to Bible" was standard for first-year undergraduates. I'd like to think that I've gotten better at anticipating the abecedarian, but every semester I end up wondering.
Here is what I wonder: why do we continue to teach Bible as an introductory class? It increasingly difficult to assume that students have had a great literature class, a poetry class, an introduction to religions class, an introduction to the humanities class, or a "how to write an essay" class. I often wish beyond hope that my students will at least have taken Hebrew Bible/OT before they enter my NT classes. But this wish is simply passing the buck. My guess is that (almost) all professors who assign The Art of Biblical Narrative privately wish that their students had already read this book before walking in the door. Don't we need students to understand how narratives work, how poetry works, how anthropologists think, how religious experience functions, etc. before they can study the Bible at an academic level? In short, I'm suggesting that we ought to make Bible a topic for upper-level students.
Thoughts? I am wide open on this one and fishing for better ways to think about the problem.