The Bible is the book that, probably more than any other piece of ancient literature, contains stories and teaching about virtue. For Christians, it is also the book that is recognised as inspired by God and therefore useful as a practical guide for living. These Biblical explorations might be considered therefore as as ‘character built on rock’
This additional resource features a list of A) short Bible studies about virtue and B) ideas for further study about character and virtue in the Bible. Each study can be done in relative simplicity or, depending on your own theological preparation, might mark the the beginning of an in-depth study.
Each study can be used individually or in a group Bible study.
The list below is arranged around further studies of virtue in the Bible (in order of the weeks of the plan in this site) and a general list of ideas for
A) Short Bible studies about virtue
- The importance of virtue (Week 1)
- About virtue and character (Week 2)
- The tradition of virtue in Scripture (Week 3)
- Committing to virtue (Week 4)
- Prepare for the test (Week 5)
- Improve your virtue literacy (Week 14)
- Humility (Week 15)
B) Ideas for further study about character and virtue in the Bible
Idea 1: Old Testament stories of virtue
- Although the texts of the Old Testament are primarily oriented towards God and living in obedience to him, we can also think of the Old Testament in terms of stories around virtue.
- Try to identify virtue and vice in familiar stories. So, for example, faith in Abraham, hope in Moses and love in David. But also look for vices, such as the pride of Haman, the greed of Achan, the lust of Amnon, the envy of Saul, the gluttony of Jacob, the wrath of Cain and the sloth of old Eli.
- This approach is also suitable for teaching children about virtue and vice.
Idea 2: The ten commandments
- The ten commandments in Deuteronomy 5 might appear as a set of rules to obey, but a careful reading shows that they point to the importance of being. If we are who we should be, then we will do what we need to do.
- The person who has no other gods is the person who is faithful. The person who does not use the name of God in vain in making vows is the person who is honest… and so on.
- Can you identify the other virtues that are associated with each of the ten commandments?
Idea 3: Heroes and villains in the New Testament
- The New Testament is a document with religious and spiritual weight, but it is also one of the richest collections of stories of virtue of all times.
- Jesus is magnificent portrait or virtue. We see this, for example, in his humility at baptism, his self-control in temptation and his compassion in healing the sick. Read through the Gospels and make notes of the virtues you see in Jesus.
- Paul is another ‘hero of virtue’ set forth for our imitation. Although he was far from faultless, we see many virtues in him. Try reading through the letters to the Corinthians, and noting his virtues. You will find magnanimity, temperance, constancy and many others.
- Other examples of virtue abound. John the Baptist and courage. Nicodemus and intellectual curiosity. Barnabas and benevolence. Can you find and name others?
- Examples of vice also point us to the villains we do not want to imitate. Herod and envy. Ananias and Sapphira and falsity. Mark and inconstancy. Can you find and name others?
Idea 4: Virtue in Galatians
- In Galatians 6 we find an eight-fold educational pathway to ‘live by the Spirit’ and bear virtuous fruit. Can you match this list with the verses in this chapter?
- gentle restoration
- carrying each other’s burdens
- having teachers of integrity
- testing actions through self-assessment
- finding legitimate pride in the achievement of good character
- staying away from comparative assessment with others
- receiving instruction by word
- having a specific focus on communities of believers
- How many of these do you recognise in the four stages of this virtue education site?
Idea 5: Virtue in Ephesians
- The key theme of Ephesians in the opening chapter is the “praise of his glorious grace”. As the letter unpacks this, we do not have to look far to recognise the rubric of virtue and vice. Paul, in fact, claims that we were dead in transgressions (vice) and we have been made alive in order to become holy and blameless and to do good works (virtue). For this reason we should live a life worthy of our calling. If we do not live this kind of life, God is grieved. If, instead, we do, he is glorified
- Try reading through this epistle and identify what kind of virtues we need to cultivate to live a life worthy of our calling (for example, a life of humility, gentleness, patience, etc..).
Idea 6: Virtue in Colossians
- Colossians contains a strong message about virtue, as we read of the importance of living a life worthy of the Lord and of pleasing him in every way (1.10). These are inspiring words, but what do they actually mean? How do we do it? Paul’s reply is that we should bear fruit in every good work.
- Read through this epistle and discover what this looks like, starting from the virtue list in 3:18–25.
Idea 7: Romans 6 and the recapitulation theory of the atonement
- Romans 6 is a central text that speaks of slavery to sin/vice and righteousness/virtue. It also offers an enriched vision of the atonement.
- Watch the video Virtonment on this chapter.
- Then read this chapter again and make your own notes on what you see and how it relates to the power to make virtue education a reality in your life.
If you have further insights and ideas for Bible studies that relate to virtue, please send them to email@example.com
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