Overview It may seem rather paradoxical to say, but for many of us who have grown up in church, a major obstacle in truly hearing God’s word is that we have heard so much of it before—or, far too often, we have heard so much in place of God’s word. We have heard countless sermons and read hundreds of Sunday school lessons and devotionals; we have read popular books such as The Da Vinci Code or the Left Behind series; we have seen documentaries on the lives of Paul and Jesus on TV; we have read articles in the newspaper, Time, or Newsweek.
Obviously, some of these sources are better than others in terms of representing to us what the Bible really says . . . but none of them actually is the Bible. To put the point somewhat provocatively, getting one’s Bible from popular books such as The Da Vinci Code or the Left Behind series is like getting medical knowledge from the National Enquirer. Such resources may claim some relationship to reality, but they often tend to distort, take out of context, and above all sensationalize what few legitimate facts and sources they have at their disposal. Unfortunately, for far too many Christians, getting the Bible from Sunday school and church is only a little better; it is like getting medical knowledge from the Ladies Home Journal—the information is not excessively inaccurate, and certainly is well intentioned, but it all tends to be rather superficial and predictable.
Whether it is the National Enquirer or the Ladies Home Journal, the effect of all of this exposure to “the Bible” (or substitutes for the Bible) is the buildup of a crusty layer of prior assumptions and interpretations that insulate us from the text itself. When we start to hear or read a passage of scripture, we leap ahead to what we already “know” that particular passage says and means. After all, we heard the pastor say what this passage means in a sermon; we read what the passage means in a Sunday school lesson; we found out the real story behind the passage in The Da Vinci Code. And so, rather than taking the time to read and listen carefully to scripture itself, we hear only the echoes of our prior encounters with interpretations (and distortions) of the Bible. To say it another way, we are already giving the “answers” before we have even heard what the questions are; we look through the text before we look in the text.
Essentially, this project is designed to force us to slow down and truly read a passage of scripture, using a step-by-step procedure to make sure we hear what the questions are before we jump in with the answers. It is a systematic and thorough process of listening to the text, looking for the assumptions that we bring to the text, and giving attention to the puzzles and issues that the text presents to us.
Before you should ever begin to determine what a passage means, you must first really listen to the text, and that is what this project is about. Please carefully read and follow the instructions given below. Failure to follow the instructions will automatically result in a reduction of grade. If you have any doubts about whether you have chosen appropriate resources, used the appropriate format, or correctly followed any other instructions, it is your responsibility to check with the instructor.
You will be given a particular selection from the New Testament to study. Each of the following journal steps will be used as you study your particular passage. Your journal should include the number for each journal step below. 1. Become familiar with Matthew 5:43-48 by comparing it in at least four (4) different translations of the NT. One of these translations must be the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) found in your New Oxford Annotated Bible. Pick one from each of the three groups below for your other three translations. Group 1 American Standard (ASV) New American Standard (NASB) New King James (NKJV) Revised Standard Version (RSV) English Standard Version (ESV) Group 2 The Jerusalem Bible (JB) New International Version (NIV) New American Bible (NAB) New English Bible (NEB) New Century Version (NCV) Group 3 The Living Bible (LB) New Living Translation (NLT) Common English Bible (CEB) The Message (MSG) Good News Bible (TEV)
Note: The King James Version may only be used as a FIFTH translation. Any translation not on this list MUST be cleared with the instructor IN ADVANCE of its use for the Analysis Paper; otherwise it will not be counted in the guidelines.
Read the text aloud. Make notes on the following: What is the selection about? Write a brief summary of the passage. What are the differences between translations specifically in your passage? (Do not put something along the lines of “one was easier to read than the other”) Identify and make note of these differences. Is there anything significant about these differences that stand out and might change the meaning or how you interpret the passage? Make copies of the various translations for your journal. 2.
Read 2 or 3 chapters before and after your passage. You may benefit from reading the entire book. This is called checking the literary context. Make notes on the following: Write a brief summary of the broader context. How does checking the context in this way help you understand your passage? How does your passage fit with what happens before and after your passage or how does the message of your passage fit with the message of the literary context?
3. Look at the footnotes and study notes relating to your particular text in your New Oxford Annotated Bible and one other study Bible. Give a full citation of each of the study Bibles you are using here. Make clear, complete, and careful notes, being sure to give credit to the writers of these notes. From reading these notes, what questions do you have at this point? Use the following format for listing a study Bible: Coogan, Michael D., ed. The New Oxford Annotated Bible. Fourth Edition. (New York: Oxford University Press, 2010), the appropriate page #.
4. Are there textual or translation questions you need to understand? That is, are there questions about the wording of the text, or, about how to translate a word or phrase from Greek to English? Use the margin and footnotes in the New Oxford Annotated Bible. Be careful to read the text with each option applied. How is the reading of the text affected with each option?
5. What key terms or ambiguous words are used by the author or suggested by the text? Make a list. Your list must include 4 terms/words. Look up these words in a Bible Dictionary. Do not simply give the definitions of the words. How are these words used in your passage? Use one of the following dictionaries: • Mercer Dictionary of the Bible • Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible • The Anchor Bible Dictionary • Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible • The New Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible (found online at Ministry Matters) Be careful while taking notes to avoid plagiarism. The source must be given credit for ideas, words, and phrases you borrow. Use quotation marks even in your notes to identify what you have borrowed. Record the full citation for the Bible dictionary you use here. Remember to record the name of the person who wrote the article and not just the editor of the volume. Use the following format (see example below and note that each dictionary entry has its own separate author. A.O. Collins did not write every article in the Mercer Dictionary): A. O. Collins, “Soldier,” Mercer Dictionary of the Bible, Watson E. Mills, ed. (Macon: Mercer University Press, 1991), 841.
6. Preceding your particular Bible book in the New Oxford Annotated Bible is an introduction to the book itself. Read this introduction and make notes of any insights you gain from learning about the situation of the writing or the author. Also, using a Bible dictionary, read the introductory article for your book of the Bible. Make careful notes and remember to give the writer credit for ideas and words you borrow. What questions or insights do you gain from reading these introductions?
7. Write a paraphrase of your passage. In other words, restate the passage, line by line, sentence by sentence, in your own words. Answer the following: What is it saying? What issues or questions arise in this passage that need further attention (list them)?
8. Now it is time to test your thoughts and impressions. Study the comments on your passage in at least two (2) one-volume commentaries, looking for answers to your questions and suggestions about the passage’s meaning. Here is a list of some of the commentaries available for this step: • Harper Collins Bible Commentary • Mercer Commentary on the Bible • Harper’s Bible Commentary (1988 edition, NOT the 1962 edition) • The Interpreter’s One Volume Commentary on the Bible (found online at Ministry Matters) • The Women’s Bible Commentary • The New Jerome Biblical Commentary • The Oxford Bible Commentary Make careful notes with full citations for each commentary you use. When you borrow ideas, words, phrases, etc, from someone else you MUST give credit to the one from whom you borrow the information. Be sure to give the name of the author, not just the editor of the volume. The format used for the Bible dictionary should be used here. Include page number(s). When copying a quote contained on more than one page, indicating the location of the page break will help you later, should you decide not to use the entire quotation.
9. Study the comments in at least three (3) multi-volume commentaries, comparing the conclusions reached by the commentators. Make careful and complete notes. You will be graded on thoroughness. Here is a list of some of the commentaries available for this step: • The Broadman Bible Commentary • The Interpreter’s Bible (found online at Ministry Matters) • The New Interpreter’s Bible (found online at Ministry Matters) • Word Biblical Commentary • The Smyth & Helwys Bible Commentary • The Anchor Bible • Interpretation • Hermeneia • The Old Testament Library • The New Century Bible Commentary • Continental Commentary • International Theological Commentary • New International Commentary
Note: Steps 8 and 9 will require you to physically visit a library! Your local county library or community college library may have some of these commentaries available. Gardner-Webb’s library should have all of these commentaries available. If you are not able to visit the GWU library, my recommendation is for you to find a major university nearby and visit their library. You cannot check out materials, but you should be able to make copies for your personal use. If you need help locating commentaries, please contact your instructor as soon as possible.
10. Write a 2-3 page paper. This paper should serve as a “conclusion” to your research in steps 1-9. Using information gained through the analysis process (use notes / cite the material you’ve studied to support your points!), answer the following questions: What did the text probably mean (as far as scholars are able to reconstruct its meaning) in the setting of its original formation? What did the text probably mean to the scribes who collected these writings? What can the text say to our situation today? If possible, find application for your own life (and, if relevant, for the life of the church). Format Your project will be submitted in two parts. Part One will be submitted through Blackboard and will consist of steps 1-9. It should be at least five pages (and probably more). Each paper should list the corresponding number for each section under “Procedure” and record all your findings, including citing your sources. This portion will count for 70% of the final grade for your project. Part Two will be submitted through TurnItIn on Blackboard. It will consist of the final conclusion of your project (Step 10) and count for 30% of the final grade for your project. A good paper will show clear evidence of consultation of a wide variety of scholarly resources (use the resources contained in the Biblical Resource List found in the Course Materials folder). The more resources consulted, the higher the quality of the paper is likely to be. In fact, the number of scholarly resources consulted is probably the single most important factor in the quality of the paper produced. On the other hand, a good paper will not simply reiterate information contained in the commentaries and Bible dictionaries. A good paper will show signs of personal reflection and appropriation of the material. Rather than simply repeating what someone else has said, it will evidence integration and a kind of wrestling with the text that can open the door to new and unique insights. FINAL CHECKS BEFORE SUBMISSION: Include title page; be sure your title page includes your name, the title of your paper, the name of the University, the name of the professor and course number, date and place. Include a bibliography (Works Cited or Sources Cited) as an attachment at the end of your paper. Check the Style Guide for more information on this. Be sure to check the bibliography for accuracy. Check quotations for accuracy. Make sure there are no incomplete sentences. Check for indefinite references, contractions, smoothness, conciseness, etc.