REL 4015: Biblical Interpretation
Spring 2009, TR 2:00 PM - 3:15 PM
*Prerequisite: REL 2010: Hebrew Scriptures or REL 2020: New
Instructor: Dr. Rodney K. Duke
E-mail: dukerk (I generally check email once a day.)
For over 2,500 years, the scriptures, the Hebrew Bible (Old
Testament) and New Testament, have been interpreted from a wide variety of
perspectives within both the Jewish and Christian communities. This course is
designed to expose the students to the primary issues which one confronts in the
interpretation of the Bible, to help them to understand the major principles and
methods that have been used in biblical interpretation, and to enable them to
develop and practice such skills. The course will be taught in a seminar format
with an emphasis on outside preparation for in-class interaction through
presentations and discussion. The main goals of this course are: to train
students in the skills and resources needed to do basic biblical interpretation;
and, to develop skills in writing, presenting and critiquing papers.
Students should be able to:
Develop taking responsibility for their own learning.
how to access, assess, and utilize information on biblical studies from
various library and computer resources.
Improve skills of writing formal papers directed toward instructing their
Improve skills of delivering a formal paper to one’s peers.
to approach topics and issues from several perspectives.
Develop skills of leading discussion.
Practice working together with a community of learners.
about the history and methods of biblical interpretation.
Reflect on the contemporary implications/application/relevance of the biblical
literature for societies today.
Personal note: I see teaching, ideally, as “causing” learning to take place. I want to ensure that a passing grade means that students really have learned something. In a seminar-type class such as this one, one of my goals is to cause students to become self-learners. That is why I am placing responsibility on the class members to learn outside of class to and to teach one another in class.
This course will be in a seminar format in which you will share the responsibility of learning outside of class and then teaching your fellow students in the class. I will be responsible for providing background information, training you for research in biblical studies, and guiding you through the research process. There will be daily assignments consisting of readings and reflective questions. You should be able to summarize these readings and reflect on them for class. There will also be some exegetical exercises that will introduce you to some of the biblical study tools and techniques. Another component will be an exegesis paper by each student. (See “Requirements.”) It is important that everyone assume ownership and responsibility for the success of this class. We all need to come to class ready to raise questions, to present our viewpoints, and to give and receive constructive criticism in a respectful and stimulating environment.
Methods of Evaluation
Course Notebook (25%):
This “notebook” will be divided into three sections and will consist of 1) written exercises and assignments; 2) a one-paragraph summary/reflection on the main learning experience of each class; and 3) one-page responses to the exegesis papers. (See descriptions below.) The majority of the notebook grade will be based on completeness, with points added or subtracted based on quality.
- There will be various minor exercises that will require a written response or notes. These will be assigned at each class for the next class.
- After each class period, and before the next, you are to write out a one paragraph, or longer, reaction to that day’s class. The purpose of these paragraphs is not to regurgitate a summary of your notes, nor to present a personal journal of one’s feelings, but to identify and synthesize what in-class learning was most important or useful or stimulating, etc., and why.
- You will read the student exegesis (interpretation) papers in advance of their presentation. You are to write out a one-page, or more, critique of the paper in which you: 1) identify its thesis, 2) summarize its key points and supportive arguments 3) identify questions that arose for you as your read it, 4) summarize its strengths and weaknesses, and 5) identify areas to probe further and/or possible areas of application. The goal of these papers is to prepare you to interact with the presenter in class.
Exegesis Paper (25%):
You are pick out a biblical passage of interest to you, generally from about 8-20 verses, and will write an exegetical paper of 10-12 pages in which you employ the interpretive skills, tools, and methods that will be covered in class. The paper will be given to your peers a week in advance, and then summarized and discussed the following week. (Procedure, format, and grading rubric attached with syllabus and posted on ASULearn.)
Attendance & Participation (20%):
Both are required. As has been stated above, the success of this course’s learning experience will depend on the active participation of its members. Students will be called on to summarize readings and discuss assignments. Up to two reasonable absences may be excused (e.g. due to extreme illness – “reasonable” to be determined by me). To obtain an excused absence, submit a written explanation by the following class period. More than one unexcused absence will each result in a deduction of 2.5% from the final grade.
Final Examination (30%)
The students will be given the final examination questions in advance. The main purpose of the final examination is to help the students to pull together the individual aspects of the course, identify the major themes, and see the big picture.
- Standards and procedures of the Academic Integrity Policy (http://studentconduct.appstate.edu) will be upheld.
- All students are expected to take the final examination on the date posted in the school calendar and not make arrangements for leaving town earlier.
- Electronic Devices: During class only PDAs and laptops are permitted. All cell phones must be out of sight, but may be on vibrate. During examinations, all electronic devices (cell phones, iPods, PDAs, etc.) must remain out of sight (phones on vibrate is OK). Any use of a cell phone, iPod, or similar device during an examination may result in temporary confiscation of the device and a failing grade.
Bible. A modern translation.
Hayes, J. H. and Holladay, C. R. Biblical Exegesis: A Beginner’s Handbook, 3rd ed,. (Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2007).
Montague, G. T., Understanding the Bible: A Basic Introduction to Biblical Interpretation. Rev. and expanded ed. (New York: Paulist, 2007).
Tate, W. R. Biblical Interpretation: An Integrated Approach. 3rd. ed. (Peabody: Hendrickson, 2008).
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Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. Those seeking accommodations based on a substantially limiting disability must contact and register with The Office of Disability Services (ODS) atwww.ods.appstate.edu <http://www.ods.appstate.edu> <http://www.ods.appstate.edu/> or 828-262-3056. Once registration is
complete, individuals will meet with ODS staff to discuss eligibility and appropriate accommodations."