new Quiz 3 link  (posted 12 Nov 2012)

It is not so very important for a person to learn facts. For that he does not really need a college. He can learn them from books. The value of an education in a liberal arts college is not the learning of many facts but the training of the mind to think something that cannot be learned from textbooks.

(Albert Einstein, 1921, in response to Thomas Edison’s opinion that a college education is useless)

Without education we are in a horrible and deadly danger of taking educated people seriously.

(G. K. Chesterton)

In much wisdom is much vexation, and those who increase knowledge increase in sorrow.

(Ecclesiastes 1.18)

Health is merely the slowest possible rate at which one can die.



Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.

(William Butler Yeats)


You must unlearn what you have learned.

(Yoda [Star Wars V: Empire Strikes Back])


The unexamined life is not worth living.

(Socrates [Plato, Apology, 38a])


(Ἓν οἶδα ὅτι οὐδὲν οἶδα.)


Exegesis Guidelines
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Westminster College

Westminster homepage

 REL 301: Applied Biblical Interpretation

Fall Semester • 2012



Welcome to Religion 301: Applied Biblical Interpretation! As the course title indicates, our main objective is to examine biblical texts for meaning(s) and to explore possible ways in which the meaning(s) can be applied in various contexts (e.g., church education, ethics, politics, mission, preaching, theology, military chaplaincy, hospital chaplaincy, nursing home, orphanage). More specifically, our aim will be:


to clarify what the Bible is and to consider its significance for Western civilization, the church, and for us
to become acquainted with various approaches to biblical interpretation
to become familiar with the methodological issues involved in biblical interpretation
to consider the distinction between biblical theology and dogmatic theology
to read carefully and critically passages from a variety of biblical books
to explore the meaning of biblical passages in their historical contexts (e.g., cultural, geographical, literary, political contexts) as well as in relation to contemporary thought, and to discern the issues arising from them, especially in the light of contemporary contexts
to cultivate a reading of biblical texts that is both critical and creative by developing exegetical skills using modern methods of interpretation
to explore creative ways to transform the fruits of exegesis into practical application


Achieving these goals will not be easy; the course will require hard work on your part, which will bring you challenging, enlightening, exciting, frustrating, and rewarding experiences.

Accessibility Statement:

Westminster College actively strives for the full inclusion of all our students. Students with disabilities who require access solutions for environmental or curricular barriers should contact Faith Craig, Director of Disability Resources: 209 Thompson-Clark Hall; 724-946-7192;


This course is designed for students who have already taken at least one course on the Bible (e.g., 101, 106, 107) and have some familiarity with biblical exegesis.

 Requirements and evaluation for the course


For my criteria for evaluation of assignments go to Evaluation and read the information carefully.


NB: If you have any questions regarding the evaluation of your work, please ask in class or make an appointment to see me.



Assigned readings should be completed before the class for which they are assigned—use your best judgment to divide the readings evenly for each week. Keeping notes on the readings is highly recommended. Occasionally I may assign additional readings, but these will ordinarily be short. You must come to class with at least 2 written questions or comments you have about the readings (see Participation). The primary focus throughout the course will be on the biblical texts and their application.

NB: Not all the assigned readings may be covered in class discussions or exams, but they are required for your edification. The more you refer to them in class and in your work, the more impressive your mastery of the readings will be.



You will prepare a discussion starter for the bolded reading(s) covering


the main idea(s) of the reading assignment and
your critique or response to it, and questions you had while, or after, reading the assignment, including references to previous readings and a list of significant terms in the assigned text(s).new


You should aim for 10–15 minutes. What you present, especially your questions, will launch the discussion for that class. You should include or suggest challenges, discoveries, insights, problems, questions, etc. for class discussion. See my Evaluation page under Presentations for evaluation criteria (ignore the "Communication Skills" section of the Presentation evaluation for the discussion starter). If you'd like to use "smart" equipment, let me know as soon as possible.


You will prepare one presentation, about 30-minutes long, focusing on the text(s) assigned for your particular day (see Project/text column below for the date you're assigned). You're expected to have read the text(s) carefully and be able to share the penetrating questions or issues you dealt with during your research or preparation. You will show your understanding of how you would apply your exegesis (see below re. the exegesis paper) in a particular situation by treating the class as your intended audience. If you have a creative and challenging scenario (or biblical text) in mind and would prefer it over the one suggested in the Project/text column, you may ask for permission to use it (please inform me as soon as possible). If you'd like to use "smart" equipment for your presentation, let me know as soon as possible.


Take a few minutes to describe your role and any details about the intended audience that may be helpful to your presentation, e.g., particular place, time, gender mix, expected behaviors. Be as creative and imaginative as you wish without sacrificing critical, effective work.
After you present, (1) your classmates will complete presentation evaluation sheets, and (2) there will be a discussion focusing on the text and its application. The discussion will include constructive criticism in which all students are expected to take active part. NB: The critical responses of your peers will be considered in assessing their participation in the course. Likewise, your responses to others' analysis and critique will also be considered in evaluating your presentation.


NB: Every student will prepare 1–2 pages of notes for each presentation as if he or she were the presenter. I.e., everyone is expected to do all the preparatory work for every presentation (do thorough exegesis, plan the application, and be ready to respond to critique) with the exception of writing the exegesis paper. The instructor reserves the right to collect these unannounced.



As part of your preparation for the presentation you will submit a 34 page exegesis paper of your text(s) at least 2 weeks before your presentation. If there are more than one passage, then choose one as your focus, using the other(s) as you see fit. In all cases discuss parallels and relevant passages elsewhere in the Bible. For ideas, look at some critical commentaries and academic journals, i.e., scholarly books and articles with lots of (foot)notes. If you need some tips for doing exegesis, see the Exegesis Guidelines page. You may find the Tips for writing papers helpful.


Include at least a historical-critical understanding of the text(s) and present possible meanings in it (them).
Include an analysis of the structure of the text(s).

The paper should represent original work (i.e., your own thoughts), not a mere digest of other people’s opinions. Your own reading and re-reading of the relevant texts, as well as review of other materials, are fundamental to the task. I want to know what you discover in your engagement with the biblical text, whether or not you agree with the course books, commentaries, or opinions presented in class, including mine.


NB: Focus on honing your ability to argue for your opinions and conclusions by supporting them with evidence from texts (especially primary texts) and other relevant sources.


Use footnotes to document your sources following the Chicago Manual of Style (or Turabian). Learn the automatic footnote function of your word processor.

Follow all the instructions given on my Evaluation page under Written assignments. Please submit your paper on the R-drive (file name = "last name exegesis.doc"; see example on R-drive) and inform me that you did so (via phone or e-mail).


Throughout the semester, you will be responsible for learning significant terms covered in our texts or in class (see the “terms” file on the R-drive). You will be responsible for the definitions and, when appropriate, significant biblical passages related to the terms. Use (1) the course texts (e.g., glossary, index), (2) the resources listed in Resources to consider below, or (3) any other appropriate sources of information. The terms may constitute a part of any quiz or exam.




There will be 2 quizzes (ca. 30 minutes) and a midterm exam (ca. 45 minutes). They will cover the materials in the course you will have learned by the time of the tests. There may be pop quizzes, the results of which will affect the evaluation of your participation. See my Evaluation page under Quizzes and examinations.


Grades will be assigned as fairly as possible. See my Evaluation page under Grades for more information. The final grade for the course will consist of the following:




NB: participation is a significant part of this course.

See my Evaluation page under Participation

for more information and instructions.


exegesis paper




discussion starter


midterm exam


quiz #1 & 3



NB: If you have any questions about how you are doing in the course, please make an appointment to see me.

Extra credit

You may earn extra credit any time during the semester.


Submit a 2–3 page reflection paper relating something from popular culture (e.g., movie, play, TV show, book, any performance) to particular biblical text, theme, or character (consult the instructor). The paper should be an analysis of popular culture, indicating how you've been able to integrate the theoretical dimensions of biblical exegesis and the practical dimensions of bringing that exegesis into a concrete teaching or discussion situation. The paper should be mostly critique and not merely a plot summary.
Do other extra credit assignments described in the file on the R-drive.

: The instructor reserves the right to make the final determination concerning any extra credit. You can earn a maximum of 5% toward the final grade. You may write more than one, if you wish, but you won't receive more than 5% total in extra credit.

 Required books

The New Oxford Annotated Bible with the Apocrypha (NRSV), 3rd ed. You may use another Bible, if you wish, but the New Oxford Annotated Bible (NOAB) will be the common text for class assignments and discussions. In all cases, you are encouraged to use other English translations (e.g., NIV) and Bibles in other languages in addition to the NRSV. The Tanakh is especially recommended for comparison of Old Testament passages.

Achtemeier, Paul. Inspiration and Authority: Nature and Function of Christian Scripture. Peabody: Hendrickson Publishers, 1999.

Brown, Michael J. What They Don't Tell You: A Survivor's Guide to Biblical Studies. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2000.

Hayes, John H. and Carl R. Holladay. Biblical Exegesis. Atlanta: John Knox Press, 2007.

 Recommended books (* = highly recommended)


Tanakh. Philadelphia: The Jewish Publication Society, 1985 (5748).

* Aland, Kurt, ed. Synopsis of the four Gospels. New York: United Bible Societies, 1982. (highly recommended; also available in Greek-English version)
  Anderson, Bernhard W. Understanding the Old Testament. Upper Saddle River: Prentice Hall, 1998.
* Brown, Raymond E. Biblical Exegesis and Church Doctrine. Wipf & Stock, 2002.

_____. An Introduction to the New Testament. New York: Doubleday, 1997.

* _____. An Introduction to New Testament Christology. New York: Paulist Press, 1994.
* _____. Responses to 101 Questions on the Bible. New York: Paulist Press,1990.
* Meyer, Paul. The Word in This World. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2004.
* Percy, Walker. Lost in the Cosmos: The Last Self-Help Book. New York: Picador, 1983.
* _______. Signposts in a Strange Land. New York: Picador, 1991.
  _____. The New Testament and Other Early Christian Writings. New York: Oxford University Press, 1998.

White, Heath. Postmodernism 101: A First Course for the Curious Christian. Grand Rapids: Brazos Press, 2006.


Strunk, William, Jr., and E. B. White. The Elements of Style. New York: Macmillan Publishing, 1979. (See my Resources page under Miscellaneous for the first edition of Strunk.)

 Resources to consider


See my Resources page for McGill, AV, & Web resources, esp. The NT Gateway.

  R-drive: course folder and the "Religion" folder
  Bible concordances (McGill library)

Ferguson, Duncan S. Bible Basics. Louisville: Westminster/John Knox Press, 1995.


Turner, Nicholas. The Handbook for Biblical Studies. Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1982.

 Keeping informed and in touch

During the semester check your e-mail regularly for the latest messages from me regarding course matters. For updates to the syllabus, visit and reload this page regularly, as well as my home page for other information and resources related to the course. Please feel free to make an appointment any time about any course matters.

 Tips from former students

For some practical advice from former students, see the tips page.

 One last word …

Regardless of how demanding all of this is, I promise to be as fair as possible. I recognize that you will be very busy this semester pursuing various obligations and passions. I understand. I have my passions too, e.g., my family, music, philosophy, nature, mountain biking, fixing things, food. But I’m also very passionate about education, both yours and mine—I mean not just the business of acquiring knowledge but more importantly the total development of honorable human beings. I do not require you to share my excitement about all the things we will cover, but I do expect you to complete the requirements for the course. To help you do that as well as you can, I will make myself available outside the class time and the office hours. I will be glad to help you when you are struggling with an assignment. Or if you have any questions, concerns, complaints, and even compliments, I will do my best to take the time to listen and offer my response. Keep in mind that I am here to help you learn. So, again, welcome to Religion 301: Applied Biblical Interpretation.

 C o u r s e   S c h e d u l e            REL 301

TR 14001530          PH 11


Assigned readings

= required

> = recommended

+ = read in the library (do not check out)


Project / texts

bold = primary text(s) for class discussion

red bold= dates to remember

highlight = R-drive file


Class / topics

Week 1


Aug 28 T

Aug 30

Course syllabus (including Evaluation link)

Gabler: "On the Proper Distinction between Biblical and Dogmatic Theology and the Specific Objectives of Each" (Scottish Journal of Theology 33 [1980]: 133–58)

Yoram Hazony: "The God of Independent Minds" (WSJ, 24 Aug. 2012)

Brown: Prolegomena; ch. 1

Fisher: Effective Learning


>Brown, Responses, Q1–4: Translations of the Bible

>Bible in 50 words

>Bible Contradiction & Responses

>Do you know how to think? (a self-exam)

Keep copies of all relevant Web pages.

Memorize the books of the Protestant canon in order (learn correct spelling).

Gabler: bring your Qs & Cs (esp. on the distinction between biblical theology & dogmatic theology)


>Bible quiz

>Optical Illusions



>Perception quiz

>Study Guide 1 (These may be helpful, but they may not always correspond with the assignments.)

Bible Hunt

Optical conditioning (alt)

Context & perspective

General orientation

World-view (link)

What is the Bible?

Biblical theology & dogmatic theology (Gabler)

Week 2


Sep 4 T

Sep 6

Gabler: "Biblical and Dogmatic Theology"

Hayes: ch. 1 (first 2 sections)

Brown: Prolegomena, ch. 1; Rule of Thumb 1–19


>Brown, Responses, Q5–10: Genuine and apocryphal books of the Bible


>Blogging the Bible (an interesting viewpoint that might resonate with your life)

>Brown, Responses, Q11–14: How to read the Bible

>Brooks & Collins: “Introduction” to Hebrew Bible or Old Testament

Gen 1–2 (esp. 2.4–25)

Review the books of the Protestant canon in order (learn correct spelling).

Reminder: bring your Qs & Cs to each class (see Participation)

Translation comparisonnew

>Transmission errors

>Study Guide 2

>Study Guide 3

Gabler again

The Bible ain't what it used to be: how to read the Bible again


Week 3


Sep 11 T

Sep 13

Meyer: "Faith and History Revisited" (Princeton Seminary Bulletin 10 [1989]: 75–83)

Brown: Rule of Thumb 20–28; ch. 5

Hayes: ch. 1


>Brown, Responses, Q15–17: Church guidance; Q18–22: Why read the Bible

>Redaction & hermeneutics (funny, interesting & instructive)

Gen 1–2 (esp. 2.4–25)

Isa 7–8 (esp. 7.10–17)

Review the books of the Protestant canon in order (learn correct spelling).


>Study Guide 4

The Bible ain't what it used to be: how to read the Bible again

•Discussion: Chambers

Week 4


Sep 18 T

Sep 20

Hayes: ch. 2: Textual Criticism

Hayes: ch. 3: Historical Criticism

>Brown, Responses, Q23–27: Is the Bible literally true; Q28–30: Biblical criticism

Translation comparison

Isa 7–8 (esp. 7.10–17)


>Greek NT: 1st page



>Interpreting Ancient Manuscripts (very helpful)

>Transmission errors

•Discussion: Mills

•Discussion: Rose

Week 5


Sep 25 T

Sep 27

Hayes: ch. 4: Grammatical Criticism

Hayes: ch. 5: Literary Criticism


>Brown, Responses, Q31–33: Biblical fundamentalism; pp. 137–42; Q34–37: How literally true is the NT

Isa 7–8 (esp. 7.10–17)

Sep 25: Quiz 1

•Discussion: Szmara

Week 6


Oct 2 T

Oct 4

Hayes: ch. 6: Form Criticism

Hayes: ch. 7: Tradition Criticism


>Brown, Responses, Q38–44: The Gospels; Q45–51 Jesus' words and deeds

>Reflections on the Cotton Patch Version

Lk 10.25–37: exegesis (use various criticisms)

Cotton Patch: Lk 10.25–37


>The Cotton Patch NT

>The "Parable of the Good Samaritan" with a humorous twist

Oct 2: no class

•Discussion:  Chambersnew

•Discussion: Millsnew

Week 7


Oct 9 T

Oct 11

Course syllabus (including Evaluation link; review requirements, expectations & criteria for grading—ask Qs, if any)


Hayes: ch. 8: Redaction Criticism

Hayes: ch. 9: Structuralist Criticism


>Brown, Responses, Q52–53: Jesus' resurrection; Q54–60: Jesus' birth

>Brown: Intro to NT Christology, 162–70 (“The Reality of the Resurrection of Jesus”)

>Brown: Intro to NT, 817–830 (“The Historical Jesus”)

>Reflections on the Cotton Patch Version

Lk 10.25–37: exegesis (use various criticisms)

Cotton Patch: Lk 10.25–37


>Redaction & hermeneutics (funny, interesting & instructive)

>The Cotton Patch NT

>The "Parable of the Good Samaritan" with a humorous twist

•Discussion: Rosenew

•Discussion: Szmaranew

Week 8


Oct 16 T

Oct 18

Course syllabus (including Evaluation link; review requirements, expectations & criteria for grading—ask Qs, if you have any)


Hayes: ch. 10: Canonical Criticism

Hayes: ch. 11: Exegesis with a Special Focus


>Brown, Responses, Q61–68: Mary (esp. of interest to Roman Catholics); Q69–76: Jesus' knowledge


Jn 1.1–18

Role: Church school teacher

Audience: 6th grade church school class during Advent examining the incarnation

Gen 38

Role: young adult group leader

Audience: young adult group studying biblical narratives with a focus on human ethics & God's will


Alternative #1:

Role: college chapel staff

Audience: college Bible study group trying to recover the relevance of OT texts


Alternative #2:

Role: Women's Bible study leader

Audience: Women's Bible study on the role of women in society & in God's plan for human history

Oct 16: Midterm examnew

•Discussion: Chambers

•Discussion: Mills

Week 9


Oct 23 T

Oct 25

Oct 27–29 (break)

Hayes: ch. 12: Integrating Exegetical Procedures

Hayes: ch. 13: Fruits of exegesis


>Brown, Responses, Q77–78: Foundation of the church; Q79–85: The sacraments

Gen 22.1–19

Role: pastor

Audience: adult church school class studying biblical narratives with a focus on human ethics & God's will



Audience: adult church group sharing grief experiences, focusing on God'w will & human ethics

Mt 1.18–2.23 & Lk 2.1–20

Role: youth group leader

Audience: sr. high students who are confused by the Christmas story

Oct 23: Midterm examnew

Is God ethical?

•Discussion: Rose

Variety of voices in the Bible

Where did Mary & Joseph originally live?

Nov 3 Sa

Movie night with the Nas 7:47 PM-ish

Feel free to bring DVDs or VHSs of movies you think your classmates should see.

for directions click here

Week 10


Nov 1 R

Nov 6

Achtemeier: Intro; ch. 1

Achtemeier: ch. 2


>Brown, Responses, Q86–88: Early Christians and the Jews; Q89–92: Early Church administration

Please Vote on Nov 8

Josh 6.15–21

Role: military chaplain

Audience: soldiers in the midst of a bloody war; or Christian pacifists

Gen 1

Role: Christian educator

Audience: church youth group whose members are confused by what they're learning in their biology classes at school

•Discussion: Szmara

Why so violent?

Bible in our scientific world

Week 11


Nov 8 R

Nov 13

Course syllabus (including Evaluation link; review requirements, expectations & criteria for grading—ask Qs, if any)


Presentation evaluation: be ready to offer each presenter good critique (focus is on the applied biblical interpretation evident in the presentations)


Achtemeier: ch. 3

Achtemeier: ch. 4


>Brown, Responses, Q93–96: Who celebrated the eucharist; Q97–100: Peter and the popes

Lk 15.11–32

Role: youth group leader

Audience: jr. high students


Alternative: 1Th 4.13–18; 1Cor 15.50–52; Mt 16.27–28 (cf. Mk 9.1; Mk 13.24–30; Lk 9.27)

Role: missionary

Audience: skeptics who claim the Bible was wrong in its predictions

>Luke: pairs

Mt 7.15–27; 25.31–46; James 2.8–26 (cf. Rom 2.13; 3.21–4.5; 10.9–13; Gal 2.16–21)

Role: Christian (traditionally Protestants) who claims that salvation depends on only faith (you must define what you mean by faith)

Audience: Christians (traditionally Roman Catholics or Baptists) who claim that salvation depends on what a person does

The parable of whom, for whom?

Apocalypticism & eschatology

Y2K has come & gone; were Jesus & Paul wrong?

Sola fide? (or "What you do is who you are?")

Week 12


Nov 15 R

Nov 20


Nov 2125 (break)

Presentation evaluation: be ready to offer each presenter good critique (focus is on the applied biblical interpretation evident in the presentations)

Achtemeier: ch. 5

Achtemeier: ch. 6


>Brown, Responses, Q101: How much has the church changed; 137–42 (esp. of interest to Roman Catholics)

Eccl 1.1–2.23

Role: chaplain at a nursing home

Audience: elderly people whose lives are in their waning years

Mk 5.21–43

Role: pastor

Audience: adult church school class studying Gospel narratives

•Presentation: Chambers (Mark)

Does life have any meaning?

Nov 20: Quiz 3

Week 13


Nov 27 T

Nov 29

Achtemeier: ch. 7; epilogue

Pritchard, James, B., ed. The Ancient Near East: An Anthology of Texts and Pictures. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1958. Vol.1: 85–86.

Meyer: “Faith and History Revisited” in Princeton Seminary Bulletin, vol.10 no.2 (1989): 75–83.

Ex 1.15–2.10 (cf. Pritchard: vol.1: 85–86; also consider esp. Meyer 78 & 80)

Role: pastor

Audience: college students who've recently learned that biblical stories were not unique in the ancient world, but often followed certain patterns or borrowed from other traditions

Gal 3.27–29

Role: youth group leader

Audience: group members involved in either Neo-Nazi groups or the KKK

•Presentation: Mills (Galatians)

Faith & history (& uniqueness of biblical stories?)

Paul's gospel & ethnicism

Week 14


Dec 4 T

Dec 6


St. Nicholaus

>O Little Town of Nazareth?

>Xmas Carol Quiz

>Xmas Quiz

Dec 7: Last day for extra credit papers (

Job 7.11–21; 9.14–24; Job 19.23–27 (cf. Job 1–2; 42.7–17)

Role: pastoral counselor

Audience: people of any age who have suffered extraordinary tragedies (e.g., Holocaust, Columbine HS, 9-11, Hurricane Katrina)



Role: Bible study/prayer group leader

Audience: mixed group of adults (grieving & not grieving)

Genesis 2:4–17

Role: camp counselor (working at a camp where a literal interpretation of the Bible is taught)

Audience: 1215-year-old campers, most of whom were raised in a Christian church and are familiar with popular Bible stories taught in church school

•Presentation: Rose (Job)

Evil, suffering & theodicy

Creatio ex nihilo?

Final week


Dec 13 R


Rom 8.14–25; Gal 4.1–7 (cf. Eph 1.3–14)

Role: director or chaplain of an orphanage

Audience: orphans of various ages who have either lost their parents through tragedy or were abandoned or given up by them

•Presentation: Szmara (Rom; Gal)

Belonging to Christ & baptismal identity


2Sam 11.1–12.23 (cf. Ps 51)

Role: Chaplain of the US Congress

Audience: Bible study group of senators and representatives

Above the law?

Merry Christmas & Happy New Year!

Exegesis Guidelines
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