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Eastern Religion Essays and Research Papers

Instructions for Eastern Religion College Essay Examples

Essay Instructions: The paper, 5-10 pages, is to discuss how some object or text discovered by archaeologists, or some other type of cultural or literary parallel, enhances our understanding of something in Exodus.

The topic I am writing on has to do with Idolatry in the light of the role of idols in the ancient Near East. I want to first show how the ancient Israelites saw idol worship, how the people who worshipped idols saw idol worship, how the Bible mischaracterizes these other people's rationale for worshipping idols on purpose - and why, and also include examples of people in other civilizations, like the Hellenistic satirist Lucian, who make fun of idols. I want to go into the classic polemics and criticisms of idolatry and compare them to what these idolater's real beliefs were.

Specific things I discuss are the role of materials in idolatry and how idolaters can view materials (which are corruptible) as being capable of containing something which is divine. How idolaters get the divine out of profane raw materials and how the workmanship of man can compare to God's workmanship will be an important theme in this paper. We want to make specific mention of "mouth-opening ceremonies" and similar ceremonies which are done to bring a divine spirit into an idol. Idolaters didn't believe that if the idol was destoyed, the God was destroyed or that a god could only be housed in one idol. Also, idolaters didn't necesarily believe the idol would contain a divine presence without a mouth-opening ceremony or similar ceremony.

We want to discuss how the ancient Israelites turned from defacto aniconism to programmatic aniconism, and how their may have been idolic representations of Yahweh (monolatry) which they moved away from. We want to talk about how they moved away from a prohibition of certain types of worship to a prohibition of images themselves, and why this might be a reason why idolatry is so mischaracterized intentionally in the Bible.

In short, we want to give the idolaters viewpoint in this paper, compare it to the ancient Israelite's evolving viewpoint on the issue, show why this (the Isrealites evolving viewpoint against idolatry) happened, and how it affected the Biblical mischaracterizations of idols, and lead to the classic arguments against the supposed absurdity of idolatry. These propaganda like, highly "spun" arguments against idolatry have to be compared against the viewpoint of the idolaters themselves.

What we need to avoid is just simply repeating the ancient Isrealite position against idolatry and stating why they believed idols were bad. What we instead need to focus on is showing the often ignored point of view of the idol worshiping neighbors of the ancient Israelites, compare it to the way the Bible describes them and their worship, and show what were the motivations behind the Bible mischaracterizing their religion.

Special emphasis should be placed on the role of materials in idolatry. Also, special emphasis should be given to how understanding the way the Bible mischaracterizes idolatry and why it does so, can give us (people today) a greater understanding of the ancient Israelites (before the possible solidification of the anti-Idolatry stance of Judaism) and how they saw idolatry. While I would like you like you to avoid talking about the making and worship of the golden calf in the light of the role of calves in ancient Near Eastern religions, since that might be a separate paper topic in an of itself, I would like you to discuss how the ancient Israelites leaving Egypt would have seen idolatry and how they would have justified practicing it, if indeed they could, in light of what we know about idolatry in the ancient Near East. Again, for these justifications, we will have to refer back to ceremonies such as the "mouth-opening ceremony" in which a divine presence was introduced into the idol, and also to other rationalizations for idolatry which the other ancient Near Eastern people's would give.

The role of materials, ceremonies to give life to those materials, and the viewpoint of people who worship idols needs to be discussed and documented. Why do these people worship idols instead of an invisible god and how to they view the statues/creations that they make with their own hands? are questions we would like to answer.

Additional Notes:

A 1 to 2 page prospectus describing the topic: the object or text you wish to investigate, the questions you will ask about it, and how you will go about answering those questions, needs to be included with the paper. The prospectus should be no longer than two pages. It should state briefly the general subject and the specific problem or question you plan to deal with and indicate how you plan to go about solving the problem or question. It should include a bibliography listing the most important literature on the subject. The prospectus is not an initial proposal but a statement of work in progress. You will have to do a considerable amount of reading and thinking before you see the subject clearly enough to write a prospectus.

For the actual paper - subdivide the paper into separate sections, each with its own heading.

Cite (in parentheses) the chapter and verse number(s) in which each Biblical phenomenon to which you refer appears.

Do not under any circumstances use any internet sources.

After the paper is completed, write an abstact of no more than one page (double spaced) describing the problem or subjet you have addresses, the evidence you used as the basis of your work, you method of analysis, and you conclusions. Place the abstact at the beginning of the paper.

I think that the prospectus should be 2 pages, the paper itself 7, and the abstact 1.

For the prospectus, you will have to take what I have written above and make it more coherent and organized. I was repetitive largely because I wanted you to get the idea, but you will have to make the focus of the paper much clearer and more concise. Also, I will fax you the title pages of books I have found on the topic. You may use any sources you wish, as long as they are legitimate, scholarly sources and not from the internet. There is no maximum or mimimum of sources you need to use.

In writing this paper, don't just repeat that Isrealites did not worship idols and the classic reason which everyone already knows. Focus on the viewpoint of the idolaters and why the people who wrote the Bible mischaracterized them (could this have to do with an attempt to move the Israelites who were also idolaters away from idolatry and why). Make sure you try to base you paper on primary sources (like the Bible) as much as possible and evaluate all secondary sources in the paper. My concern is you may try to write a paper which covers too much and therefore is too broad and not maticulously proven in the space of 6 pages.

The focus has to be on materials and how the spirit of a god can go into the materials made by man. The is the centerpiece of how idolater's view idolatry's legitimacy. Then we have to link it back to the Bible and its depictions of the same thing. We have to show why the Bible uses these depictions and show how that may go back to what type of people the ancient Israelites were in the Book of Exodus (both in terms of why the religeous authorities felt the need to have such a stong prohibition on idols and how the ancient Israelites would/might have rationalized the opposite point of view).

Try to narrow the topic as much as possible, so that way you can use more space proving the argument/answering the "narrowed down" question with evidence and logical argumentation.

The two scholars whose work we have worked with quite extensively are Nahum Sarna and Moshe Greenberg. Also, we have worked with things written by Jeffery Tigay. Please don't rely too heavily on things written about idolatry by Jeffery Tigay in his commentary on Deuteronomy. although including at least one reference to something written by him would be great.

Another source to look at, if you can get your hands on it, is the JPS Torah Commentary: Exodus by N.M. Sarna.

There are faxes for this order.

Excerpt From Essay:

Title: the Course Project from Hell

Total Pages: 4 Words: 1058 References: 0 Citation Style: MLA Document Type: Research Paper

Essay Instructions: INSTRUCTIONS:
You may do as many of the questions as you wish. All the questions pertain to
the attached essay.
All work will be submitted online, as attachments to email.
Keep in mind that this is a course project. You can not possibly complete this in a few days
at the end of the course.
Also keep in mind that you will need to proceed in chronological order. In other words,
don''t even think about doing question two until you have successfully answered question one!

You may work collaboratively, but each person must submit an individual copy.

You may revise your answers as often as you wish during the semester, but all work must
be submitted but the end of the semester.
No revisions after the semester has ended.
All previous work must be included along with each resubmission.

A total of 200 points are available as noted by each question.

What is the overall conclusion of the assigned editorial?
(5 points)

Submit CPFH Question #1

Briefly summarize the arguments in the editorial and show how they are linked together.
Be sure to identify all the statements as premises or conclusions and all the enthymematic
(0-50 points)

Discuss the truth-value of each one of the statements in the arguments summarized in the
previous question.
(0-50 points)

Discuss whether or not there are any fallacies committed in the article.
(0-35 points)

Re-express the deductive arguments (if any) as categorical syllogisms (sorites, if necessary).
Show whether or not they are valid.
(0-30 points)

Symbolize the deductive arguments (if any). Show whether or not they are valid.
(0-30 points)

this is example of editoral
The Editorial

"Judicial Silliness"
By George F. Will

Thursday, June 3, 1999; Page A27

You cannot blame the judge for becoming cranky, as when he denounced a particular pedagogic device in the Bedford Central school district as "terminally dumb." Still, one does not usually come across such dicta in judicial rulings, so consider the concatenation of foolishness that made Judge Charles Brieant waspish, and occasionally foolish himself.

In Bedford Central, in suburban Westchester County north of New York City, some Roman Catholic parents became understandably exasperated but excessively litigious about the nonsense infesting their children''s education. So they went to court with 15 examples of what they called the "Bedford Program" to promote "Satanism and occultism, pagan religions and a New Age Spirituality."

The parents said the schools were violating their parental and privacy rights, and both of the First Amendment''s religion clauses, one proscribing establishment of religion, the other protecting free exercise of religion. They also wanted -- here their truculence is justified -- the court to apply "the same Draconian limitations imposed by the federal courts on Judeo-Christian religious practice in the public schools to Eastern religions and religious-type practices."

Judge Brieant, waist deep in such legal swamps as the definition of religion and the scope of academic freedom, decided that there was no Bedford Program but that many"random acts initiated by individual schoolteachers" might constitute a "Bedford Attitude." Indeed.

He gave short shrift to most complaints, such as that about "Magic: The Gathering," a math-oriented card game (manufactured in California -- "naturally," says Brieant, not missing an opportunity to editorialize). The cards used by elementary and middle school pupils have illustrations of zombies, goblins, vampires, a skull, a whirling dervish, a wall of bones. But the games were played by voluntary clubs before or after school and, Brieant says, "no reasonable person could regard sponsoring this game as a teaching of religion."

But what would a reasonable person make of Ganesha? As part of an "international enrichment" week, some students studied the culture of India -- making batiks and paisley designs, cooking Indian foods. And they were planning to make models of Ganesha, an elephant-headed Hindu god.

Brieant spotted "subtle coercive pressure" in the plan to make images of Ganesha. "While reading the Ganesha story can be part of a neutral secular curriculum, this court fails to find any educational justification for telling young impressionable students to construct images of a known religious god."

So, acting as education czar, Brieant laid down the law -- or his whim, which here is much the same thing -- about what has "educational justification." And making the models would have the "appearance" of "endorsing" Ganesha, and hence could "establish" religion. Really.

Brieant found no constitutional violation in the yoga exercises taught to one class by the turbaned Sikh Khalsa (his trademark name is "the Yoga Guy"). Or in another classroom guest, "the Rock Hound," saying that some people believe crystals have magical powers.

Or in the "meditation program" in which children were asked to imagine that "their bodies were filling with blue liquid." Or in the "peer facilitator" program where young students met with older students to discuss sex, drugs, rock-and-roll and Monica Lewinsky.

Or in the cemetery visit where, among the things Brieant considers "terminally dumb," there was an adult waving a stick to magically ward off animal attacks. Or in the classroom appearance by the Rev. Nancy Weber, whom Brieant, throwing a rhetorical elbow, calls "a self-proclaimed psychic, although her psychic powers did not extend to predicting the date on which the trial testimony would be concluded."

However, Brieant had constitutional worries about Worry Dolls, made of toothpicks and wire and sold at the school store. Store personnel told some children that if placed under their pillows at night, the dolls would "chase away" bad dreams. Brieant said this "prefers superstition over religion" and thus violates the First Amendment. Really.

Brieant was quite cross about various "truly bizarre" accompaniments of Earth Day, including a lot of enviro-gush about our kinship with beasts and trees, and a prayer of semi-apology to Mother Earth for removing a plant from one''s garden. Acting as thought cop, Brieant held that a teacher''s assertion that Earth is overpopulated "violated the school district''s rule on academic freedom," which says: "Indoctrination of any matter of faith or opinion will not be tolerated." In Bedford Central, academic freedom is to be protected by prohibiting academics from expressing opinions.

What is tolerated is a judge issuing capricious fiats because Bedford Central tolerated the leakage of silliness into schools, which provoked reciprocal silliness from parents.

? Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company

example essay:
Something about Judge Brieant
This essay was located and contributed by one of your classmates: Dennis Okamuro

ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS: Self-help Group or Religion

By Tanya L. Phillips

On July 30, 2001, Paul Cox?s conviction for a double murder was overturned by Charles L. Brieant, U.S.D.J. for the Southern District of New York in White Plains1 because the prosecution obtained evidence against Mr. Cox after he confessed to members of Alcoholics Anonymous (hereinafter "A.A.") in a meeting.2 Judge Brieant ruled that conversations between members of A.A. have the same privileges as contacts between clerics and parishioners.3 Judge Brieant relied on several decisions made by the United States District Court for the Second Circuit4 and the New York Court of Appeals.5 These cases held that in Establishment Clause6 cases, A.A. is a religion7 and the following of the Twelve Step program used in A.A. constitutes religious activity as well as religious proselytization.8

Mr. Cox was sentenced to two consecutive terms of between eight years and four months and twenty-five years for the murder of two doctors, Dr. Laksman Rao Chervu and his wife, Dr. Shanta Chervu.9 The murders occurred on December 30, 1988.10 On November 11, 1990, Mr. Cox joined A.A.?s Harbor Island Chapter.11 During his completion of the Twelve Steps,12 which is a tool used by A.A. to facilitate recovery from alcoholism, he admitted to at least eight A.A. members that he "believed" he committed the murders.13

The police only began to consider Mr. Cox as a suspect in these murders in late 1992 to early 1993, after a female member of Mr. Cox?s A.A. group confided in her psychologist that Mr. Cox had committed the murders.14 The psychologist obtained an attorney for this woman and, along with the attorney, he advised her to provide this information to the appropriate authorities.15 The police then questioned all the members who had attended the meeting where Mr. Cox had confessed, and they all corroborated her story.16

At the trial, Mr. Cox admitted to committing the crime, but claimed that the murders occurred during a temporary blackout induced by alcohol.17 According to trial testimony, Mr. Cox claimed he had accidentally stumbled upon the Chervus? home and mistakenly believed that they were his parents.18 After hearing this testimony, as well as evidence obtained by the police from A.A. members, the jury found Mr. Cox guilty. Mr. Cox?s attorney then filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus, which was granted by Judge Brieant.19 Judge Brieant ruled that statements made to members of A.A. have the same privileges as contacts between clerics and parishioners.20 Pursuant to that ruling, all evidence obtained as a result of Mr. Cox?s statements at the meeting were ruled to have been obtained without probable cause, and as such, were thrown out.21

Alcoholics Anonymous was established in 1935 in Akron, Ohio as a self-help group to help alcoholics become sober and learn to function without alcohol.22 It was not classified by its founders as a religion but religion was promoted within A.A. Members were, and still are, encouraged to worship at their own churches to aid their recovery.23

The United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit has ruled in Warner v. Orange County, that ordering an atheist to attend A.A. meetings as part of his/her punishment violates his or her First Amendment rights.24 In Warner, the defendant did not object in a timely manner to the probation sentence requiring him to attend A.A. meetings because he was unaware of the religious nature of A.A.25 Even though he had previously been exposed to an A.A. meeting prior to sentencing, the defendant was told A.A. was not religious, only "spiritual."26 For this reason he did not object to attending A.A. until after the opportunity to do so had passed.27 The Court allowed his Constitutional claim wherein he alleged that the sentence violated his First Amendment rights because he was an atheist.28 The court ultimately decided that his failure to object to his sentence in a timely manner, did not constitute a waiver or forfeiture of his claim, and ruled in his favor.29

In Griffin v. Coughlin, the New York Court of Appeals ruled that an atheist or agnostic inmate may not be deprived of eligibility for family visitation privileges for refusing to participate in the only alcohol and/or drug rehabilitation program at the correctional facility if the program adopts the "religious-oriented practices and precepts of Alcoholics Anonymous."30 This Court ruled that membership in A.A. requires individual engagement in religious activities as well as religious proselytization.31 Once it is demonstrated that the practices of A.A. involve religious exercise, it is unavoidable when a compulsory program similar to A.A. is used by the State in correctional facilities, to find that compulsory use of that program violates the Establishment Clause.32

Based on these two cases, Warner and Griffin, Judge Brieant overturned Mr. Cox?s conviction.33 Mr. Cox was not released, however, because Judge Brieant stayed his ruling pending appellate finality.34 Legal experts contend that if Judge Brieant?s decision survives the pending appeal, it will most likely have little or no effect outside of New York.35

Even though A.A. began as a self-help organization, it has recently become labeled as a religion by New York courts. These courts compare the Twelve Steps to Recovery used by A.A. to religious activity for purposes of First Amendment and Establishment Clause violations. As illustrated in Cox, judges are overturning murder convictions based on A.A.?s classification as a religion.


1 Cox v. Miller, No. 01 Civ. 3751, 2001 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 11455, at *1, *6 (S.D.N.Y. July 30, 2001).

2 Daniel J. Wakin, Judge Bars Statements Made in A.A., N.Y. TIMES, Aug. 2, 2001, B1. See infra note 21.

3 Cox, 2001 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 11455, at *1. Judge Brieant ruled these conversations were privileged pursuant to N.Y. C.P.L.R. ? 4505 (2001). Id. at *8. "Unless the person confessing or confiding waives the privilege, a clergyman or other minister of any religion or duly accredited Christian Science practitioner shall not be allowed [to] disclose a confession or confidence made to him in his professional character as spiritual advisor." N.Y. C.P.L.R. ? 4505 (2001). See Cox, 2001 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 11455, at *8.

4 Warner v. Orange County, 115 F.3d 1068 (2d Cir. 1997), aff?d 173 F.3d 120, 122 (2d Cir. 1999).

5 Griffin v. Coughlin, 88 N.Y.2d 674, 683 (1996).

6 "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; . . . ." U.S. CONST. amend. I.

7 Warner, 173 F.3d at 122.

8 Griffin, 88 N.Y.2d at 683.

9 Cox, 2001 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 11455, at *1-4.

10 Daniel Wise, Verdict Overturned in Doctors? Slaying: Statements at Alcoholics Anonymous Shielded, N.Y. LAW JOURNAL, Aug. 2, 2001, 1.

11 Cox, 2001 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 11455, at *4.

12 The Twelve Steps of Recovery are as follows:

1. We admitted we were powerless over alcohol ? that our lives had become unmanageable.

2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.

3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.

4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.

5. Admitted to God, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.

6. Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.

7. Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.

8. Make a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.

9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.

10. Continued to take personal inventory and when we wrong promptly admitted it.

11. Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.

12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

Alcoholics Anonymous, The Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous, at (last visited Sept. 30, 2001). Judge Brieant also notes in Cox that besides the many religious references in A.A. meetings, they are ended by reciting the Lord?s Prayer. Cox, 2001 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 11455, at *14.

13 Cox, 2001 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 11455, at *5-6.

14 Wise, supra note 10; Cox, 2001 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 11455, at *6.

15 Wise, supra note 10.

16 Cox, 2001 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 11455, at *7. The events surrounding how the police obtained information about this crime also raises questions concerning the psychologists duty of confidentiality to his patient. Id.

17 Wise, supra note 10.

18 Id. Mr. Cox lived in the Chevrus? house until he was seven-years-old when he moved with his parents less then a mile away. Id.

19 Cox, 2001, U.S. Dist. LEXIS 11455, at *1.

20 N.Y. C.P.L.R. ? 4505 (2001).

21 Cox, 2001, U.S. Dist. LEXIS 11455, at *1. Cox claimed that his handprint and fingerprints found at the crime scene were "the fruits of an arrest unsupported by probable cause and that their admission were in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment." Id. at *2. Further, statements to other members of A.A. were confidential communications which the police used to establish probable cause in order to arrest him and take his fingerprints. Id. Judge Brieant thought this violated Mr. Cox?s First and Fourteenth Amendment rights. Id.

22 Alcoholics Anonymous, Historical Data: The Birth of A.A. and Its Growth in U.S./Canada, at (last visited on Sept. 30, 2001). In Cox, Judge Brieant recognized that when A.A. was founded they did not hold themselves out to be a religion. Cox, 2001 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 11455, at *5. He also pointed out the strict confidentiality that A.A. insures its members. Id. at *7. See also, Alcoholics Anonymous, Anonymity Letter to Media, at (last visited on Sept. 30, 2001).

23 Cox, 2001 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 11455, at *6.

24 Warner v. Orange County, 115 F.3d 1068 (2d Cir. 1997), aff''d, 173 F.3d 120, 122 (2d Cir. 1999).

25 Warner, 173 F.3d at 121.

26 Id.

27 Id.

28 Id. at 120-21.

29 Id. at 121. The Court agreed with this argument and stated, "Warner''s failure to object to or appeal his sentence did not constitute consent to the sentence or a waiver or forfeiture of his constitutional claim." Id. The court affirmed the lower courts decision to award the defendant $1.00 in damages. Warner, 173 F.3d at 121.

30 Griffin v. Coughlin, 88 N.Y.2d 674, 677 (1996). In this opinion the court supports A.A. and specifically says that they do not imply that the State correctional authorities should discontinue using programs similar to A.A. Id. The court suggests that the program should be on a voluntary basis. Id. The court also encourages the State correctional authorities to devise a new program for alcohol and drug addiction. Id. This alternative would offer a secular alternative to A.A. practices and would allow the State to maintain its neutrality and satisfy the Establishment Clause. Id.

31 Id. at 683. The opinions reads as follows:

. . .doctrinally and as actually practiced in the 12-step methodology, adherence to the A.A. fellowship entails engagement in religious activity and religious proselytization. Followers are urged to accept the existence of God as a Supreme Being, Creator, Father of Light and Spirit of the Universe. In ?working? the 12-steps, participants become actively involved in seeking such a God through prayer, confessing wrongs and asking for removal of shortcomings. These expressions and practices constitute, as a matter of law, religious exercise for Establishment Clause purposes, no less then the nondenominational prayer, . . . ?a solemn avowal of divine faith and supplication for the blessings of the Almighty. The nature of such prayer has always been religious.?

Id. citing Engel v. Vitale, 370 U.S. 421, 425 (1962).

32 Griffin, 88 N.Y.2d at 686.

33 Cox, 2001 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 11455 at *13.

34 Id. at *15.

35 Wakin, supra note 2.

rule to write:
William Safire''s Rules for Writers:
Remember to never split an infinitive.
The passive voice should never be used.
Do not put statements in the negative form.
Verbs have to agree with their subjects.
Proofread carefully to see if you words out.
If you reread your work, you can find on rereading a great
deal of repetition can be avoided by rereading and editing.
A writer must not shift your point of view.
And don''t start a sentence with a conjunction.
Remember, too, a preposition is a terrible word to end a sentence with.
Don''t overuse exclamation marks!!
Place pronouns as close as possible, especially in long sentences,
as of 10 or more words, to their antecedents.
Writing carefully, dangling participles must be avoided.
If any word is improper at the end of a sentence, a linking verb is.
Take the bull by the hand and avoid mixing metaphors.
Avoid trendy locutions that sound flaky.
Everyone should be careful to use a singular pronoun with singular nouns in their writing.
Always pick on the correct idiom.
The adverb always follows the verb.
Last but not least, avoid clich?s like the plague; seek viable alternatives.


okay, that is all the information my professor give me

please follow my instructor

first, you need to answer what is editoral... i already give you my professor example.

second, I give you the essay example , please read before start

third, please answer all the question to get 200 points.

four, please email me as 14..

Excerpt From Essay:

Title: Ecclesiastes Chapter 2

Total Pages: 10 Words: 3765 Works Cited: 10 Citation Style: APA Document Type: Essay

Essay Instructions: Exegisis is on Ecclesiastes - Chapter 2 - Please use NRSV Bible. Thank you!


Foundation one:
Recovering the text: embedded theology to literary analysis…
Foundation two:
From text to context: the historical and sociological worlds of the text…
Foundation three:
Theology renewed, revisioned and implemented

I. Prologue

(Primary source and inspiration: Michael J. Gorman, Elements of Biblical Exegesis. All page numbers in parenthesis below reference Gorman’s text)

Four introductory aspects that establish the ground of biblical exegesis

A. Introduction
B. Methodology
C. Process
D. Resources

The starting point--

Basic perspective: Exegesis (“going out of”) best understood as “close reading” or “investigation” of the text (8). It is a “conversation” (10), for which two dialogue partners are needed. We do not have access to the author, thus we have no “authorial intention.” (9) Because biblical exegesis has no way of connecting with the actual author of the text, we may say that biblical exegesis is “more art than science” (10).

The intention and goal of biblical exegesis is to determine this question: “What great theological question does the text engage” (10). It is the work of sifting through the content of a biblical passage with the goal of locating its big idea, or ideas. However, there is no “exegesis without presupposition” (27), so the perspective of the reader is an important part of the task of reading the Bible. We may point to the hermeneutical circle as a way of linking biblical studies to the reader’s theological presuppositions (some scholars prefer to name this the “hermeneutical spirial” because the movement back and forth between the reader and the text always takes the interpretative process to new, unchartered ground). “The actual process of reading and interpretation is more like a circle than an outline, as you move back and forth from part to whole, text to context, original meaning to contemporary relevance, and so on.” (25) Furthermore, we may say that biblical studies stands in dialectical relationship to theology, always questioning it’s claims, always being questioned for its presuppositions.

Against these realities, we must ask ourselves: “what is a responsible reading of the text,” or, perhaps better, “what is an ethical reading of the text?” The primary answer to this question is, we must understand the text in the unique setting from which it emerged. (11) This perspective functions to establish the primacy of history in the task of reading the Bible. Violating the underlying intention of the biblical text, whether in its original environment, or a subsequent one, amounts to an unethical reading.

Note: The place of biblical exegesis in the MDiv curriculum: Since church leadership is the major focus of the ETS MDiv program, the obvious first question for us to consider is how does biblical exegesis relate to church leadership?

The primary answer is found in Gorman in several locations. First, p. 22:

“The ultimate goal of biblical exegesis is not information but transformation, true exegesis is accomplished only when individuals and communities engage in the embodiment or actualization of the text. The reading community, we might say, is to become a ‘living exegesis’ of the text.”

Second, p. 128:

“The ultimate goal of exegesis is for the individual and community to become a living exegesis of the text.”

The question then arises, how is this methodologically to be accomplished. The answer is found on Pp. 127ff.:

It is approaching the text from two perspectives: knowing the meaning of the text in its original context as well as the possible significance of the text in the contemporary context. “Some scholars therefore distinguish between exegesis and reflection, between textual meaning and textual (contemporary) significance, between “what it meant” and “what it means.”

The notion of “two horizons” is built on the theory of interpretation that claims that we cannot truly read, interpret, or understand a text until we engage it, until we somehow fuse its “horizon” with our own (sometimes called “application” [Gadamer], sometimes “appropriation” [Ricoeur]. This notion of two horizons is built on the principle of analogy. Here the attempt is to find contemporary analogous situations to those operative in the original setting of the text. In all of this, we must guard against “premature assimilation,” i.e., the application of a text without sufficient thought and without respect for the distance between the two horizons, between then and now. “Furthermore, pre-mature assimilation will result in our controlling or domesticating the text rather than allowing the text to challenge us.”

II. Methodology

There are three convenient, large umbrellas under which Gorman places the plethora of methods used in biblical exegesis. In our biblical and theological work at ETS, we supplement a fourth dimension, namely an brief elaboration of the theological presuppositions that we bring to the task of understanding the Bible??"our embedded theology that helps shape and color our understanding of the text we are studying (found at the beginning of the expansion of the methods below). Thus, we may identify the various “worlds” of interpretation as follows:

A. The world of the interpreter

1. Analysis of the reader’s theological presuppositions (self-conscious awareness of one’s own presuppositions is crucial for uncovering “new” meaning in the biblical text)

B. The world of the text (synchronic [“with[in]time,” “same time”] methods) the methodology which looks at the final form of the text in the Bible. [my abbreviation]

2. Literary Criticism (including aspects of redaction, narrative and rhetorical criticism)
3. Form Criticism

The question is: why do we begin with literary criticism immediately after exploring our theological presuppositions, i.e., looking at the text in the context of its literary environment? For three reasons: First, and foremost, the text is a literary text. By starting at this point, we break the text down to its “lowest common denominator,” i.e., its “literary fabric,” not its “theological fabric”). Secondly, the interpreter must ultimately deal with the final form of the text. This is, after-all, what one has now in the Bible. How the text got to its final form is interesting and insightful, but this understand never replaces the final form of the text “right before us.” Thirdly, the primacy of the final form of the text allows any reader (regardless of their scholarly background or expertise) to remain in charge of the interpretation and not fall under the sway of the professional exegetes, or scholars. In addition, both form criticism and literary criticism interpret the text in terms of its formulaic components and the institutional life which gave rise to its provenance, as well as the rhetorical strategies it employs to develop it powers of persuasion and conviction.

C. The world behind the text (diachronic [“across time”] methods)

These methods look at the text as a living organism by analyzing the text within the context of its historical horizon, the oral and written sources that stand behind it, and an accounting of the history of the transmission of elements of the text from generation to generation, and setting to setting.

4. Historical Criticism
5. Source Criticism
6. Tradition Criticism

D. The theology of the text (existential methods)

These methods look at the text in terms of its power to liberate humans spiritually by focusing on the human mind and the way that it conceptualizes the world, and the earthly social systems and structures of institutional power and control, as well as the development of imaginative, transformative strategies of social transfiguration.

7. Theological Expansion (including canonical and ideological criticism)
8. Transformation

The Methods Expanded--

1. Theological Presupposition(s)

Briefly (in a page or less) lay out what you consider to be your INITIAL theological presuppositions about the text that you are studying. This should be done before you read the critical commentaries on the passage. (Note: It is “normal” that you will change your mind about the passage by the time you conclude the exegetical process!)

2. Literary Criticism (humanizing the text as a precursor for “re-theologizing it at the end of the exegetical process)

A. Textual Unit

The task of exegesis begins with the written text, written in human language and thought patterns, not with the human author (often unknown and controversial) or God. All steps of the exegetical process flow out of the written text. The task ahead is to read the text anew each time you study it, "as if you had never read it before." This can only be accomplished by bracketing out the theological “truths” that you bring to your study, and recognize that the text may or may not “say” what you think it does. Otherwise how can the Bible speak anew to you? The foundation of biblical exegesis, therefore, is placed upon the unique aspects of your particular text, rather than larger biblical themes, perspectives and teachings that you may already believe before the exegetical process. The task here is to uncover the nuances of the text, not the broad generalizations that many??"including yourself??"may already have about it. The first literary step is to determine the boundaries of your pericope, i.e., where exactly does the passage logically begin and end? What makes your passage an individual unit? What, in short, "holds the text together as a coherent whole?"

B. Language/Comparative Translations

After isolating the individual unit, the process continues by isolating the individual phrases and words of the text. If you do not know the original languages of the Bible, you can get a sense of the linguistic parameters of your text by comparing individual translations. Different ways of translating a passage gives the reader a sense of the breadth of meaning that the original languages and syntax implicitly embody. Begin your comparison upon the basis of a more literal translation, e.g., the KJV and/or NRSV (Note: the NRSV does take some liberties with some original terms and concepts). Also check a more free translation, such as the New Jerusalem Bible. Feel free to broader your horizons by checking as many other translations as practical or time allows.

C. Over-arching Corpus

The individual textual unit you have identified does not stand in isolation from its "neighboring" passages. It plays a part in a larger story, drama, or message. It is likely one spoke of the wheel of a literary complex that is quite broad and complex. It is important to identify this broader literary environment and keep it in mind throughout the exegetical process, constantly moving back and forth between it and the smaller textual unit that is the focus of your study.

D. Rhetorical Style

What kinds of words are chosen (i.e., legal language, wisdom or teaching language, worship language, exhortation language, or something else?) to help the reader change and, perhaps, begin a new life? Are certain words or phrases at home in certain institutions in ancient Israel? Which elements of the text appear to be traditional (e.g., a well-turned phrase, or the like), and which appeared “original”, or newly formed? Do you find evidence that historical accuracy may be sacrificed in your text for a well-turned phrase, or other rhetocial purposes? What parts of the text exhibit short word units, and which long sentence structure (e.g., Gen. 2: 4b-6, or Deut. 8:7-18 ‘the longest sentence in the OT’)? How and where do long sentences invite us to linger and ponder their meaning? Does the written text exhibit oral characteristics (such as brevity or repetition), indicating an oral pre-history? Is there evidence of word-play (e.g., Adam/Adamah in Genesis). Where are descriptive words, or adjectives used liberally, and where are words used sparingly? Is there evidence of linguistic doublets (e.g., Psalm 46:2[1]), Deut. 4:19, Jer. 8:6, 2 Sam. 14:7). If the passage part of a narrative structure, does it show evidence of being part of a dyadic (two-fold) structure (e.g., Joseph interprets two dreams of Pharoah). If the passage is poetic, what sort of parallelism is being utilized (Note: Hebrew poetry is written in one of several kinds of parallel structure)?

3. Form Criticism

A. Structure and Patterns

What are the individual units of expression? How is the text divided up? Do certain aspects of the text “fall out” of the organic flow of the passage and appear to be the work of a subsequent collector or editor who wishes to reshape the text? Are narrative elements joined together in coordinated sentences? Are these parts equal or unequal in the story line? What part of the passage indicates the language of "framework," and which the main body/point?

B. Genre, or Literary Form

Identify the literary genre or literary form of the text as it now stands written in the Bible. Typically, the form has little to do with the explicit content of your passage. In a sense, the form serves as the outer “shell” into which the content of your text is “injected” by the writer. No matter how you understand the concept of revelation, literary forms stem from the human, not divine worlds. Examples of this are:

1. Narratives, e.g., speech, letter, law, devotional or aetiological legend, fairy tale, history, and the like.

2. Poetry, e.g., song, hymn, proverb, riddle, fable, prophetic oracle, etc.

C. Institutional/Social Setting

Is it possible to identify the social setting or institution whose adherents produced the text you are studying? This question naturally points to the sociological, ahistorical dimension of the text, i.e., the part of the text that points to habitualized or formulaic forms of human expression and behavior that transcends any particular culture or historical circumstance. Formulaic elements of the text tie into institutional life, and the discovery of the institutions that lie behind the text is a tip-off of its underlying intention or purpose. These formulas exist down through all human history, regardless of circumstance and particular cultural dynamic. They have little to do with “revelation”, but may serve as human “vehicles” of revelation. Because they were not “revelation” as such, biblical writers had the freedom to adapt and alter the text to meet the demands of new circumstances and challenges to the community of faith.

D. Intentionality

Although we can not actually delve into the mind of the author of the text (note: this is called "the intentional fallacy"), we can achieve insight into what the author(s) wished to accomplish by producing the text. This intended meaning may lie “beneath the text” and be quite different from its "flat," surface, or literal meaning. Thus, the text is characterized by a two-dimensional aspect: (1) the surface meaning??"the meaning which the author(s)/editor(s) intended the reader to understand, and (2) the underlying intention of the author(s)/editor(s) which points to "why the reader is supposed to understand that meaning." This underlying intention can be more disputed among readers, since it is less obvious. However, properly understanding the intention of a text can have profound implications for gaining a new theological perspective from the passage.

4. Historical Criticism

A. Archaeology

Has the discovery of archaeological artifacts thrown any light on the historical circumstances of the text? Evaluate how specific and reliable these discoveries are in fixing their impact upon this particular text. Is it the general background that is addressed, or specific events? Does the discovery of these artifacts work against the historical accuracy of the passage by exhibiting a contrary picture of events?

B. Geography

Can the origins of the text be located geographically? Is it associated with a particular site in the ancient Near East, ancient Israel or the Greco-Roman world? Are there other passages that can be similarly associated with this site? What do we know of the history of this site for non-biblical sources?

C. Historical Origins

What major historical events stand behind the text? Describe the historical realities operative at the time when the text was produced. What other passages in the Bible can also be identified from this same period? How does the text you are studying agree with them, and how does it not? How does the determination of the historical context of the passages origins help you clarify its meaning? Review the literary and formal features of the passages determined above and associate them with the insights provided by historical analysis.

D. Historical Depiction

The history depicted in the text is often very different from the historical circumstances that actually existed when the text was produced. Of course, this can be controversial among scholars, but the scholarly discussion can help throw new light on the passage. How is history and depicted history the same, or different?

5. Source Criticism

A. Identity of Source/Author

This question points to the basic question: How wrote and/or edited the text? Authorship had a different meaning in the ancient world from our own, and it is crucial to understand this difference. The focus here is not necessarily upon the immediate literary environment of your pericope, but on a source that may stand behind an entire book, or even more than a single book (e.g., the Deuteronomic History). Similarly, it is possible to determine that a text standing next to the present text, or even embedded within it, may come from a source centuries removed, with very different cultural presuppositions, historical circumstances, institutional dynamics and intentionality. It is also possible that the text stands as a rather isolated piece that, while taken up into later, larger literary source, can be best interpreted initially "on its own" before that process produced the final shape and form in the Bible as we know it.

B. Dating of Original Passage

The goal here is to determine the provenance of the text in its most original form that can now be determined (through an imaginative, artistic effort!). Especially important here is the oral background of many written texts. Often, therefore the determination of these two factors, the dating of the oral text underlying the written text, and the written text itself, form the core of source criticism.

C. Dating and Place Within the Larger Source Corpus

What are the key elements that we can use in associating this passage with other passages that seem to come from a common source? For example, what are typical words, thought patterns, and linguistic forms that are shared? How does this passage help us better understand the dating, message and intentionality of the larger source corpus of which it is a part? How does understanding this impact the larger themes and perspectives of the biblical material of which this passage is a part?

D. Source Association

Quite frequently, as part of a larger literary source, an individual text now stands associated with texts rooted in other literary sources (e.g., the Flood Story). It is especially important to address the meaning of other biblical sources that “stand near” the text in the present configuration of the Bible. What are similarities and differences in the messages and perspectives of these associated sources? Under what guise(s) are the divergent perspectives brought into their present literary association and “union”?

6. Tradition Criticism

A. Oral Prehistory

The oral prehistory of the passage described above may be the beginning point of doing a tradition-history analysis. What general aspects of oral culture (in all places and in all times) uncovered by scholars help us better understand the passage? For example, what about the specific oral and/or tribal history of ancient Israel? Use all of the tools developed in the steps outlined above to fill out these details.

B. Present Literary Adaptation/Co-option

How does the meaning of the text change from its oral setting to its new literary one? Is new meaning or theological content being given to older traditions by addressing new historical circumstances? Or, does a continuum of meaning exist? If so, how would you describe it? It is in this "slide" or change of meaning that we can best see the "mind" of the author(s)/redactors(s). How does this elaborate on the nature of religious faith that the text wishes to communicate?

C. Layers of Tradition

Upon the basis of the oral prehistory and the origins of the written text, move forward in time. Later editors have often reshaped the material they received and added their insight or subtracted aspects of the text that are problematic to them in their new historical circumstances. Do you see this phenomenon exhibited in the text? What is "original" and what is "derivative" in the text? How do you determine to evaluate and prioritize these various points of view or “windows” through which we may better understand its final meaning? Remember, the Bible prioritizes the text in the final form that we now have it, even if earlier literary layers reveal other embedded meanings.

7. Theological Expansion

A. Before Theologizing: Dialoging with the Scholars

Conclude your visit to the world of scholarship, focusing especially on commentaries that study the book of the Bible in which the text is located. Beyond commentaries, you should be aware of histories of ancient Israel or the early church, maps of ancient Israel during various historical epochs, theologies of the Bible, sociological surveys of the life of ancient Israel or the early church, and other handbooks of various types and subject matter. After reviewing as much scholarly information as possible, go back over your entire exegetical progress up until this point. What changes would you make in light of the insights of others? Correct your "mistakes." Build the larger context of meaning that scholarly provides. Expand your understanding by broadening out the various perspectives that you find in these resources.

B. Supplementary Scholarly Investigations

A number of newer, sometimes experimental, forms of biblical exegesis have arisen in the last several generations of biblical scholarship. Some may be more relevant to your passage and emerging convictions about its meaning than others. It is important to have a basic understanding of what they can offer the student of the Bible, and what new meanings they can uncover. Important new areas of research include post-modern criticism, feminist criticism, canonical, ideological, reader-response, and social-scientific criticism. Explore these methods as you have the time and interest.

C. Contribution to YOUR Theology

From the first day of your study of the Bible, you begin the process of building a theology. By going through the process outlined here, you nurture and support an increasingly deeper level of understanding of what the Bible means. Now you can begin to ask: “What has changed in your theology as a result of reading and studying this passage? Or, conversely, what perspectives that you brought to the study of your pericope have even greater conviction for you now?

D. Contemporary Meaning

In order to complete the theological task, it is crucial to relate the basic ideas that your exegetical study has uncovered that are relevant to the contemporary world. In preaching, this final step lies very much at the heart of the matter. Figuratively, you hold the "Bible in one hand, and the newspaper in the other." Putting these two realities together creates the "spark" of religious enthusiasm and prophetic proclamation. If all goes well, all of the dry scholarship that has preceded your work until now turns to meaningful, existential insight. If you are a church leader, you are now ready to write your sermon or lesson plan.

8. Transformation

A. Bio-Cultural Transformations in the Text

What realities of the bio-cultural world are acknowledged in the text and how does the text transform them into “vehicles for spiritual truth” How is the natural world understood? Do you find reference to the body, or any of the primary energy of the body, such as reproduction and/or death? If so, what is their potential for manifesting a deeper spiritual maturity? How does the text challenge the reader to “go beyond” the body, or material world by showing limitations or opening up new, imaginative possibilities? How is the human psyche conceptualized; i.e., what are rational and emotional aspects of the actions of the characters found in the text? Beyond that, what are the implied limitations and potentialities of the human mind in general do you see embodied in the text? How do you see individuals in the text stamped by culture? Do individuals have integrity outside the reach of culture? If so, describe the inherent tension at play between “individual and society” exhibited in the text.

B. Transformation into Deep Reality

How does the text speak to readers through the “eyes of faith?” To what realities does the text point that are only accessible through faith and personal commitment that is only accessible through free choice of the will? Does the text invite us or challenge us to “convert” to a deeper level of commitment and heightened spiritual consciousness that is rooted in spiritual reality rather than our world? If so, how does it describe the divine, or spiritual world? How is this reality reflected in our everyday lives? How is one changed as a result of reading and comprehending this deeper level of reality? Does the text change our view of others, those outside the faith, as well as those within the faith? Are we challenged to behave toward them differently? If so, how would you describe the new moral and ethical teachings that the text encourages?

C. Global Transformation: Comparative Religion

Locate the text within the larger Judaic, Christian, Islamic culture context. What are similarities and differences with regard to primary teachings of each of these traditions as you presently understand them. How would a Jew or Muslim understand the text? What aspects of it might a person from one of these traditions agree or disagree with? Is this disagreement important or crucial? Or, is it “negotiable” or “accidental”? How would a fundamentalist or literal interpreter from any one of these traditions understand the text? Finally, locate the teachings of the text within the larger context of world religions, including Eastern religions, Native American, New Age, Wicca, and/or other traditions that you choose. Again, look for points of disagreement and agreement. Give special attention throughout all aspects of this comparison to the broader issue of feminine wisdom that lies embedded in various ways throughout the world’s religions. How might the awareness of this knowledge transform how we understand the text? Think of the text as “liberated” from the control of religious institutions and authorities.

D. Real Transformation, not Transformational Talk

In light of earlier steps, analyze aspects of contemporary life that parallel biological, cultural and/or spiritual realities reflected in the text. Does the text “demand” that one or more of these realities be transformed into a new vision of life that more perfectly reflects the sovereignty of God and the spiritual maturity that accompanies it? Further, does the text teach ways that this might be accomplished? If so, develop a suggestive plan of action that embodies these principles. As part of “transformational discipline” each week in your ministry identify one aspect of the life of the congregation you serve, or the larger cultural reality in which the congregation is embedded, to which you make a “change commitment.” This “change commitment” need not be large scale and may focus only on one person, event, or daily reality. The key point is to do something each week . Start a new journal in which you record the nature of your weekly “change commitment” and how successful you were in executing it.

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