Interpretive Essay on a Passage, Theme, or Topic
in the study of Paul & Pauline tradition, GJohn, or other early Christian literature
Each of you will be writing a 5-6 page essay on a passage, theme, or topic in the letters of Paul, Post-Pauline tradition, the Gospel of John, or other early Christian literature read for class (e.g., Gospel of Mary; Gospel of Truth). Your paper should consist primarily of close textual and conceptual analysis of the text, and that analysis should be in the service of a specific interpretive claim you are making about the material.
A reader of your essay should be able to discover within the first paragraph exactly what claim you are advancing and defending, and the structure of your essay should illustrate and defend that claim with frequent reference to and quotation from the text (the evidence) in a manner that makes sense and is easy for a reader to follow. Remember to use the textual evidence to support, illustrate, and extend your analysis and interpretation. The paper should be 5-6 pages, double-spaced.
Date: Wednesday, 4/21, 4 p.m. (earlier submissions welcome). Dop papers off
in Gest or send by email attachment.
If you email your paper, please save the document in your name followed
by a 2 to indicate this is paper 1 (e.g., AMcGuire2.doc).
If you email your paper, please save the document in your name followed by a 2 to indicate this is paper 1 (e.g., AMcGuire2.doc).
Some Suggested Topics
A. Analysis and Interpretation of A Single Passage.
Select a short passage from one of the texts we've read since the middle of the semester. Choose a passage that reveals some important and interesting dimension of the text. Analyse the passage carefully to uncover the significance of the passage and pur forward your own claim about its significance.
Among the issues you should consider: the form or genre of the passage and the composition in which it's found; the original social/historical context of the text; the literary context of the passage (how it fits into the larger text, how the surrounding passages shape your sense of its meaning). What is the significance of the passage - in literary, historical, and/or theological terms? What does it tell us about the perspectives and meaning of the text?
B. Analysis and Interpretation of A Single Theme in one of the texts.
Select a theme that is central to a particular text or author (e.g., Paul). Analyse closely the way in which the text as a whole presents and develops this theme, especially in relation to other important themes of the text. Focus your analysis on a few passages, even as you relate those passages to the larger literary structure and theological perspectives of the whole text. Put forward your own interpretation of the significance of the material.
C. Comparative Analysis and Interpretation of a Theme Appearing in Two Texts.
Select an important and interesting theme that appears in two of the texts we've read. Select the relevant passages from each. Compare these passages closely, considering carefully: their relation to one another; their placement and function within each text; their structure and wording.
As you write, be careful to structure your paper carefully, being sure to organize your interpretive analysis in an orderly fashion that the reader can follow. It's usually more effective to offer an analysis of each version as a whole, paying particularly close attention to the second text's revision of an earlier version or source. In some cases, however, it might be useful to go through a verse by verse comparison of the versions.Choose one method of organization and stick to it.
D. The Representation of Jesus in a New Testament or Post-New Testament Work
and interpret the representation of Jesus in any New Testament or post-New
Testament religious work or work of art. You may select
from any kind of work (literature, theology, music, poetry, film, theater,
painting, history) from any period. Whatever kind of work you select, be
attentive to its genre and to its various contexts (esp. its social, historical,
cultural, and religious or non-religious contexts). If you select a post-NT
work, be sure to include in your analysis some attention to the work's relation
to the representation of Jesus in at least one New
In what ways does is the work informed by that NT text; in what ways does the
post-NT work take the image of Jesus in new and innovative directions?
updated January 18, 2010
Last updated January 18, 2010