Department of Religious Studies, College of Arts and Science
A seminar is a community of learners (including the professor), who help each other by supporting each other, by respectfully listening to each other’s interpretations, by accepting to participate and contribute to each other’s projects, by helping each other to read the vast literature in our field through the sharing of notes which point to the most significant features of the books, etc. It is expected that each member of the seminar will be familiar with a significant part of the readings, and will help other members with these readings. (In other words, register to be a reporter for the books and approaches that you already know!)
A) Class presentations: the readings will be divided among the members of the seminar. The reporter will provide for the other members of the seminar “notes to guide the reading” by the Friday before her or his presentation.
B) a research paper (progressively built during the semester) on one text chosen by each member of the seminar. Due on December 18.
C) Participation in an additional hour each week (TBA) to read the chosen texts in Greek.
Procedures: Using a series of methods for the study of a text amounts to raising a series of questions about this text. One way in which New Testament scholarship progresses is by raising new questions about a text. It is expected that throughout the semester each of us will develop a paper which will make a contribution to the critical study of a specific New Testament text –and thus, a potentially publishable paper. We shall start doing so from the first day of the semester.
1) The first step is to choose a text from any book of the New Testament: a pericope or possibly a series of pericopes according to the kind of critical study you propose to perform. (This choice of a text must be made at the latest before the second session of the seminar, M-Sept. 11, and hopefully by the first one, M-Sept. 4.) It is time to choose a text which is particularly interesting for you, for whatever reason. This means (we will come back to that) that in your eyes there is something at stake (positively or negatively) regarding this text, either because there is a scholarly debate about it (conflicting analytical interpretations), or because of the ways in which its teaching affects people in one context or another, or again because of the hermeneutical or theological issues it raises. The delimitation of the passage to be studied depends upon what you expect to be the focus of your study – that is , “what is at stake for you,” the point about which you believe a contribution is needed.
2) Beginning to Prepare a
Translation of the Text. (Independently of each other, we need
to work on the Greek text from the very beginning, even though our own
text might not be read right away as a group, in our “Greek reading sessions”
The translating process shall take place throughout the preparation of the paper, but will only be finalized in the last stage of the writing because our translation needs to reflect our conclusions. At the outset, we closely study the Greek text –including the textual variants. But instead of finalizing the translation, we take note of the many possibilities for alternate translations; instead of closing the text, we are opening it up.
3) Review of Existing Analytical Studies of the Text. A “critical” study of the history of scholarly interpretations (aka. analytical studies) of our text also needs to begin right away. As we prepare the bibliography for this history of scholarly interpretations of our text, in a first approximation we regroup these interpretations in terms of the methods they use, so that we might review them and present them in the class sessions in which the corresponding methods are discussed (following To Each Its Own Meaning).
Since most passages of the New Testament have been studied following several methods, a critical review of each interpretation involves elucidating its analytical frame by: a) identifying the critical method being used; b) taking notes of the way in which the study uses this particular method, the textual features which are viewed as particularly significant, the textual features which are left aside, and the conclusions of this study; c) assessing the extent to which this critical method has been used appropriately in terms of the particular character of this given method (as discussed in class).
4) Identifying the Kinds of Questions We Want to Raise about This Text: recognizing the epistemological paradigm in terms of which we formulated these specific questions; envisioning the methodology which will allow us to raise these questions in a systematic, controlled way; formulating the set of procedures – the method –which we need to follow for this purpose. To understand and fully grasp the characteristics of the epistemological paradigm and methodology from the perspective of which we propose to study the text, we need to be in a position to say how different it is from other epistemological paradigms and methodologies – something we shall do in the class sessions as we take turn to present a diversity of epistemological paradigms and methodologies currently used in New Testament studies.
We have chosen a given text because we want to raise about it questions which so far have not been raised about it. This means that our study of this text will have a particular analytical frame, as it is performed from the perspective of a different “method,” by seeing as particularly significant certain features of the text and by leaving aside other features. Yet, practicing this method is not a matter of applying it to the text as a recipe. A different method is successfully used only insofar as we approach the text from a different place, from a different perspective, with different kinds of questions in mind, or, in brief, in terms of a specific “methodology” which reflects a distinct epistemological paradigm. Whatever is the critical method and whatever are the questions we want to raise about the text, we are doing so in terms of a particular paradigm which is part of the hermeneutical frame of our interpretation.
5) Assessing the Relative
Value of Our Interpretations. Our choice of a text, our choice of a particular
set of questions we want to raise about it (a choice of epistemological
paradigm and methodology), as well as our choice of a method (a choice
of a textual dimension as most significant) demonstrates that there is
something at stake for us in this interpretation. What is it? This
is speaking of the value judgment – always in some ways, contextual – which
also frames our interpretations, an issue which feminists and other advocacy
critics have taught us none of us can afford to ignore.