Short Interpretive Paper: Project Description

This semester, the assignment for said paper is the following: Compare the very different narratives of Jesus' birth in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke and the "logos" hymn of John. Focus on ONE particular feature of ONE birth account that is unique to that gospel.  Next, write a researched essay in which you interpret the significance of that detail vis--vis what you know about the major themes of the Gospel you are using. A rough draft is due at the beginning of the class hour on December 8. The final draft of the essay is due at the beginning of the class hour on December 11.

Examples of appropriate subjects include, but are not limited to the following:

The successful paper. . .
































The Paper Description Assignment

The paper description consists of two parts. First, students will submit an annotated bibliography that includes: a) proper Turabian or CMS bibliogrphic data and form as well as b.) a brief but specific description of the content of the material you read. At least three of the six sources used for the term essay are required. For this assignment, NO internet sources shall be used. Note, however, that EBSCO HOST and ATLA searches do NOT count as internet sources. Second, students will turn in a short (about  one paragraph) description of their project topic no later than the beginning of class on November 10. The description should include a thesis statement. A thesis statement is NOT a declaration of the topic, e.g., "I will talk about the importance of the resurrection." Rather, it should be proposition you intend to defend with evidence derived from the text, e.g., "Luke recalls the story of Jesus' appearance to two disciples on the way to Emmaus because that story reminded the early church that....[fill in the rest]." Early submissions of project descriptions are, naturally, welcome. The description should be submitted to The purpose of the description is to allow the instructor to provide you with some suggestions for sharpening (and often shortening) your essay. The description will be graded count as 50 points. As this course is not writing intensive, the instructor will not be available to read rough drafts of papers.  Students are strongly encouraged to consult the writing center. In addition there is a scheduled peer review session during the semester.

The Paper Description Assignment shall be evaluated using the following criteria:








Annotated Bibliography Form


A minimum of three sources, fully and properly cited in Turabian or CMS format




A minimum of three sources, cited in Turabian or CMS format but with slight errors




A minimum of three sources, cited in Turabian or CMS format, but with major errors (wrong order, punctuation problems)



A minimum of three sources, cited in Turabian or CMS format but with wrong or missing data (editor cited as author, issue of journal missing, etc.)



A minimum of three sources or less with data presented with little evident attention to properly citing sources.




Annotated Bibliography Content


The reader understads what the student read and learned from the text. The student's writing is clear and without errors in style, grammar, or punctuation.


The reader understands what the student read, albeit the content is vague or unclear. The student's writing style has some small errors.



The reader understands that the student found appropriate materials. Content described   generally and indistinctly.



The reader recognizes that the student went to the library, but had problems identifying appropriate content. Content is characterized by inattention to grammar, spelling, and   12 The content is missing, an insufficient number of resources consulted, or inappropriate sources are consulted.



Thesis  (10)

Thesis statement is a clear, thoughtful, and nuanced claim


Thesis statement is a clear claim


Thesis statement is a claim


Thesis statement is a weak or unclear claim


Thesis statement is not a claim



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Simple Steps: How to Research a Biblical Passage


The main task is to ASK QUESTIONS about the text, trying to discover as much as you can about it. Try, first, to discover something about the author of the biblical passage, the date and circumstances under which it was written, and any major themes or motifs of this biblical author's work. This information is usually easy to find in the introductory essays of your STUDY BIBLE.

Check your results against the scholars in a Bible dictionary such as the Anchor Bible Dictionary or the
Interpreter's Dictionary of the Bible.

 WHAT IS A COMMENTARY? A commentary is a book in which a biblical scholar makes comments, either technical or expository, on various aspects of the Bible. Commentaries may be single volume, with a whole book dedicated to a particular book of the Bible. Examples of this type of commentary are any in the excellent Interpretation series, available in so far as the series is published, in our library. Another type of commentary is one in which several books of the Bible are covered in a single volume (though often by separate authors). An excellent example of this type is the New Interpreter's Bible, a series that, again, is available in our library so far as it has been published.

A good commentary will provide you with an expert's understanding of the passage. This does not mean you must agree with the expert, but you should, at least, take his or her view into account as you finalize your interpretation of the passage. Commentaries will also usually have an introduction to the book under consideration. Such an introduction will be useful as it will help you identify main themes of a given biblical author and will doubtless spark your own ideas as to how the passage you have selected relates to one or more of the themes.

Use the ATLA (Religion) catalog on EBSCO and find one or more articles on your passage. Investigate the journals from which your articles come by using Ulrich's Periodical Directory (on the Library web page) and see if these articles are "refereed" (= peer reviewed). Read the articles and incorporate that learning into your considerations.

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