Religious Studies 731
Spring Semester, 2010
Seminar in Biblical
Studies: Book of Isaiah
Missouri State University
Dr. Victor H. Matthews
Brevard Childs, Isaiah
b. V. Matthews,
A Brief History of Ancient Israel (Westminster, 2002)
c. Any one of the modern
translations of the Bible--preferably the New Revised Standard Version, New
Jewish Publication Society Version, or New International Version. Do not use
the King James Version. Although it is a beautiful literary translation, it
is hard to understand for most modern students and is outdated. I will use
the NRSV in class. An on-line version of the
NRSV translation is available
On-line concordances featuring
several other biblical translations can be found at:
An on-line version of the NRSV translation is available at:
Basic index to Biblical Studies Terms:
students to click on the various web links that I have established
throughout this syllabus to obtain additional information.
A directory to
on-line resources for biblical studies can be found in my website at:
A graduate course in Biblical Studies at MSU emphasizes research in primary
sources, and the completion of a seminar paper.
Since seminar courses presume extensive background, require much
independent work, and most of all a great deal of self-discipline they are
usually taken only by advanced graduate students.
The purpose of this course is twofold: to make use of the methods of modern
biblical research that you learned in REL 730 and to teach the student how
to write a seminar paper on a topic dealing with the Book of Isaiah.
Every graduate student will (1) learn how
to use primary sources critically to reconstruct
the past, (2) learn how to find secondary sources and use them critically,
(3) learn how to put together a seminar paper,
(4) learn how to criticize the work of fellow students in a tactful, fair,
and thoughtful manner.
Each student will do all of the following:
Participate actively in the class discussions.
Present to the class orally and to the professor in written form what you
expect to do in your
Complete a 25-30 page (minimum) double-spaced paper on any subject relating
to the Book
of Isaiah. The paper must follow a consistent
style such as that outlined in the Chicago
Manual of Style or
The SBL Handbook of Style. The
characteristics of a seminar paper will be
discussed in class and examples will be
Defend the paper in class.
Revise the paper in light of criticisms.
Orally critique one other student paper.
Read all student papers prior to the time they are critiqued in class and
make criticisms. (see
Direct two oral discussion in class.
is expected that the presenter will draw on materials
other than the textbooks for this assignment and
will share their list of sources with the class.
Statistical analysis has shown that regular attendance is the
key to good grades. It is expected that all students will be present except
significant portion of your grade (100 points) is dependent upon class
participation. I will assign this grade at the end of the course. It will
be based on attendance, ability to answer questions during regular and
scheduled class discussions, in-class assignments, willingness to ask
questions and seek help (both in and out of class), and general improvement
in class discussion over the course of the semester.
Inclusive Language: In line with current
style guides, I will be using inclusive language. This means that I will use
language that includes women whenever possible. Instead of "man" I will use
"human beings." Instead of "he" I will use "he or she," etc. I urge you to
follow my lead both orally and in written form.
There will be no exams in this course.
Any student participating in any form of
academic dishonesty will be subject to sanctions as described in the
Student Academic Integrity Policies and Procedures (http://www.missouristate.edu/registrar/acintegrity.html)
also at the Reserve Desk in Meyer Library.
Cheating and plagiarism, as defined in the
Missouri State Student Judicial Code will not be tolerated in this course. Those
who plagiarize the work of others will either be subject to a penalty of one
letter grade on their written assignment or the imposition of an additional
I would also direct you to the university
statement of community principles.
command of the materials presented in this course will be assessed through
written assignments, paper critiques, class discussion, in-class oral
presentations, and the ability to answer the instructor's questions during
class. These methods of assessment will help gauge the effectiveness of
presentation by the instructor.
Students will also be given the opportunity to assess the course as a whole
using both a standardized, college-wide questionnaire.
The grade will be determined on the basis of the completed paper, your
defense of it in class, your revision of it (= 60%) and the critique of
another paper made in class (= 20%).
In addition, 20% of your grade will be determined by your general
participation in class discussion and your leading of two of these
will be determined by such
factors as attendance, the final exam, completion of work on time, evidence
of hard work and a willingness to seek help, and general contribution to
stop attending this class but do not follow proper procedure for dropping
class, you will receive
a failing grade and will also be financially
obligated. To drop a class anytime after the first week, see
http://www.missouristate.edu/registrar/chnsched.html). You do
not need to obtain
To request accommodations for disability,
students must contact Disability Services (http://www.missouristate.edu/disability),
Plaster Student Union Suite 405, (417) 836-4192; TTY (417) 836-6792.
Students must provide documentation of disability to Disability Services
to receiving accommodations. DS refers some
types of accommodation requests to the Learning Diagnostic Clinic (LDC). The
LDC also provides diagnostic testing, for which a fee is charged.
13. Discrimination Policy:
Missouri State is an equal opportunity employer/affirmative action
institution, and maintains a grievance procedure incorporating due process
available to any person who believes he or she has been discriminated
against. At all times, it is your right to address inquiries and concerns
about possible discrimination to Jana Estergard,
Officer, Siceluff Hall 296 (417-836-4252). Concerns
about discrimination can also be brought directly to your instructor's
attention, and to the attention of your instructor's department head.
The Missouri State statement of non-discrimination can be found at
Office Hours: Students should feel free to
consult with me about the course and their work. My office is
STRO 215 (inside the Dean's Suite in STRO 207) and I
will be there M-F 1:00-1:50 and 6:00-6:30 T. If you can not meet with me during these
times, see me after class and I will arrange a mutually convenient time for
us to get together. The Associate Dean's office phone is 836-5529 and the
secretary can make an appointment for me. I can also be contacted by e-mail
15. Cell Phone Use: As a member
of the learning community, each student has a responsibility to other
students who are members of the community. When cell phones or pagers
ring and students respond in class or leave class to respond, it disrupts
the class. Therefore, the Office of Provost prohibits the use by
students of cell phones, pagers, or similar communication devices during
scheduled classes. All such devices must be turned off or put in a silent
mode and cannot be taken out during class. At the discretion
instructor, exception to this policy is possible in special
circumstances. Sanctions for violation of this policy are determined by the
instructor and may include dismissal from the class – see Class Disruption
In testing situations, use of cell phones or similar communication devices
may lead also to a charge of academic dishonesty and additional sanctions
under the Student Academic Integrity Policies and Procedures (http://www.missouristate.edu/registrar/acintegrity.html). There
are two appeal processes available to students. A sanction for class
disruption may be appealed using the appeal process stated in the Class
Disruption policy; however, a violation that involves a charge of academic
dishonesty must be appealed using the process described in the Student
Academic Integrity Policies and Procedures. Students have the right to
continue attending class while an appeal is in progress.
SCHEDULE -- RELIGION 731
Introduction to research tools, methodologies in biblical research, and the
Book of Isaiah. Read Childs: 1-10, 289-291, 439-449 and Matthews: 53-85.
You must discuss your paper
topic with me between January 12 and February 2.
Class discussions begin.
At least two topics will be discussed during
Hand in a typed title, thesis statement, and
5-10 questions you feel are crucial to your topic.
Present this in class so others will know what
you are researching.
Justify your paper in terms of the use of
primary sources. Class discussion during remaining time.
Class Discussion Sessions
During the first portion of the course, we will operate
as a discussion group with each student leading the discussion on two
During these discussions Child’s commentary will
be evaluated along with articles that the presenter chooses to share with
the class (on-line bibliography at
Of particular interest will be the critical issues that are raised,
critiques of current theories and scholarship, and the positing of future
trends in the field.
Since this class is designed to make use of the
methods of biblical criticism in relation to Isaiah, it is expected that
various approaches will be brought to bear on the text.
Prior to the night that a student is to
lead the discussion he/she is to announce to the class (electronically) the
specific topic from their section of Isaiah that they plan to address and
provide a list of questions for discussion.
February 9-- March 9
Isaiah 2-4 (2:1-5;
Isaiah 5 (5:1-17)
Isaiah 7 (7:1-17)
Isaiah 9-10 (9:1-7;
10:1-4, 20-23, 33-34)
Childs, 171-180, 186-191
(29:13-17; 30:1-5, 8-18)
Childs, 211-228, 249-258
Childs, 267-277, 285-287
Isaiah 40 (40:1-10,
(42:18-22; 43:14-24; 44:1-8)
(45:1-7; 46:1-10; 48:16-22)
papers due. (I need 2 volunteers)
Childs, 439-467, 473-480
Critique of papers in class at the rate of 2 each evening.
All other papers due at the beginning of class.
revision of paper is due.
Submission of Drafts. All drafts of the seminar paper are to be
submitted electronically as an email attachment.
Critiquing the Paper.
Every person will serve as a critic of someone else's
paper and is
write a five page critique of the first draft.
Each critic will receive an electronic copy of
the paper that is to be critiqued at least a week before the presentation is
The student should feel free to thoroughly mark up this
paper using the “track changes” option and the “comment” option.
Mechanical errors and additional sources should be marked on the paper.
Look carefully to see that the content is accurate and up-to-date.
Make sure all arguments are well supported.
Observe especially how primary sources are used.
Write out a summary of strengths and weaknesses.
Your critique and the marked up version of the paper are to be sent to me
and to the author of the paper.
Keep in mind that time will be limited (30
minutes) when you present your critique in class so concentrate on content,
not mechanical errors.
Concentrate also on major strengths, and
especially on major weaknesses.
Your critique is worth 20% of your grade.
Your written analysis, marking of the paper and
the conduct of the class critique will determine your grade on this
The critique should center on three areas: (1) content,
(2) mechanics and style of writing, and (3) bibliography.
In order to critique the content of a paper you
must do some research on the subject of the paper. You should ask the
following kinds of questions in analyzing its content:
Is the subject
Are statements supported with relevant data and
Is there evidence of adequate research or is
there too much reliance on one or two sources?
Are the sources up-to-date or outdated?
Has the writer used any primary sources?
Has the writer interacted with these sources and
evaluated them to produce a work which is not slavishly tied to the sources.
and Style of Writing:
Is the paper well written, logical in its
arguments, and generally readable?
Are there mechanical errors?
Summarize your analysis of this factor in your
critique and mark the errors on the paper you are analyzing.
Have quotations been adequately footnoted,
handled properly, and not misused?
Do footnote and bibliographic entries follow a
consistent style? Are all works cited in the bibliography?
Are the entries written according to a
Has the writer overlooked any key sources?
List any that should be included in the revision
of the paper. Note there are always
more sources that can be used.
The critique should emphasize both strengths and
weaknesses in a courteous and
professional manner and should conclude by assigning a letter grade to
Defending the Paper.
When your paper is scheduled for class presentation, it
is your job to defend it.
You may have 5 minutes to make an opening
But since everyone will have read and is familiar with
your paper, there is no reason to summarize it.
Your designated critic will lead with questions,
and you will try to show your breadth of knowledge, and why you wrote what
you did in the paper.
If your critic identifies a weakness which you
recognize, there is no value in bluffing.
On the other hand, if you do not agree this is a
weakness, defend yourself.
If you can not answer a question of the critic,
If there is not enough information available from
ancient or modern sources, say so.
You will be evaluated on how well you can field
questions and how well you know your subject.
Everyone is expected to read the papers prior to their being critiqued.
On the night a paper is critiqued, everyone will
send me a list of the major strengths and major weaknesses of that paper.
The critic is responsible for criticizing the
paper in depth, but all other students must know what is being discussed.
Revision of the Paper.
Everyone will be required to revise their paper
taking into account criticisms and suggestions from me and from the other
This will require at least a 30 minute session with me
some time after the night of your defense.
Since I will need time to read and evaluate the
critic's summary of strengths and weaknesses, the comments on the critic's
copy of the paper, and other student comments, wait two days after your
defense to make your appointment.
The final revision must be handed in on or
before May 10. I will grade this
revision and send it back to you during finals week.
Please return all books and articles I loan you at least by the time you
hand me the finished copy of your paper.
This schedule is not carved in granite. There
will undoubtedly be some
departures from it -- especially if the class
chooses to spend more time on a particular subject. Please come
me if you are having trouble with any
of this material.
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