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Religious Studies 731
Spring Semester, 2010
6:30-9:20 Tuesday
STRO 409

Seminar in Biblical Studies: Book of Isaiah

Missouri State University

Strong Hall

Dr. Victor H. Matthews

Office: Strong Hall 207

Office Hours: 1:00-1:50 M-F & 6:00-6:30 T

Phone: 417-836-5529 

Email: VictorMatthews@missouristate.edu

 Missouri State Calendar

Important Dates and Deadlines Spring 2010 (http://www.missouristate.edu/recreg/acad_cal.html)

1.Texts Required:

Textbooks Required

a. Brevard Childs, Isaiah (Westminster, 2001)

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 Although it is a beautiful literary translation, it is hard to understand for most modern students and is outdated.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 at: http://rosetta.reltech.org/ECanon/ECanon.html

On-line concordances featuring several other biblical translations can be found at:  http://bible.gospelcom.net and http://bible.crosswalk.com/

An on-line version of the NRSV translation is available at: http://www.godweb.org/nrsv.html

Basic index to Biblical Studies Terms: http://www.wfu.edu/~horton/r102/ho1.html

I encourage 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: http://courses.missouristate.edu/VictorMatthews/favorite.htm

2. Course Description: 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. 

3. Purpose: 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.

4. Requirements: Each student will do all of the following:

 a. Participate actively in the class discussions.

 b. Present to the class orally and to the professor in written form what you expect to do in your

     seminar paper.

 c. 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 examined.

 d. Defend the paper in class.  (see below)

 e. Revise the paper in light of criticisms.  (see below)

 f. Orally critique one other student paper.  (see below)

 g. Read all student papers prior to the time they are critiqued in class and make criticisms. (see


 h. Direct two oral discussion in class.  It 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.

5. Attendance: Statistical analysis has shown that regular attendance is the key to good grades. It is expected that all students will be present except for emergencies.

6. Class Participation: A 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.

7. 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.

8. Exams: There will be no exams in this course.

9. Cheating: 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 written assignment.

I would also direct you to the university statement of community principles.

10. Assessment: Students' 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.

11. Grading: 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 discussions.

Borderline grades 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 class discussions.

If you stop attending this class but do not follow proper procedure for dropping the 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 any signatures on the
drop slip.

12. Disability Accommodation: 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 prior
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, Equity and Diversity 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 http://www.missouristate.edu/eoaa.htm.

14. 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 at: VictorMatthews@missouristate.edu

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
of the 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 (http://www.missouristate.edu/recreg/classdis.html). 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.


January 12-26: 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.


February 2    Class discussions begin.  At least two topics will be discussed during each session.


February 16   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 separate occasions.  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 http://courses.missouristate.edu/VictorMatthews/bib/ISAIAH-02.bib.htm). 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   Class discussions continue.


Feb 2               Isaiah 6:1-13                                                               Childs, 49-59


                        Isaiah 1:1-31 (1:1-20)                                                 Childs, 11-22 


                        Isaiah 2-4 (2:1-5; 4:1-6; 2:6-9)                                   Childs, 23-36


Feb 9               Isaiah 5 (5:1-17)                                                          Childs, 37-48 


                        Isaiah 7 (7:1-17)                                                          Childs, 60-68


                        Isaiah 8                                                                       Childs, 69-76                          



Feb 16             Isaiah 9-10 (9:1-7; 10:1-4, 20-23, 33-34)                   Childs, 77-96


                        Isaiah 11-12 (11:1-11; 12:1-6)                                    Childs, 97-111


                        Isaiah 13-23 (14:1-17)                                                Childs, 113-127


Feb 23             Isaiah 24-27 (24:1-13; 26:1-11)                                  Childs, 171-180, 186-191


                        Isaiah 28-35 (29:13-17; 30:1-5, 8-18)                        Childs, 211-228, 249-258


                        Isaiah 36-39 (37:14-38; 39:1-8)                                  Childs, 267-277, 285-287


March 2           Isaiah 40 (40:1-10, 18-31)                                          Childs, 289-310


                        Isaiah 41:1-42:13 (41:8-16; 42:1-9)                            Childs, 311-326


                        Isaiah 42:14-44:23 (42:18-22; 43:14-24; 44:1-8)      Childs, 327-343


March 16         Isaiah 44:24-48:22 (45:1-7; 46:1-10; 48:16-22)         Childs, 344-378


                        Isaiah 49:1-52:12 (49:1-9a; 52:7-12)                          Childs, 379-406


                        Isaiah 52:13-53:12 (52:13-53:12)                               Childs, 407-423


March 23        First two papers due. (I need 2 volunteers)


March 23         Isaiah 54-55 (55:1-11)                                                Childs, 424-438


                        Isaiah 56-58 (56:1-8; 58:1-9a)                                    Childs, 439-467, 473-480


                        Isaiah 59-62 (59:1-8; 61:1-11)                                    Childs, 481-508


                        Isaiah 63-66 (65:1-25)                                                Childs, 526-547


March 30        Critique of papers in class at the rate of 2 each evening. 


April 6            All other papers due at the beginning of class.


May 10            Final 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 required to 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 due.  The student should feel free to thoroughly mark up this paper using the “track changes” option and the “comment” option. 


a. Mechanical errors and additional sources should be marked on the paper. 

b. Look carefully to see that the content is accurate and up-to-date. 

c. Make sure all arguments are well supported. 

d. Observe especially how primary sources are used. 

e. 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 assignment. 

The critique should center on three areas: (1) content, (2) mechanics and style of writing, and (3) bibliography. 

1.  Content:  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

narrow enough?  Are statements supported with relevant data and documented adequately?  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.

2.  Mechanics 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?

3.  Bibliography:  Are the entries written according to a standardized style?  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 the paper. 

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 statement.  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, say so.  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. 

Class Routine. 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 students.  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
see me if you are having trouble with any of this material

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This site was last updated on November 1, 2009. 





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