TRS 100-B Theological Inquiry
Due: Tues., Mar. 24, Midnight
In this paper, you will further explore the discipline of biblical criticism
introduced in our class. For this paper, you will write on a scripture passage
chosen from a list provided by the instructor. You will be assigned a passage
through an in class process which will take into account student preferences.
The purpose of the paper is for you to research and then report on scholarly
views on your scriptural passage.
Your paper should answer the following questions about your scriptural
1. Origins: As far as we know, who was the author of this text? When was it
written? For what purpose was it written, and what do we know about the
social situation the author was writing in?
2. Sources: As far as we know, did this passage originate from sources older
than the present book in which it is found? What do we know about the
editing process that led this passage to be included in the book in which it
is found, in the place where it is found?
3. Insights: Based on your research, what are some insights that biblical
criticism provides into the meaning or significance of this passage? These
insights can be gained from the close study of the words of the passage,
a study of its form or genre, research into the social and historical context
of the passage, etc. (This section should take up the majority of the paper)
For your research, you should draw on some of the scholarly yet
accessible resources available in our library. You should draw on at least three of
the following sources for your paper. The following commentaries are available
in the reference section of the library (library call numbers are listed):
The Collegeville Bible Commentary. BS 491.2 C66 REF
The Eerdmans Commentary on the Bible. BS 491.3 E37 REF
Harper’s Bible Commentary. BS 491.2 H295 REF
The International Bible Commentary. BS 511.2 I57 REF
The New Interpreter’s Bible: A Commentary in Twelve Volumes. BS 491.2 N484 REF
The New Jerome Biblical Commentary. BS 491.2 N485 REF
The Oxford Bible Commentary. BS 491.3 O94 REF
The following commentaries are also available online through the library
The Believers Church Bible Commentary (This one has separate volumes for
different books of the Bible, but not every book is included)
The Oxford Bible Commentary
As you use these resources, keep in mind that you will need to look for both
general information on the book in which your passage is found (for example,
Exodus or Luke) as well as for more specific information on your specific
passage. Most commentaries will include general information on a book at the
beginning of the essay and then analyze the book chapter by chapter. Also
keep in mind that some of these resources might not cover your passage
exactly, so you may have to look at multiple sections to find the information you
Your paper should be between 3 and 5 pages in length, 12 points in a
standard font, double-spaced. Your paper should have an introduction
describing the relevance of your topic and a thesis statement summarizing the
whole of your argument. Each paragraph should have a topic sentence that
summarizes what the paragraph is about, and the paragraph should center on
that topic. The paragraphs of your paper should follow a logical order. You will
be graded on these elements, as well as on spelling and grammar. You are also
expected to use parenthetical notes for any quotations or other references that
you use, and have a works cited page. You should follow the MLA style of
citations. Examples for the parenthetical citations and works cited page are
This short paper, like all assignments in this class, is meant to evaluate your
progress in achieving certain goals of the class. The relevant goals are to
recognize the major questions and methods of theology, to acquire the skills
necessary to critically read and interpret the Christian scriptures, and to develop
one’s own writing and critical reasoning skills. Therefore these form the basis for
how your paper will be evaluated, as described in the attached chart.
(Note that here the number is the page where you find a specific piece of
information used in your paper.)
Dietrich, Walter. “1 and 2 Kings.” In Oxford Bible Commentary, ed. John Barton
and John Muddiman, 232-66. New York: Oxford University Press, 2001.
(Note that here the page numbers in the middle are the entire page range for
TRS 100-B Theological Inquiry
List of Scriptural Passages
The first story of God’s creation of the world (7
days of creation).
The second story of God’s creation of the world
(Adam and Eve).
Adam, Eve, and the serpent.
Noah and the flood.
Abraham almost sacrifices his son Isaac.
God’s calling of Moses.
Deborah saves the people of Israel from their
King David steals a man’s wife and is judged by
God miraculously defends the Kingdom of Judah
from the Assyrians.
Everything has a time appointed by God.
2 Samuel 11-12
2 Chronicles 32:1-23
Ezekiel sees a vision of God in a chariot and
receives his call as a prophet.
Daniel interprets a dream for King
Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon.
God commands Hosea to marry a prostitute.
The prophet Amos condemns Israel for oppressing
Jesus cures a Jewish official’s daughter and a
Jesus tells the parable of the Good Samaritan.
Jesus tells the parable of the Prodigal Son.
The incarnation of the Word as Jesus Christ.
Jesus’ agony in the garden, trial, and crucifixion.
The coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost and the
life of the first Christians.
The conversion of Paul.
Paul contrasts the flesh and the spirit.
1 Corinthians 11:17-34
Paul describes the Lord’s supper.
1 Corinthians 12
Christians are one body, united in Christ.
Paul describes the relationship between husband
Paul recites a hymn about Jesus’ “self-emptying.”
Jesus Christ fulfills the priesthood of the Old
James warns against favoring the rich and says
put faith into action.
John receives a vision of a woman and a dragon.
John receives a vision of two terrible beasts.
TRS 100-B Theological Inquiry
Makes specific and insightful claim
Thoroughly and insightfully explains reasons backing
Insightfully uses high quality evidence to support
Makes specific and relevant claim
Thoroughly explains reasons backing claim
Appropriately uses quality evidence to support
Makes somewhat specific and/or somewhat relevant
Some reasons explained, some simply stated or
Uses mixed quality evidence to support positions in a
somewhat appropriate way
Makes sweeping or irrelevant claim
Most reasons simply stated or indistinct
Uses poor quality evidence with little connection to
Does not present identifiable claim
Very few reasons given that support claim
Little or no evidence given
Shows thorough and insightful understanding of
methods of biblical criticism
Shows thorough and insightful knowledge of selected
Shows thorough understanding of methods of biblical
Shows thorough knowledge of selected scriptural
Shows some understanding of methods of biblical
Shows some knowledge of selected scriptural passage
Shows limited understanding of methods of biblical
Shows limited knowledge of selected scriptural
Shows little or no understanding of methods of biblical
Shows little or no knowledge of selected scriptural
Ideas are articulated clearly
Language is appropriate, not too slangy or informal
Has introduction explaining relevance of topic
Has thesis statement expressing claim
Each paragraph has a clear topic sentence and
paragraphs center on that topic
There is a logical order to paragraphs
Essay is largely free from spelling and grammar
Citations are almost all in the proper format
Mostly clear, but a few confusing phrases
Language is sometimes too slangy or informal
Has vague introduction loosely connected to topic
Thesis statement does not fully express claim
Some topic sentences of paragraphs are vague,
and/or paragraphs drift from topic
Some paragraphs seem out of order
Essay has some spelling and grammar mistakes
Many citations in incorrect format
Many confusing phrases
Often uses slangy or too informal language
Missing thesis statement
Many paragraphs missing topic sentences and/or do
not have clear topic
Very little order among paragraphs
Paper is riddled with spelling and grammar mistakes
All or most citations in incorrect format or missing
The book of Genesis is the first book in the Pentateuch. Genesis covers more time
than any of the other books in the Bible. The total duration of time the book of Genesis
covers is from creation to when the Israelites arrived in Egypt. The book of Genesis
presents essential teachings about God and his relationship to the world and creation.
Chapter 3 of Genesis focuses on the temptation and fall of Adam and Eve in the garden
of Eden. Little is known about the circumstances in which Genesis was written, or who
the authors were. 1
The book of Genesis does not directly name its author. Many scholars and
theologians believe that the book of Genesis was not written by a singular author, but
rather a group of writers. To understand who is the true author of the book of Genesis,
one must understand what the idea behind the Documentary Hypothesis is. The
Documentary Hypothesis is used to explain the origins of the first five books of the bible.
The idea of this hypothesis is that there were four sources used to collectively write these
books. These four sources are known as P, J, E, and D.2 Although many believe it was a
group of writers, many Christians like to believe that Moses was the author of the book of
Genesis. If Moses was the true author of the book of Genesis, it must have been written
in his lifetime.
The reason as to why Genesis 3 was written is to explain the temptations of the
serpent. According to the Collegeville Bible Commentary, the term serpent is
Gordon Wenham, “Genesis,” in Eerdmans Commentary on the Bible, ed. James Dunn and John
Rogerson (William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company 2003), 37
John S. Kselman, “Genesis,” in Harper’s Bible Commentary, ed. James L Mays (San
Francisco: Harper & Row Publishers, 1988), 85.
characterized as being “cunning”, and the term cunning connotes craftiness and
cleverness, which contrasts with the naïve nature of the Eve. 3 The story of Genesis 3
says nothing about the reason behind the serpent’s motives in tempting Adam & Eve. The
source of temptation is left a mystery. 4 Many scholars and theologians have attempted to
explain why the serpent engages with the woman before the man. In the scene where the
snake appears it is unclean and therefore an anti-God symbol. The serpent’s so called
craftiness is evident in its speech. The serpent talks in half-truths and insinuations. The
snake also distances himself from God by calling him “God” not “the Lord God”. 5
Some scholars compare the serpent to fertility cults, which were a source of
temptation in Israel. The choice of a serpent in Genesis to represent temptation is the
author’s way of saying “don’t get involved with serpents (that is, the fertility cults); they
will only cause trouble, as they did for Adam and Eve. The serpent is a warning for Israel
to stay away from fertility cults. 6
The themes of sin and judgment can be seen throughout Genesis 3. When the
nakedness of Adam and Eve is introduced that can be seen as the first “sin”. Nakedness
suggests weakness or neediness, which represents their unawareness of their dependence
on God. Ironically, Adam and Eve discover that they are in fact not gods, they are the
naked, vulnerable ones who depend on God. The theme of judgement can be seen
Gordon Wenham, 40.
Gordon Wenham, 43.
5 Gordon Wenham, 40.
Diane Bergant, “Genesis” in The Collegeville Bible Commentary, ed. Dianne Bergant and
Robert Karris (The order of St. Benedict 1989), 43
throughout the chapter 3 of Genesis as well. The J author continues with the ironic tones
in the narrative.
There are many theories surrounding the tree of knowledge as it relates to good
and evil. Some of the theories are appealing, while others are generally based upon
modern day philosophical positions that have very little relationship to what is actually
the issue in Genesis 3. Many scholars and theologians question the expression “knowing
good and evil” and what it means in the story. The question they ask is what kind of
knowledge does God forbid? 7 Determining what the meaning of this symbol means is
quite difficult for many. There is no other comparable symbol in any the literature of the
ancient east, nor is the symbol mentioned anywhere else in the Old Testament. However,
scholars have been able to find the expression “to know good and evil” in the Old
Testament, so therefore they can try to determine the context in a plausible meaning. 8 At
the very end of Genesis 3, the tree assumes importance. Throughout the story thus far, the
tree has not been a very integral part. But, because of the sins committed, humanity is
denied access to the tree and is expelled from the Garden of Eden.
The ongoing struggle of humanity is yet another theme seen in Genesis 3. The
struggle for Adam and Eve to resist to temptations of the serpent and subsequently
failing. Genesis can be viewed as an allegory. Genesis 3 describes the transition of the
human race from a state of innocence and purity to gaining a sense of understanding and
Gordon Wenham, 44.
Gordon Wenham, 44.
Biblical criticism allows individuals to question and wonder about the underlying
meanings, principles, and significance of the Bible. Close study of passages can offer a
glimpse into the author(s) mind when they were writing. Through bible criticism, one can
reach conclusions regarding the motivations behind the passages of the bible. Although
everyone has different beliefs when it comes to God and religion, biblical criticism
allows individuals to interpret the bible in a very unique way that leads them to follow the
set standards and morals written.
Bergant, Diane. “Genesis” In The Collegeville Bible Commentary, ed. Dianne Bergant and
Robert Karris, 40-43. The order of St. Benedict 1989.
Kselman, John S. “Genesis.” In Harper’s Bible Commentary, ed. James L Mays. 85-88.San
Francisco: Harper & Row Publishers, 1988).
Wenham, Gordon. “Genesis.” In Eerdmans Commentary on the Bible, ed. James Dunn and
John Rogerson, 37-41. William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company 2003.
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