THE OLD TESTAMENT

THE OLD TESTAMENT

INSTRUCTIONS FOR YOUR PAPER ON A BOOK OF THE OLD TESTAMENT

LOGISTICS
•    Worth 25 points = 25% of final grade.  Length of 1500-2500 words.  1500 words is the basic level, and 2500 is the maximum.  For the very best grade, compress as much knowledge and thought as possible into 2500 words.
•    The standard measure for word length is to run the word count on your word processor on the whole document–heading, works cited, everything.  Whatever it says, that’s what we use.  Then we’re all using the same form of measurement.
•    At the top put (i) your name; (ii) the word count.
•    To submit it: click on “Assignments” (left side).  In the module “Paper on a Book of the Old Testament,” click on the choice for the correct unit.
•    In the “Comments” area, include the name of your chosen book (e.g., Genesis paper, Exodus paper).  I will expect great title lines like “ArwenEvenstar’s shining Genesis paper,” “Yoda’s Exodus paper—brilliant it is,” etc.  I’m sure you guys can do better. ?
•    Due date:  This depends on which book you choose.  The dates are:
Thur Oct 8        if you choose it from Unit 1
Tues Nov 24        if you choose it from Unit 2
Thur Dec 17        if you choose it from Unit 3

THE ASSIGNMENT

Choose your book.  Choose a book of the Old Testament which contains a significant theme or amount of subject matter relating to force, violence, or social justice.  Teach this book to someone else, with special attention to that subject matter (force, violence, or social justice).
•    Describe the book, and explain its content and meaning in its various original contexts, such as historical, geographical, social, economic, political, cultural, literary, and religious.  (Not all of these will apply to every book.  For literary context, include its place in the Old Testament storyline or meta-narrative as a whole.)
•    Come to a critical understanding of the themes of force, violence, and social justice in particular, as appropriate for your selected book.

Your target audience.Write this for someone who has not taken this class (not for me).  Explain things clearly in plain English.
•    Your audience has an open Bible and has read your chosen book.  So you don’t need to give a systematic survey of the content of that book.  For example, if you choose Exodus, you can explain the meaning of the plagues without actually repeating all of them, because your audience has already read them in the Bible, or can look them up.
•    A good way is to picture someone you know and write to that person.
•    One useful format (this is optional) is to write it as a letter to that person. True, it would be a slightly unusual letter to have citations and a bibliography, but a letter just the same.

As Scripture.  Include ideas on how your book might relate to later Christian theology, or how it may have been misunderstood or misused, and especially how it might be read as Scripture and applied in practice today.

Functions like an exam.  This paper functions somewhat like an exam on foundational course knowledge, more than, say, purely creative thought or writing.  However, feel free to express your own views in addition to (but not instead of) foundational knowledge for the course.

Grading.Because this paper will function as an exam for knowledge and understanding, grading will be based much more on the knowledge and understanding mentioned above than on original research or creative thinking.  This means the paper will not be an easy high grade.  But it will have other obvious merits, at least for some of you.  Grading will of course need to be at my discretion, which means you will need to accept my judgment, because an assignment like this cannot be graded by empirical quantification or bean-counting alone.
•    Content.  Amount and quality of knowledge, thinking, understanding, and using good methodology.
•    Class knowledge.  Input from relevant readings and classroom teaching.  Your paper should look like you are actually taking this class and making contact with the subject matter, however fleetingly. ?
•    Citation.  A range of 1-10% can be deducted for shortcomings in citation.
•    Bible references and quotes.  Inclusion as needed for integrity.  Accurate use.  Follow the section on “Using the Bible” below.
•    Good writing, spelling, grammar, and punctuation.
•    Using a modern Bible translation.
•    A detailed rubric for the assessment of a Magis Core Biblical Tradition course is provided below, at the bottom.  However, do not follow it slavishly.  The instructor will explain it, and will also convert your work to its categories when grading.  The list above is the most important for you for grading.

FURTHER INSTRUCTIONS

Sources.  Use the following required sources:
•    The relevant textbooks.
•    The  textbook Bible or an equally good modern translation.  (Check with me if in doubt.)
•    The relevant online readings as given in the Daily Schedule
•    Knowledge taught by the instructor in class.

Your own views.
•    Feel free to express your own views in addition to (but not instead of) foundational knowledge for the course

Citation.
The purpose of accurate citation is not rules or red tape but knowledge integrity.  Knowledge is not credible if we do not know or cannot show exactly where it came from.  This is especially important because biblical misinterpretation has often been carried into action harmfully.  One way to limit this problem is to carefully maintain knowledge integrity through accurate citation of our sources, including the Bible itself.
•    System: choose MLA, Turabian, or Chicago (Humanities), whichever one you are familiar with already.
•    Use the standard method for your chosen citation system
•    Important: all 3 systems require in-text citation (not just a Works Cited list at the end)
•    Cite the online documents which the instructor authored using the format for unpublished papers
•    Give the page numbers for print sources for in-text citation
•    Include a Works Cited at the end
?    Give a clickable link (URL) in the Works Cited if you use an online source outside Blueline
•    You do not need to cite the instructor’s lectures within the body of the paper itself.  (It is true that there is a formal way to do this, but it would be a needless burden.)  However, include an entry in the Works Cited like this:

A citation is always in a certain, specific, widely-used form which readers instantly recognize as a citation, in the same way that they instantly recognize a stop sign and know what it means because stop signs are pretty much the same everywhere.
•    That form tells readers that a specific source for the info in question is listed in a specific, known, always-used form in a works cited list at the end
•    It is always in parentheses.
•    The first word or words of the citation are always exactly the same as the first word or words of the listing for it in the works cited.

Objective and result
•    Readers can instantly recognize a citation when they see one.
•    Readers can instantly find the source it refers to in the works cited list.
•    Readers can easily go and find the real thing for themselves.

Using Works Cited Programs.  I have no real problem with your using websites like EasyBib.com or CitationMachine.net, but be aware that you can’t always trust them for details.  For example, both programs spelled the publisher wrong in several papers for a course this past summer, and this made it look like students were copying someone else’s Works Cited complete with spelling mistakes.

Therefore: I expect the results–i.e., the details–to be accurate in your papers.  That’s what I will hold you accountable for, even if those stupid websites do it wrong.

How not to do it.Imagine someone writes: “As reported by the Ignatian Solidarity Network, Jesuit leaders are actively engaged seeking humane comprehensive immigration reform.”

This example never actually does a citation.  Sure, readers can see the words “As reported by the Ignatian Solidarity Network….” but so what?  Maybe the writer made it up.  Nothing clearly says to readers that they should look for a source in a Works Cited.  They might figure that out, and go looking, and connect the dots.  But this is making it too hard for them.  This is assuming they can read the mind of the writer, or assuming that letting them figure it out is fine as long as enough clues are strewn somewhere in the paper.  But this is not fine.  Do it right.

If you are unsure how to do your citations and works cited list, use MLA style as described by the Purdue U. Online Writing Lab.
•    Start with this web page, which has the basics for citation: https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/747/02/
•    For the works cited list, start here: https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/747/05/
•    For anything else, click on the headings along the left side of the Purdue web pages above.

Good tip: to find how to do something in citation, just google a search string.  For example, to find how to cite an unpublished manuscript (such as the online readings authored by the instructor), google a search string like “How to cite an unpublished paper in MLA.”  Chances are that the exact place on the Purdue website will be on your first screen of hits, because the Purdue website is very widely used as a standard.

Using the Bible.
•    When you mention something in the Bible, give support or examples from the Bible to support what you write.
•    Give the Bible “reference” (book, chapter and verse) every time you MENTION anything in the Bible.  Not just when you quote from it.  Use the same style as in the textbooks.
•    Sometimes it is good to quote a key passage from the Bible (rather than just giving a reference), as an example or basis for an important point in your paper.
•    When you quote word-for-word from the Bible, do it clearly, with quotation marks around it, or as a block quote, so the reader knows for sure that it is a quote.
•    Use a modern Bible translation for Scripture quotes.  Grade penalty of 6% if not.
Over-length Papers.  A subject that is sure to come up: what do I do about over-length papers?
•    The standard measure for word length is to run the word count on your word processor on the whole document–heading, works cited, everything.  Whatever it says, that’s what we use.  Then we’re all using the same form of measurement.
•    You might find it a challenge to keep your paper down to the maximum word length.  But part of the assignment is the intellectual discipline of selection and compression.  If you can do this well, you will go farther in the world.
•    If your paper is over-length it’s not doing the actual assignment as described, so naturally, and in fairness to the others, I can’t accept it in that form.  Here’s what I’ll do, and it’s sheer grace.
•    I’ll send you a note that your paper is too long to accept, and give you a chance to shorten it and re-submit it.  I’ll accept that one and grade it, but give it the same small penalty as if it were late.  [For how that works, see “Due Dates” in the “Course Information” module.]
•    Advice: make an outline, and draft the paper, without watching word count too closely.  Go over-length.  Then cut and compress.  Might hurt a little!  But the result will be your best possible work within the parameters.
•    However, I will give you some leeway.  If it’s only a little bit over, I won’t say anything.
Clear writing.
How do you know if your paper is clear?  Actually, you don’t.  In fact, you are the only person in the world who does not know if it is clear.  Solution: do what the pros do.  After you think you are finished:
•    Step one: Read your paper out loud, slowly.  Does it sound like clear English?  If not, it will not read like clear English either.  Fix it.
•    Step two: Now get someone else to do the same.  This could hurt a little.  It better be a pretty good friend, or else someone who doesn’t matter.  Fix it again.
•    Beware of the electronic grinch stealing your grade points.  Specifically, beware of your spell checker changing your words into something that you don’t intend, or your computer making other changes.  This is a frequent and careless mistake.  Proof-read carefully!  Assume that every word is wrong, unless it is actually right.
•    Write and proofread well!  I look forward to reading your clean, flawless, perfect, intelligent writing.

Not Ready.  What about papers that do not follow the instructions?
•    If your paper is too rough, or does not follow major instructions (e.g., no citation or no Bible references), it will be my duty to return it to you as “Not Ready,” that is, not ready yet for me to grade.
•    Then you will improve the things required and submit it again. I’ll accept that one and grade it, but give it the same deduction as if it were late.  (For how that works, see “Due Dates” in the “Course Information” module.)

Tips on Getting the Best Grade

“Oh, I didn’t notice that.”  Famous last words.  Gang, when students question their grade and I point out how they didn’t follow the instructions (sigh), the most common response is, “Oh, I didn’t….”

Solution: start noticing.  We live in a world where we are more successful if we learn to read, understand, and follow written instructions.  Here are the keys to success:

•    The first key is to follow the instructions for the paper carefully.  Every word.  For example, note what the section on “Logistics” says for “the very best grade.”  Note what the instructions say for required sources.  All the sections in the instructions are for real.  In summary, it is important that each paper look like it is for the specific assignment as described, for this specific course.  The assigned topic is not a general, wide open free-for-all in which any old source on the internet, or any thoughts you may encounter, or even any traditional teaching in Christianity, are appropriate.  Do the actual assignment as described.

•    The second key is one word: more.  Bear in mind that the paper functions more like an exam on foundational course knowledge than, say, creative thought or writing.  Cover every relevant section in the required sources, if possible.  The key here is to stuff the word limit with as much knowledge and detail as possible.  A good method is to draft the paper too long, then compress it.  This is hard work, and it might hurt a little.  But that’s how.

•    The third key is accuracy.  Naturally, I cannot give a top grade for work with mistakes, so check everything for accuracy.  Make sure you understand what you are reading before you write about it.  This applies to everything from details like names or dates to whole concepts and main ideas.  It is true that this takes time, but it’s worth it.

•    The fourth key is clean, clear writing.  Proofread your paper carefully for grammar and typos.  Don’t hesitate to get help from the writing center for this.  Many of the best student writers do it.

•    Result: win-win.  Excellence earns you high grades.  Giving earned high grades gives me pleasure.

RUBRIC

Here is the detailed rubric for assessment of a Magis Core Biblical Tradition course.  The instructor will explain it in class, and will also convert your work to its categories when grading.  The paper is worth up to 25 points, allotted as follows.

Content of the Text
4    The content of the text is presented accurately, in context, and nuanced (e.g., in relation to what is not stated, or with understanding of its significance in the text).
3    The content of the text is presented accurately and in context, but lacks any nuanced understanding.
2    Some assumptions, not evident in the text itself, are presented as the content of the text.
1    The content of the text is presented with numerous factual errors.

Literary Context
4    The literary context of the text (including its composition) is presented accurately and with specific relevance to the interpretation of the text.
3    The literary context of the text is presented accurately, but plays little role in the interpretation of the text or overrides the content of the text.
2    The literary context is addressed, but not accurately.
1    The literary context of the text is not evident in the interpretation of the text.

Social and Historical Context
4    The social and historical context of the text is presented accurately and with specific relevance to the interpretation of the text.
3    The social and historical context of the text is presented accurately, but plays little role in the interpretation of the text or overrides the content of the text.
2    The social and historical context of the text is addressed, but not accurately.
1    The social and historical context of the text is not evident in the interpretation of the text.

Critical Use of Evidence and Analysis
4    Evidence is used critically, and text and ideas are critically analyzed.
3    Appropriate and relevant evidence is cited, but its value is simply accepted rather than assessed, or appropriate texts and ideas are utilized without critical thinking.
2    Evidence is cited, but its relevance to the argument is not clear.
1    Texts and ideas are presented with no analysis.

Argument
4    The essay demonstrates sound critical thinking, and the arguments are persuasive.
3    The essay demonstrates some critical thinking, and the argument exhibits a logical flow of ideas.
2    The essay argues its thesis, and ideas are supported with some logical reasoning, but the argument is incomplete or not well developed.
1    The argument does not develop the thesis, or is not supported with logical reasoning.

Style
3    Paragraphs are well constructed and logically organized to support the flow of the argument; a range of appropriate sentence structures is used; the grammar and syntax are evidence of standard written English.
2    The essay has noticeable style, grammar, or spelling errors; sentence structure is simplistic.
1    The essay contains an unacceptable number of errors in spelling, punctuation, grammar, or syntax.
0    The essay is unreadable or incomprehensible.

Format
2    The essay is completed on schedule, limited to the specified word count.
1    The essay is generally formatted according to the guidelines, but is incomplete.
0     The essay is not formatted according to guidelines.