A 'close reading' pays close attention to the details of a text. Close reading is not all there is to biblical studies, but it is indispensable. This exercise will help train you in the close reading of biblical texts.
As a small group, choose a common passage from the following list for each of you to study:
Any one of the seven letters of Rev. 2-3
Using Johnson and either Koester or Bauckham, as well as other sources you may have at your disposal, investigate your passage's Old Testament echoes, its first century political and social context, its apocalyptic and other literary devices, and so on. Collect observations and questions about the passage. Offer a close reading of the passage that you could defend to a wide audience of readers with varying theological convictions. By this I mean that your exposition of the passage would be plausible to both liberals and conservatives, both believers and nonbelievers, both Catholics and various schools of Protestants. Use a single-spaced prose-outline form. Keep the passage itself rather than your secondary sources at center-stage. While your group needs to work on the same passage, each of you is to do your own work.
After you finish your (two-page?) prose outline, write one additional double-spaced page that answers the question, "Why is this passage important to the life of the Church?"
Please keep your paper three pages, and follow the directions in my handout for writing papers. Remember, I want to see proper style, clear writing, a thorough answer to the question, and explicit citations of course materials.
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