Reflection on O'Keefe, Reno, Davis, Hays, and Moses

"What are you learning at that crazy school? Are they trying to turn you into liberal Catholic postmodernists? Why don't you go to Biola or somewhere else that just teaches what the Bible says?"

Somehow the link to our course syllabus found its way to an unsympathetic reader (at your church? in your family? at another school?). For laughs you mention it to Telford in class. But then he gets that sort of teasing, sort of serious look that tells you something terrible is coming. He says, "Hey, that's a great assignment. Write a response that draws on what we've seen so far in the course. And you can skip the Biola part; that question answers itself."

Respond to this person's objection by testing the proposals you have encountered so far to see whether or not theological interpretation "just teaches what the Bible says." Analyze readings of one of our Genesis passages according to the approaches you have been learning from O'Keefe and Reno, Alter, and Davis and Hays, evaluating possible theological interpretations — perhaps proposals you have heard others raise in class, or perhaps some of your own.

For instance, are they properly disciplined (O'Keefe and Reno chapter 6, or Jenson in Davis and Hays)? Are they convincing intensive, typological, and/or allegorical readings (chapters 3-5, Alter, Johnson, or Davis on "critical traditioning")? Do they remain at the level of the text rather than leaving it for some other "x" that makes the text secondary or dispensable (chapters 1-2, Alter, or McSpadden)? Are they appropriate (orthodox?) readings of Genesis in the church (Davis on "teaching confessionally" or Jones)? You don't have to treat all of these questions, but I want to see serious engagement with the material in both Davis and Hays and O'Keefe and Reno that is most relevant for your answer to this fundamental question: Are these readings artificial impositions on Genesis, or are they what Genesis means?

I want you to present your analysis as a response to your unsympathetic correspondent in a way he or she may find persuasive.

You do not have to take a favorable position on either the Davis and Hays readings, O'Keefe and Reno, or this course! But I would like you to be fair in your choice of texts (i.e., choose interpretations you think are the most likely to answer the question in satisfying ways).

Please keep your paper 3-5 pages, double-spaced, 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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