Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Thoughts From A Student Concerning Textual Analysis

Another student and I have been interacting about textual analysis. As you know, my students are working through a textual analysis of John 3:13. In addition to that, they each have a discourse unit from the New Testament that they are working through as an exegesis project, which will be submitted at the end of the course. I sent along this email to a student earlier:
"So, I have a few questions for you. Having done what you’ve done so far, how do you feel? Are you getting comfortable with it? Three weeks ago if someone asked you to think through a textual issue, would you have known what to do? Do you think as you teach going forward that this is something you could put into practice (knowing that you get faster as time progresses and that some issues are just irrelevant)?"
He responded:
"Wow…thanks for asking! I am getting more comfortable with it yes. I have read all the material but one article you sent us. It was very fascinating. I had no idea what all those notes on the bottom of the Greek text were for. An no I have not had any experience before with variants and textual issues. I am a little slower compared to other students so I appreciate all the help and videos. Honestly yes! This is very helpful moving forward with teaching when I come across this issues. I will need more Greek, of course, but it is nice to see that I can come to a conclusion with very little Greek!"
Now, I'm not talking about 9th grade algebra students turning into rocket scientists overnight.  But I'm glad that my students are getting this exposure to textual analysis. I'm glad that I have the opportunity to help them think through the questions that they need to be asking, and show them how to sort through the data that they have. Can they come to a conclusion after they work through the evidence? I believe that they can. Will it change over the years? It could, certainly. But the principles are not going to change. They might evaluate the evidence differently. They might decide one day that my principle of wider-geographical distribution, which I believe is a aspect of the evidence that deserves our fullest attention, might not be all that important to them. But they are working through these things, and we are laying a foundation through which every textual issue that arises in their future studies in the New Testament will be worked.

By the way, this is just one step in the exegetical process that we are concentrating on in this course. Next week we'll start lexical analysis! Two weeks after that we'll hit the road running in syntactical and diagrammatical analysis. And then we'll bring it all home thinking about biblical/theological analysis and carrying what we've learned into meaningful Bible exposition.

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