Dr. Siegel


Topics for Paper #2: Choose ONE

For your essay, choose one topic to answer. In your response, make sure that you have a way to approach your topic in mind. Present your understanding of the topic – your argument – and then choose certain, selected passages from the texts to support your understanding. Remember: your job is to persuade me that your way of seeing this topic is defensible and worthy of being agreed with. Do your job.

1. Discuss the nature of rules of conduct as presented in the Book of Exodus (primarily summarized in the Ten Commandments) and the nature of the rule of conduct as presented by Jesus in the Beatitudes in the Gospel of Matthew. What are the fundamental similarities and differences between the two sets of rules and why? Specifically mention at least one instance in which the law as given by Jesus contradicts the law as given by Moses and explain the significance of this contradiction in terms of the varying purposes of the two books.

2. Discuss the nature of the relationship between man and God in two of the three sacred texts we have read. Choose ONE way to characterize that relationship (master/slave, parent/child, teacher/student) and make this the thesis of your essay. Does this relationship progress over time? Does it develop or always stay the same? Use the texts to prove the nature of the relationship and to examine its significance. Provide some structure for your essay – in other words, think out ahead of time what you see this relationship providing…and then argue that. (For example, you might argue that it provides guidance, or insight, or a goal…remember to distinguish between the physical and the spiritual).

3. Much of Genesis and Exodus explains how the Israelites believed that they developed into a distinct people. As a nation they required political leaders and in some sense that is what Abraham, Joseph, Moses, and others are. What do you think that the writers of the Bible were trying to say constituted a good political leader (for that particular time and place)? What are his characteristics? What sorts of things does he need to do? What sorts of things must he avoid? Must he be a good family man? After you have completed your analysis of any Old Testament leader(s), compare Jesus to this model. Does he fit? If so, how? If not, why not? What different purpose might Jesus’ leadership serve and how can you tell?

4. Discuss the qualities of the deity presented in two or three of the texts. The Lord (Old Testament), Jesus (New Testament) and Allah (Koran) are all supposed to be the same deity. Do they share similar characteristics? Provide a personality review of the God of your choice. Do not avoid mentioning the bad if you are convinced he is good, and do not avoid mentioning the good if you think he is bad. Get the whole picture. Come to some conclusions about the deity in the text. Then compare that character analysis with the deity as presented in one of the other two sacred texts. Are the characteristics similar or different? How? Why? Account for differing circumstances! Naturally, your discussion will have a lot to do with the way the deity interacts with man. Look for character traits such as mercy and love, but do not overlook a bad temper and punishment.

5. Consider that in the Old and New Testaments, man spends most of his time trying to close the rift between him and God caused by Adam and Eve’s transgression in the Garden of Eden. Focus on the problem of broken trust in the relationship in Genesis/Exodus and Matthew. Choose specific scenes that reflect your understanding of the attempts on both sides to heal that rift. You cannot use the Koran in response to this topic.

6. Consider that both Moses and Jesus are the heroes of the narratives they appear in. And their life stories have a lot in common. For example, they were both threatened as infants, both grew up to be leaders of their people, both performed miracles, etc. Of course, there are significant differences between the two characters as well. Write a paper in which you argue that the author of the Gospel of Matthew consciously modeled his representation of the character of Jesus after the character of Moses in the Book of Exodus. You may reach whatever conclusion you wish about his reasons, but present your observations and analysis clearly and depend very heavily on the texts in question to support or dismiss claims. You might decide to set out to prove that the differences between Moses and Jesus are more significant than the similarities (which of course you would need to present before you can dismiss them). Remember - rely on the texts!

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