Interpreting the Text (Lewis, Spring 2016)

last modified 2016-04-28T16:30:13-04:00

Note: This guide emphasizes the scholarly resources available in the Tarver Library to assist you with preparing a précis on an Old Testament passage for your CHR 101 Interpreting the Text Workshop.  If you are in the WRT section, your guide is here.  

Your one-page outline requires you to use translations, the annotations in your text or the Jewish Study Bible, one commentary, and one dictionary.  This assignment is to assist you with interpreting biblical texts responsibly.  You will be digging the meaning out of the text rather than reading into the text what you want or expect to find.  


After you have read your text several times and have become comfortable with it, it is time to read the text in several translations to get a "feel" for the passage and to look for any striking differences.  Remember, you want to use a translation (works from the original Hebrew and Greek and converts it into another language) rather than a paraphrase (which takes a translation and renders it into more modern English).  You must read the text in the JSB, NRSV, and GNB/TEV.

Note:  just because you find them in one of these sources doesn't mean you should use it; be sure to use only the required translations.

Print versions available in the Tarver Library include:

Jewish Study Bible (TT)
REF BS 895 J4 2004

New Oxford Annotated Bible: New Revised Standard Version: with the Apocrypha (4th edition) (NRSV)
REF BS 191.5 .A1 2010 O94 2010

Good News Bible:  The Bible in Today's English Version (GNB) (TEV)
REF BS 195 .T63 1986

Electronic access to Bible translations available includes:


Scholarly commentaries focus on the biblical text and include the scripture for your passage.  Your précis must include at least one potentially important idea that you have taken from one of the following commentaries

Entries in the two Mercer commentaries will be shorter than those in the New Interpreter's Bible or the Old Testament Library commentary where the entire volume is devoted to the biblical book.  More information on these two commentaries is provided below arranged by the biblical books.

Genesis 11:1-9

Genesis:  A Commentary

Introduction:  volume 1 pages 321-334
Commentary:  volume 1 pages 410-413

Genesis 16:1-6

Genesis:  A Commentary

Introduction:  volume 1 pages 321-334
Commentary:  volume 1 pages 450-452

Numbers 20:1-13

Numbers:  A Commentary

Introduction:  volume 2 pages 3-23
Commentary:  volume 2 pages 153 (text), 157-161

I Samuel 18:1-4

I & II Samuel:  A Commentary

Introduction:  volume 2 pages 949-968
Overview:  volume 2 page 1115
Commentary:  volume 2 pages 1116 (text), 1118-1120

Jeremiah 26:1-11

Jeremiah:  A Commentary

Introduction:  volume 6 (VI) pages 555-572
Overview:  volume 6 (VI) pages 768-770
Commentary:  volume 6 (VI) pages 770-774

  • Use the right sources, in the right amount.
    • In order to complete this assignment, you must use the following sources: three translations in addition to that found in The Jewish Study Bible, annotations in the JSB or from your text, one commentary, and one dictionary. 
  • Remember to document your sources, including volume numbers for the Anchor Bible Dictionary, New Interpreters Bible, Interpreter's Dictionary of the Bible, and New Interpreter's Dictionary of the Bible.
    • include the title, page number, and volume of the source with your notes
    • consider taking a picture of the front of the source along with your notes to make sure you get the right source for your documentation
    • if you make copies of any sources, remember to include the title of the source along with page number and volume
  • This work is "cyclical" which means that one thing often leads to another.  For example,
    • differences in translations may lead you to ideas or terms to look up in a dictionary or a commentary for insight
    • reading the commentary leads you back to the translation to see if the same phrase is used in more than one translation
    • reading the commentary may take you back to the dictionary and vice versa
  • Commentaries and dictionaries may not always agree on some issues.  Consider how you should negotiate these differences.  At the very least, you should note the differences and state that scholars disagree.  An even better approach is to take a side and explain your reasoning.
  • This is going to take time, so don't put it off until the last minute.
  • Read the text, read the text, read the text ... familiarity can bring understanding.
  • The Bible Gateway site allows you to listen to the passage; sometimes you hear something you might miss when reading.
  • Please don't re-shelve (or hide!) the sources.  Theresa will monitor the area and try to keep the items in order on the reference shelves.