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Old Testament Topics For Essays High School

Six 2.5 page (minimum) Topic Papers due alternate Weeks (mostly)--see calendar for due dates; 10 pts each/60 total towards final grade.

You must remember that you are in conversation not only with the Bible text but a host of scholars who have come (and gone) before you, or may still be speaking in (and out of) the Spirit today.  Write in this conversational but academic way showing agreement and disagreements AND that you learned something. (Don't just spout out what you already know or think you know or "believe"!)

General Hints [borrowed from Leuchter & Lamb (2016)]

Avoid “I think”, “I feel”, “I believe”, but rather state what you think without qualifiers.

Limit yourself to one exclamation point and one usage of the word “very” per essay! (For some of you, this will be very painful, but in this case, pain is very good!)

Use commentaries that focus exclusively upon the book you have chosen (i.e., that are not 1-volume OT or entire Bible commentaries) and were written in the last 30-40 years (i.e., not Calvin, Clarke or Henry). You can use these resources, but you need to use others as well, which will involve a trip to the library. Good commentary series to use: Word, Tyndale/IVP, NICOT, Interpretation, Anchor, OT Library (see more below).

Avoid including long quotations from secondary literature. Simply summarize scholarly views briefly.

Argue for your perspective on the main point of the passage is. Make a compelling case and support it with evidence. Whenever you refer to the text, give a reference. Don’t just say, “Scholars think...”; state which scholars think that way and give reasons.

Avoid non-peer-reviewed  online articles or helps, e.g., Wikipedia.  Resist copying and pasting from untrusted Web sources. (That includes good old Matthew Henry and John Calvin online!)

 Step 1. Choosing a Topic from the long list of possibles for each section.
Aim for one that is (1) interesting to you, (2)manageable (with readily available sources) that you can narrow in on an especiallyinteresting or important aspect, and (3)arguable--you'll want to express your opinion in conclusion based on the available primaryandsecondarysources and authorities (see step 2).  If you don't think you can write 2.5 pages on a topic, choose a different one!

Step 2. Research Your Topic

Each 2.5 page (minimum) Topical Paper will require a combination of at leastthree (3) scholarly sources from both the ATLA database in EBSCOhost andprint commentaries and/or Bible dictionaries (all found in the Guesman Reading and Reflection Room) or quality e-books from EBSCO or Ebrary, plus the Bible.   Yes, you may supplement with other online resources--but neither exclusively nor un-critically!

Avoid non-peer-reviewed  online articles or helps, e.g., Wikipedia.  Resist copying and pasting from untrusted Web sources. (That includes good old Matthew Henry and John Calvin online!)

 One caution: In your research, it is vital that you not allow your expanding knowledge of what others think about your topic to drown your own curiosities, sensibilities, and insights. Instead, as your initial questions expand and then diminish with increased knowledge from your research, your own deeper concerns, insights, and point of view should emerge and grow. You might even try to reach new conclusions or arrive at a new perspective about your topic.

A. Consult Standard Sources (Search by Topic in Tables of Content--and USE INDEXES)
Encyclopedia articles, dictionaries, and other standard historical reference tools contain a wealth of material--and helpful bibliographies--to orient you in your topic and its historical context. Look for the best, most authoritative, and up-to-date treatments. Checking cross-references will deepen your knowledge. Some of the most widely used resources, available in Eberly library (Guesman Reading Room), are:

General Reference Tools:

Anchor Bible Dictionary

New Interpreters Bible Dictionary

Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible
Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible

One volume commentaries

The Oxford Bible Commentary. 
The New Jerome Biblical Commentary. 

Eerdmans companion to the Bible.

Cambridge companion to the Bible

Ramsay, W. M. (1994). Westminster Guide to the Books of the Bible. (e-books in EBSCO)

And more . . .

Multi-volume commentaries

             The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Books of the Bible (Online)

      New Interpreter's Bible 220.7 I612 

      Word Biblical Commentaries  220.7 W924

      Interpretation Commentaries  220.7 I615

      Exploring the Old Testament (IVP) 222.1 W474e 2003

One volume Introductions to the Old Testamen

221.61 H321i 2004 : Harrison, R. K.

221.61 L345o : La Sor, William

221.61 L856a 2006 : Longman, Tremper. 

221.61 R397o : Rendtorff, Rolf,

221.61 W518i : West, James King, 

221.66 M687 2012 : Mobley, Gregory,

       and many other browse-able in Reference

General books on ancient Israel:

Life in Biblical Israel. Louisville: WestminsterJohnKnox, 2001.
De Vaux, Roland, Ancient Israel. 2 vols. New York: McGraw Hill, 1965.

It's wise to start listing the sources you've consulted right away in standard bibliographical format (MLA or APA)  


B. Check Periodical Literature (Journals) (SEARCH TOPICALLY, BY SCRIPTURE, OR SUBJECT)
Important scholarship in biblical studies is frequently published in academic journals and periodicals. In consulting the chief articles dealing with your topic, you'll learn where agreements, disagreements, and open questions stand, how older treatments have fared, and the latest relevant tools and insights. Since you cannot consult them all, work back from the latest, looking for the best and most directly relevant articles from the last five, ten, or twenty years, as ambition and time allow.


The place to start is ATLA Database in EBSCOhost. Major biblical journals indexed in ATLA are:

Catholic Biblical Quarterly
Journal of Biblical Literature
Journal for the Study of the Old Testament
Vetus Testament

Note that even foreign language journals often publish articles in English.


Quality Online resources are less systematically available and up-to-date. But you can find links and some full articles and bibliographies online. Reputable guides to the many religious studies and theological Websites are housed at:

Your research topic will probably require you to look at a combination of primary and secondary sources.

STEP 3. You can then outline a presentation of your thesis that marshals your research materials into anorderly and convincing argument. Functionally your outline might look like this: (use the notebook function in EasyBib.com--Waynesburg Library Edition)

1 Introduction. Repeat the Topic Question and announce your thesis.
2 Background. Present the necessary literary or historical or theological context and issues of the question.

Note the "state of the question" or the main agreements and disagreements about it from scholars.

3 Argument. Present your findings in a clear and logical way. Marshal evidence tosupport your thesis and develop it further by:

• offering examples from your primary and secondary sources (dictionaries, commentaries, articles, etc.)
• citing or discussing authorities as necessary to bolster your argument
• contrasting your thesis with other treatments, if any, either historical or contemporary
• confirming it by showing how it makes good sense of the data or answers related questions orsolves previous puzzles.

4 Conclusion. Restate the thesis in a way that recapitulates your argument and its consequencesfor the OT field or its impact on the contemporary religious understandings.  For your concluding thoughtful reflection, you may choose to find connections or trajectories from "then & there" to "here & now."  Be creative.  BUT, do not leap to "here" (today) before you've climbed over to "there" (original contexts).

Each Research Topical Paper should be at least 2.5 double-spaced pages 12 pt in standard MLA or APA formatting for margins, font, citations, etc.  (Don't include citations, bibliography, your name, course, etc., in the page count!)  For MLA style see: https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/747/01/; For APA sytle see: https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/section/2/10/.

The grade for this paper will be divided by:

10 pts for submitting  the paper on time (email by midnight of the due date to rblake@waynesburg.edu)

30 pts for evidence of research (requisite number of citations & their engagement).

30 pts for creatively expressing the key issues in context (exegesis not eisegesis)

15 pts for sound grammatical expression and adherence to MLA or APA format.

15 pts for thoughtful reflection on the passage/text.

 I'll be happy to meet with you individually or in groups to review these guidelines--but please arrange a meeting well before the due dates. My weekly schedule is posted outside my office--120 Eberly Library.

Theology Topics

Included here are various topics that relate to theological issues, especially ministry and Christian growth in the context of the Church. Also included are historical documents of the Church, including many of the classic creeds and confessions of the Church, as well as contemporary Articles of Faith and position statements.

Theological Issues

Short essay contrasting theology seen as absolute truth and theology understood as testimony conditioned by time and place.

A simple chart listing the major differences between the five points of classical Calvinism and corresponding Wesleyan-Arminian views.

Comparison of the basic perspectives of Arminianism and classic Calvinism, concluding that most modern-day churches that cling to Calvinism in doctrine are actually Arminian-Wesleyan in practice, as well as noting the need for balance between the extremes of either position.

Examination of the Christian doctrine of security, contrasting the two extremes of unconditional security and eternal insecurity, concluding with a middle position that emphasizes God's grace in mutual relationship.

A discussion of the logical and biblical problems with the idea of predestination and the absolute foreknowledge of God, with a proposal for an incarnational model of God rather than a metaphysical one.

Examination of the word "change" in Malachi 3:6-7a as a proof text for the immutability of God.

A detailed essay examining from a biblical perspective the tension between the death of Jesus as predestined by God, or as the result of human decisions; concludes by examining the implications of this tension for theories of the atonement.

The concept of the 'pre-existence of the Son' in systematic theology in relation to the historical dimension of the biblical witness to God, highlighting the differences in method and goals of systematic theology and biblical interpretation.

A discussion of the roots of the debates about biblical inerrancy, their impact on the church, the relation to various theories of inspirations, and inerrancy in relation to Faith Statements about Scripture.

An examination of the theological basis for the renewed emphasis on "word and table" as the structure for Christian worship in some historically low church traditions.

Short article distinguishing humanism from secularism and atheism, concluding that some of the the biblical perspective is humanistic, but is sacral humanism in which all of life is placed under God, which calls for a careful balance in how the term "humanism" is used pejoratively.

A reflection on the problem of natural evil in the world, challenging the common assumptions about God that force the question to be framed in certain ways, suggesting that the problem is actually created in how we view the nature of God and the expectation of how he should work in the world.

An analysis of biblical perspectives on the Second Coming of Christ, in contrast to many popular ideas of the rapture.

A detailed look at the popular concepts surrounding the Second Coming, the millennial reign of Christ, and the rapture with an analysis of their biblical basis from a Wesleyan theological perspective.

A brief survey of some of the problems with the idea of a secret rapture and speculations about end times.

A series of ten biblical and theological questions that appear to have easy answers, but require a little more reflection to avoid folk theology.

A short article in outline format that compares the classical philosophical idea of ex nihilo creation ("out of nothing") with a more biblical model of creation out of chaos.

Theology and the Church

An essay on the Protestant Principle of "Faith Alone" traced through Habakkuk, Paul, Martin Luther, and John Wesley, concluding that genuine Faith is faithfulness in commitment to God despite circumstances and religious ideas about God.

Essay on the need for dialog in the Church of the Nazarene on homosexuality with suggested parameters for that dialog.

A brief survey of the inadequacy of traditional ways of expressing the doctrine of entire sanctification, proposing that the relational concept of love of both God and others provides an overarching and inclusive model.

A frankly negative evaluation of the current state of the holiness movement in traditional holiness churches, concluding with a positive outlook for the future of the holiness message and the rise of a new emphasis on holiness.

A reflective article based on Nehemiah 13 addressing the tendency of religious traditions to drift from their original purpose and vision as they move further away from their origins; suggestions for maintaining religious identity.

A biblically based reflective essay dealing with the mission of the Church and implications for ministry and education in the church in light of that mission.  Note:  If printed, this will take 25-30 pages.

Dr. M. V. Scutt is now retired, but served as the District Superintendent, Southwest Indiana District Church of the Nazarene.  This is his 1995 Annual Report to the District Assembly in which he lays a theological foundation from the Wesleyan tradition for the evangelistic mission of the Church.

Examination of the popular idea of "born Again" used by some evangelicals, its biblical background, and what the biblical and traditional concept of "new birth" means.

Some people have a false view of God as vindictive and judgmental, when in fact God is presented in the Bible as gracious, loving, and forgiving.

A short article providing practical guidelines for ethical decision making based on biblical moral principles.


A reference archive and a short history of various creeds and confessions of the Christian Faith from all periods of Church History, including the Ecumenical Creeds, Creeds of the Reformation, Roman Catholic and Orthodox, the Reformed Tradition, the Wesleyan Tradition, Modern Faith Statements, and Various Position Statements.

A collection of biblical studies, theological reflections, and general articles that address primarily the topic of women in ministry, as well as other topics related to women in the Church.

Links to online articles dealing with the general topic of women in ministry.

Selected writings from the history of the church that address significant or relevant issues facing the church today. Since there are many sites on the web that contain the full text of many historical writings, those presented here will normally be limited to short excerpts that have particular relevance to ongoing discussions in the various forums, are not easily available elsewhere, or are presented in digested or edited form to make them more readable.

John Wesley's Sermon "Catholic Spirit" in modern English
John Wesley on Differences of Opinion Among Christians
The Question, “What Is an Arminian?” Answered by a Lover of Free Grace (John Wesley)
John Calvin on Infant Baptism
C. S. Lewis on Inerrancy, Inspiration, and Historicity
Women's Speaking Justified, Proved, and Allowed by the Scriptures (Margaret Fell Fox)
Female Ministry; or, Woman's Right to Preach the Gospel (Catherine Booth)

A series of articles examining the concern with the idea of holiness of heart and life in the history of the church.

Psalm 51 and the Language of Transformation (Dennis Bratcher)

Holiness in the Early Church (Jirair Tashjian)

The Holiness Movement: Dead or Alive? (Keith Drury)

Sin and Holiness (Brad Mercer) [Dutch]

The Holiness Manifesto

-Dennis Bratcher, Copyright © 2013, Dennis Bratcher - All Rights Reserved
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