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Getting Started

As you have learned, the Bible is a complex book (or


) that was written over the course of hundreds of years by different authors in different situations all inspired by God. You may have noticed that the title of this course is “Biblical Perspectives (plural!) on Suffering and Disability.” The Bible has multiple perspectives on suffering and disability. These perspectives share points of coherence, and we can synthesize them in various ways. However, we have to begin by understanding some of these various perspectives in their own right before moving on to see how we can bring them together in creative and mutually informative ways. Therefore, this discussion will expose you to some of the diverse perspectives on suffering and disability in the Old Testament. We will focus on parts and genres of the Old Testament that we will not be able to cover fully in later workshops, namely Old Testament narrative (in Genesis ch. 32), law or legal texts (Leviticus ch. 21), and poetic wisdom writings (Job ch. 29). The goal here is to give you some experience reading these genres and to help you grasp the diversity that we find in the Old Testament on the topics of suffering and disability.

Another aim of this discussion is to model for you and give you some practice on


a passage of text. Annotating is a practice where we analyze a passage of Scripture by describing details, observing patterns, interpreting possible meanings, and asking questions about unclear points. Thus,


cover a wide range of different kinds of comments or notes that we can make on the text we are reading. This helps us to text read the text carefully, processing its meaning more deeply, and thinking creatively about its ramifications. You will be using this on several biblical passages in later course assignments. It will be the primary way that you interact with biblical passages in this class, and it is hoped that you can use it as a practice to help your own study of the Bible in the future. The video “Annotating 2 Samuel ch. 9” will demonstrate how to use your computer to annotate a text and will also discuss some of the complexities of the portrayal of disability and suffering in the Old Testament by using the story of Mephibosheth in 2 Samuel ch. 9 as an example.

Background Information

Commenting on Scripture using something like what we are doing with annotations is a practice that goes back thousands of years—even back to some of the earliest manuscripts of the Bible. Very early on, we find scribes making brief notes on Scripture as they copied it. Scribes and students of the Scriptures made a habit of adding these brief notes or “


” (from the Greek word for “comment”) to express their understanding of Scripture and help it continue to be a living document. Later, these


were collected in their books to capture the wisdom that they contained. Of course, you can add


(and highlights and circles and other marks) in the text and margins of your own hard-copy Bible. Many electronic Bibles (online or apps) also have tools for you to add highlights and notes to the text that you can save for later. This is a great habit to develop and gives you a way to record insights that the Holy Spirit gives to you as you are reading Scripture.

This is a picture of a 12th century manuscript of the Gospel of Mark surrounding by scholia on the top and right side. By adding annotations to scripture, you are participating in a long-standing habit of reading the Bible carefully and thoroughly.

The following is a list of several different kinds of annotations you can make on a passage. You should aim for some variety in your comments on a passage of scripture:

Comments about the genre or      type of writing that is illustrated in the passage (see the next activity      for more information on this)

Observations about key      conjunctions (and, but, therefore, because) and the grammar of sentences

Observations about the      structure of a passage. For example: Does it build a comparison or      contrast? Does it have a key turning point? Does it lead to a climactic      ending?

Noting a recurring word or      concept in a passage

Development of a theme or topic

Tracing the flow of an argument      or explanation

Notes about cultural dynamics      that appear in the passage (see the next activity again)

Comments on how this passage is      connected to material just before and after it in the book and how it      relates to material in the book as a whole

Interpretive comments that      explain key phrases or points in the passage

Questions at points where you      are confused or sense a need for more information about something

Connections that you make to      other relevant portions of Scripture

Note that the aim of annotation is to analyze the meaning of a passage of the Bible in its original historical and literary context, not to make connections that apply the passage to our current lives and situations. Application will be built into many of your assignments, but it is a step that follows good annotating.


Watch the video

“Annotating 2 Samuel ch.      9”

Read the following four Bible      passages: Genesis 32:22-32, Leviticus 21:16-24, 2 Samuel ch. 9, and Job 29:11-17.      Note that you will be asked to comment on one of these passages based on      the following breakdown:

If your last name starts with       a letter from A to H, then you will comment on Genesis 32:22-32. (I will       focus on the Genesis 32:22-32)

Make an initial post by day      four of the workshop week that includes the following (in 300 words):

Describe a key point that you       learned about 2 Samuel ch. 9 from the video. Also, ask any questions that       you have about the annotating process for future assignments.

Identify your assigned passage       (see above

GENESIS 32:22-32

). Then you will make two annotations       to analyze a piece of your passage. Choose one verse from your assigned       passage and make two annotations on it. Remember that your annotations       can be a description, an interpretation, a question, or some other kind       of note on the text.

Close the post by explaining a       key difference between 2 Samuel ch. 9 and your assigned passage that       illustrates the complexity of the portrayal of suffering & disability       in the Old Testament.

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