I am doing mine on Ezra 1:1-11
4. Literary Analysis (approx. 500 words)
Discuss the contents of the text and its particularities. This is not a re-telling of the text in your
own words. Use the following as a guide.
Structure. Give an outline of the biblical text you are researching. Here is an example of an
outline of a biblical passage:
The Allegory of the Great Tree (Ezekiel 31:1-18)
1. Introduction of the oracle (vv. 1-2a)
a. Date formula (v. 1a)
b. Prophetic word formula (“the word of the Lord came to me, saying”) (v. 1b)
c. Command to Ezekiel to prophesy against Pharaoh, king of Egypt (v. 2a)
2. The magnificent tree (vv. 2b-9)
a. Rhetorical question (inclusio): to whom to you compare? (v. 2b)
b. Allegory of the tree (vv. 3-9)
3. The downfall of the tree (vv. 10-14)
a. An introduction of the oracle and reason for judgment: pride (v. 10)
b. Report of the punishment: the nations will cut down the tree (vv. 11-14)
4. The tree in the underworld (vv. 15-18)
a. Messenger formula (“thus says the Lord”) (v. 15a)
b. Report of the tree’s fall to Sheol/the underworld (vv. 16-17)
5. Conclusion: summary of previous material (v. 18)
a. Rhetorical question (inclusio): to whom to you compare? (v. 18a)
b. Prophetic utterance formula (“oracle/utterance of the Lord”) (v. 18b)
Literary context. Read the literary context of the passage. Ideally, read the whole book from
which the passage derives (we have been reading whole books in this class to facilitate this
process). How does the passage you are examining relate to its surrounding literary context?
How does the passage relate to other biblical texts (in the OT)?1
Textual features. Discuss various textual features depending on the text’s genre. See relevant
articles in Longman & Enns’ Dictionary of the Old Testament: Wisdom, Poetry & Writings.
[This is the most important section of the paper. Focus your comments on textual features in this
section of the assignment. Above all, be very specific here. Include specific examples and
biblical references to back up your conclusions.]
In general, look for the following:
• repeated words, phrases, or concepts (in Hebrew, look for repeated root words)
1 You can talk about the New Testament in the part about “theological reflection” below, but not before. This is not
a theological paper about the NT.
• key themes
• verb tense (present, past, future tense) and changes in verb tense (if you know Hebrew, be
• subject of verbs and changes in the subject of verbs
• subject matter and changes in subject matter.
• rhetorical questions (questions that are asked but not answered, and their answer is
For a narrative text, look for the following:
• plot development (opening scene, developing/rising action in the story, climax—when
the story’s action reaches its highest point, conclusion of the story—this is where the
action tapers off)
• point of view: is the narrative first person or is there a third person narrator? Is the
narrator omniscient, seeing more details than the story’s characters? Or is the perspective
of the narrator limited like the characters?
• characterization—the development of characters (How are they described? Are they
flat—barely described? Or round—more fully described?)
• dialogue (this is one key aspect of identifying narratives)
• ambiguity—what does the narrative not openly talk about? Are there gaps in the narrative
that you as the reader are left to work out? Carefully delineate what the narrative says and
• summarizing or formulaic statements
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