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The Direct Citation Of Scripture In Senior Theses

Talking points about the direct citation of Scripture as proof of an argument in a senior thesis.

1. It is my experience that students have generally found Bible verses to apply to their thesis from as opposed to the Bible. They have often hunted through different translations of a certain passage and found the one worded to best support their argument. This is not research and has no place in a research paper.

2. The same rules for vetting the citation of an academic book should apply to vetting a citation of Scripture in a thesis. If a student has written a thesis arguing that Christians should learn to dance and they used 2 Samuel 6:14 (Wearing a linen ephod, David was dancing before the LORD with all his might…) as a proof of this claim, that student should be able to answer the following questions: What is linen? What is an ephod? Who was David? When did he live? Where did he live? What kind of dance was David doing? Who wrote 2 Samuel? When was 2 Samuel written? These are fairly basic questions which any student could be expected to answer about a citation or quote from a book by Stanley Hauerwas or David Hart. They are not unreasonable questions.

3. If a student quotes from 2 Samuel in their thesis— and I do loathe saying this, there is no glee— the most difficult question for a student to answer at their thesis defense will probably be, “Have you read 2 Samuel? What is it about?”

4. If an American high school student wants to use a passage from Scripture to prove a point in an academic paper, and if their interpretation of that passage is reasonable, another theologian or philosopher will have already made the point. Do not quote from Scripture, quote from that theologian commenting on Scripture. In an academic paper, do not quote from the book of Acts, quote from Jaroslav Pelikan’s commentary on Acts. Do not quote from St. Matthew’s gospel, quote from Dale Allison’s commentary on it.

5. The power of Scripture transcends the power of all other books; inasmuch as Scripture is more powerful than all other books, it is far more easily misused than other books. The student who directly cites Scripture is attempting to harnass a profound power. Does that student want to make himself responsible for use of such a powerful thing, or would it be far more prudent to use a commentator on Scripture

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