John Nordin
COMM 5110 Special Topics in Communication Theory:

Arguing Sacred Texts

Note: not updated for 2012

Description: Arguments on religious subjects are a key aspect of human culture, and texts privileged by various faith traditions are a critical source of evidence used to advance these arguments.  But interpretation of these texts is complicated by reading them out of their original cultural and linguistic environment and by significant disagreements concerning the methods and even the very necessity for interpretation.  Through case studies of particular texts, this class examines the interpretive strategies used to derive meaning with a focus on hermeneutical methods such as textual criticism, rhetorical criticism and literary criticism, as used by academic biblical scholars.  These debates will be framed by a discussion of the historical and cultural context.  Interpretation of the Qur’an and the Granth Sahib will also be briefly considered. This class is intended for undergraduates only.

Textbooks: No textbooks are required. Students will need to have access to a Bible. Readings will be made available as the class proceedes.

Moodle site


Class handouts
Assignment 1: Reflection

Assignment 3: (non Senior Paper)
Assignment 3 for Senior Papers

Assignment 4&5 (non Senior Paper)

Useful links

A note on method Teaching religious topics in the context of a secular university and a diverse student population is possible and desirable - but raises fears. In this class we take religious claims seriously but not uncritically. A faith commitment is neither a prerequisite for attendance, nor a requirement (or necessarily an aid) for doing well. The questions that motivate the human interest in religion are ultimate: meaning, purpose, understanding the gap between what we hope and what we experience, our destination after death. Not the least of these ultimates is a quest for knowledge and a commitment to follow the truth wherever it leads us. Students should understand that this class is neither a Bible study, nor a deconstruction of religion. Instead we will consider the claims of texts called sacred as arguments and apply our understanding of argumentation to them in the hopes of pursuing the truth.

Perquisites: COMM 1313W or COMM 3601 or one class in Religious Studies

Senior paper: This class can be used for writing a senior paper.


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