My knowledge of historical exegesis has grown immensely during the course of this semester. More importantly, I gained a wealth of knowledge on the process of research and in-depth analysis that I can now apply to my other courses of study. Prior to this class I knew almost nothing about the historical receptions of Jesus’ parables except for the few examples of them I had seen personally. I now feel like I have the knowledge and ability to observe and analyze these artistic works going forward. The level and depth of analyses that was required in this course was something I had never previously been required to do and I found this course both stimulating and challenging. Just as important as gaining factual knowledge on the subject, I gained the knowledge to use my new analytical skills in different disciplines and in my other courses of study.
The Parable of the Talents has always been a parable of significance to me and it was very rewarding to be able to analyze it with the help of someone as knowledgeable and helpful as Dr. Gowler. Growing up in a Christian community and household I only got one perspective on the meaning of this parable but after taking this class I was exposed to so many different ways of approaching Jesus’ teaching. I personally always viewed the parable as one regarding the gifts God gave us. I thought Jesus was warning about the sin of wasting one’s gifts and not fully utilizing one’s talents. After taking this class I now know that the alternate translation of the word “talent” may have led me initially to drawing the wrong conclusions from this passage. Instead I now believe that it is about spreading the word of God’s love and grace. The wicked slave simply kept the word of God to himself and did not spread it to others and that is a grave sin. There are many other ways to interpret this parable and its nuances and I believe that was evidenced in our third trajectory which involved interviewing members of the Oxford community regarding their personal interpretations of the parable. This is the main reason I am glad I took this course, other than just gaining a large amount of factual and applicable knowledge I also learned to think more critically and objectively about my long standing assumptions about my religion.
Both of my first two trajectories challenged me greatly and forced me to go beyond my comfort zone in order to analyze them. The projects involved the interpretation of visual art and poetry, neither of which are areas that I have extensive experience in. The paper in which I analyzed Milton’s poem “When I Consider How My Light is Spent” was the first paper I ever wrote about poetry and I actually greatly enjoyed it. This class more so that any others I have taken at Oxford forced me to grow my knowledge and skills by necessity and I believe I am better for it. Not only was I required to learn about the actual course material but we were also taught how to do receptive histories and this particular type of research. In was in this area that I found Dr. Gowler’s example from his textbook in progress very helpful. It was beneficial to have examples of finished products for us to strive for and orient our own research around. As previously stated, before this course I didn’t know what a receptive history or historical exegesis even was but I now believe I have the knowledge and ability to complete one.
This class also challenged me to leave any preconceived notions I may have had about the pieces and look at them objectively before drawing conclusions. Especially in the visual art pieces I found this difficult because I had some very strong beliefs that turned out to not be verifiable. I believe that going forward this will be a very valuable skill for research in other courses. In order to effectively and correctly analyze these pieces I had to first go to the art itself and then to other receptions of the piece before I began to formulate my own conclusions. While I often found this challenging, I believe it is an invaluable skill and ability that this course helped me cultivate.
In conclusion I am extremely glad I took this course. Not only did I gain large amounts of factual knowledge about historical exegesis but I also gained applicable skills for future classes and research projects. I was also forced to challenge and reexamine my religious beliefs from a more objective standpoint and for that I am grateful. I learned a lot about the individual pieces of art and artists that I studied and I believe that I am now a more informed and knowledgeable observer of visual art and poetry. This course was extremely challenging but it was even more rewarding. I am now a more knowledgeable and able observer of historical exegesis and receptions of Jesus’ parables.