Some background thoughts on methodology (I)

The following blog entry is adapted from a post written after my first year of studying with the VU University (Vrije Universiteit). It was originally entitled, “One of the most important things I learned last year: Methodology.”

At some point in time, I’d like to talk/write a bit more about my own (developing) methodology in looking at the Bible. But until then, here is something with which to begin.

Academically speaking, the most important thing I learned last year was about methodology [I’d define methodology as how one looks at something and then on what basis one makes conclusions]. It was partially through reading texts dealing with methodology (including several case studies related to prostitution). My learning occurred mainly through the general atmosphere of the University that methodology should be taken very seriously, including being able to respond to the questions that different methodological perspectives would bring to one’s work.

Since methodology is one of the things that Calvin Seminary did not spend a lot of time on (as one cannot really preach methodology), my understanding of methodology could use some work. Without an awareness of the methodology involved, I lose one of my best tools in evaluating another’s work and conclusions. Your methodology belies the assumptions that you have made in coming to the conclusions that you have. If your methodology is faulty, so are your results (methodology is thus one of the biggest concerns in writing a dissertation). If your work is not capable of withstanding criticism and the questions addressed by certain methodologies, then your work will be dismissed. So if I want both to understand and be heard better, I need to understand, acknowledge my use of, and argue against the different methodologies involved in studying the Bible.

I’ll include in the next blog entry the report I made on biblical exegesis and the books I read to learn more about this. My supervisor thought it was done well (and it is slightly less academic and more personal than a published work on methodology) so it’s read-able but it’s still a discussion on biblical methodology (with a bit of a feeling of a book report – so if you haven’t read the books, you’re a bit lost, although maybe you’ll want to read one of the books now).

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4 thoughts on “Some background thoughts on methodology (I)

  1. That’s not methodology, that’s method.

    Methodology is the analysis of method: what does this method do that others don’t; why it is appropriate for the task; what you hope it will achieve; the credibility of the method and so on.

    The way you look at something and the basis on which you draw conclusions is your method.

  2. Hi, Brenda. This is quite belated, but on defining the word “methodology,” fwiw, I don’t see a problem with your usage:

    Mirriam-Webster’s (10th) first definition is “a body of methods, rules, and postulates employed by a discipline; a particular procedure or set of procedures.” So too my laptop’s dictionary: “A system of methods used in a particular area of study.” This is what Ros calls “method”: “The way you look at something and the basis on which you draw your conclusions.” These all accord with the way I always here the word “methodology” used, and with your use in this entry. A methodology is a *sheaf* of methods used to skin some particular cat.

    The second def in M-W 10th is “the *analysis* of the principles or procedures of inquiry in a particular field” (emphasis mine). This second use appears to be that which Ros asserts as the only proper use. Of course, this use is also implicit in your piece, insofar as you write about a sheaf of methods needing to be justified as appropriate to skinning the cat under consideration.

    This came off ‘way more pedantic than it was in my head. I actually just learned of your blog from Targuman and ducked in to say Hello. :^)

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