Stump Speeches and the Synoptic Problem: A Lesson Outline

Like nearly every other American user of the Internet, I have recently been following the reports of plagiarism in Melania Trump’s 2016 RNC stump speech. As others have been quick and correct to point out, Ms. Trump (or, more likely, her speech-writer) is not alone in lifting material from other speeches. Although I’ve been enjoying the humor of these posts, and of the Trump campaign’s response to the allegations, I really don’t have a strong opinion about what Melania(‘s speech writer) did or didn’t do or why that matters. Those concerns are completely irrelevant to me. Although Anthony Le Donne may think me a scoundrel, I politely and good-humoredly demur. The circus amuses me, and I certainly appreciate the bread, but I’m after something else.

What I am most interested in is how Ms. Trump’s speech and its relationship to a 2008 speech from Michelle Obama may be leveraged for teaching. As a student and teacher of Bible, like many others, I seized upon these events as a modern corollary to what biblical scholars call source criticism. And so I have developed a lesson outline draft that uses the Melania/Michelle speech as an introduction to mapping literary relationships among the Synoptic Gospels. It is my intent that this activity be a fun(ny) entree into the Synoptic Problem, a tool for honing reading skills, and a way of reminding students that they already know how to read carefully, critically, and comparatively.

Note: the outline below is meant as a companion to a Synoptic Gospels coloring exercise, but does not include directions for this activity.

GoogleDoc Link:

Readers may use this outline for their own teaching. Proper credit appreciated, but not required; I’m not going to hunt you down.