At the conclusion of this course, the student should be able to:
1. Acquire the skills to read and discuss the biblical text with reasonable ease and
2. Name the genre and describe the generic features of a passage from the Hebrew Bible.
3. Distinguish among the assumptions of traditional biblical interpretation and the methodology
and conclusions of modern biblical criticism.
4. Distinguish between the assumptions and techniques of traditional biblical exegesis and
the theory and methodology of modern biblical criticism.
5. Describe historical origins and redaction of biblical literature.
6. Discern the major literary and religious themes and recount their development.
7. Identify the major personalities, events and political geography of Ancient Israel.
8. Demonstrate familiarity with the unfolding story line of the biblical narrative.
9. Discuss the biblical text as the classical literature of an ancient people with sources in
and shared cultural features with Mesopotamia, Egypt, Hatti and Canaan-Phoenicia,
which has helped to shape the development of the western world.
10. Explain the evolution of the religion of Judaism from the matrix of Ancient Israel.
I. Introduction to Traditional Understandings of the Hebrew Scripture
II. Modern Methods of Biblical Research
A. Documentary Theory
B. Comparative Near Eastern literature
C. The theory of the original matriarchy, the nature of patriarchy and its literary heritage
D. Midrash and biblical literary style compared with other narrative styles
E. Contemporary historiographic and hermeneutic criticism
III. The Covenant -- Tracing its Literary Presence in the Creation Story
A. The flood and Abraham
B. Abraham as ancestor of the Israelite and Ishmaelite traditions
IV. The Akedah
A. Its literary history, traditional interpretations
B. Its connections to the sacrificial cult
C. Its centrality in the history of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem
V. Machpelah -- the Burial of Sarah and Narratives Concerning Claim to the Land of Canaan
VI. The story of Sodom and the Code of Hospitality
VII. The Jacob Tradition: Tribal History and Legend
VIII. The Rape of Dinah and the Levitical Origins
IX. Judah and Tamar and the Beginnings of the Judean Davidic Traditions
X. Joseph and the Northern Israelite Traditions
XI. The Exodus Story
A. Testing the historical reality of the story
B. Testing the durability and thematic credibility of the story
C. Miracles, historiography and literary style
D. The nature of prophecy and Yahwist understanding
E. The evolutionary reality of the Mosaic traditions
XII. The Book of Joshua: the Tribes of Yahweh and the Period of the Conquest/Rebellion
XIII. The Book of Judges
A. The period of the Settlement
B. Israel facing the external threat of Canaanite and Philistine domination -- Deborah as
prophetess and military leader
C. Israel facing the internal threat of assimilation and acculturation -- the story of Samson
XIV. The Monarchy
A. The tradition from Samuel to Saul with emphasis on the literary characteristics
of these figures as they interact
B. The beginnings of prophetic criticism of the monarchy
C. The advent of David, his rise and reign
D. The accession of Solomon
E. The transformation of Israel from an agrarian, egalitarian, tribal confederation to
an urban, military aristocracy
XV. The Monarchies of David and Solomon
XVI. The Divided Kingdoms and the Rise of the Literary Prophets: (Elijah), Hosea, Amos and Isaiah
Through the Assyrian Invasion and the Destruction of Israel
XVII. The Nature and Content of Prophecy: Yahwist Social Criticism, the Yahwist Hermeneutic
XVIII. The Deuteronomists and the Reform of Josiah
XIX. The Babylonian Exile
XX. Yahwism vs. Zoroastrian Dualism
XXI. Isaiah and the Coming of Cyrus and the Persian Conquest
XXIII. Ezra and Nehemiah--the Restoration of Judah and the Canonization of the Torah
XXIV. Yahwist Wisdom Literature: Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Lamentations and the
Song of Solomon
XXV. The Jewish-Roman War
XXVI. The Mishnah and Rabbinic Judaism
XXVII. The Jewish Diaspora
The Bible Unearthed: Archaeology's New Vision of Ancient Israel and the Origin of its Sacred Texts. Finkelstein, Israel and Silberman, Neil Asher. Touchstone. 2002 (classic)
A Short Introduction to the Hebrew Bible. Collins, John J. Fortress Press. 2018
How The Bible Became Holy. Satlow, Michael L. Yale University Press. 2014 (classic)
The Invention of Judaism. Collins, John J. UC Press. 2017
The Invention of God. Thomas Römer, Trans. Geuss, Raymond. Harvard University Press. 2015 (classic)