Offered on ground at AST, Fall 2018

Course Description

The First Testament of Christian Scripture, also called the Hebrew Bible or Old Testament, is a fundamental part of Christian tradition and durable rule of faith and practice. Students in this course will therefore be introduced to historical and literary data important for understanding the origins of the Hebrew Bible and its subsequent function as Old Testament Scripture in a variety of cultural and religious contexts.

The broad sweep of biblical tradition will be presented through a survey of representative books from the Law, the Prophets, and the Writings. To help foster an ecumenical outlook, primary readings from the Bible will be supplemented by case studies of classic Jewish and Christian readings of biblical texts. Students will develop their exegetical skills by studying these examples, and so learn to appreciate the diverse literary, canonical, cultural, historical, hermeneutical, and theological elements involved in biblical interpretation. In addition, the course will consider some ways that the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament can feature in the practice of ministry and in the spiritual practice of faith communities.

Download the latest syllabus (Fall 2018, v 3.4.x)

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Course Objectives

By the end of the course students should be able to: name major Old Testament people and events; locate a few important biblical sites on a map; give key dates for Israel’s history and summarize the succession of superpowers in the Ancient Near Eastern political theatre from Egypt to Greece; recognize and cite examples of most genres of biblical literature; understand the general shape of the Masoretic Text tradition and differentiate it from other canonical orders; report on parallel and divergent material across the Law and the Prophets, such as the uses of the Divine Name or the rationales for sabbath observance; classify a variety of ancient and modern approaches to the Bible, including traditional “plain sense” and figural reading strategies as well as historical criticism and its legacy.

Students should also be able to identify settings in which the Scriptures of Israel are read (notably the synagogue, church, and academy), employ terminology appropriate to these communities, recognize where their own biographies place them in relation to the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament and its uses, and monitor and test their individual attitudes and assumptions. They should be able to extend their awareness of the Bible’s contemporary readers to the Bible’s long history of reception. Finally, students should begin to infer what Jesus meant in speaking of “the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms” (Luke 24:44), and so learn to hear claims about New Testament fulfilment of scripture in light of the unique voice that the Old Testament retains along side of the New in Christian Scripture.

Required Textbooks (Fall 2018)

The following texts are required (Fall 2018).* Students are strongly encouraged to purchase their own copies. Library copies that are not reference works will be placed on a 2-hour reserve in the AST Library.

A Study Bible, Either NRSV or NJPS Translation
NRSV option: Michael Coogan, ed. New Oxford Annotated Bible with Apocrypha: New Revised Standard Version. 5th ed. Oxford / New York: Oxford University Press, 2018.
The NRSV is a standard translation in the academy and in many of the churches affiliated with AST. It features gender inclusive language (though not for God). The notes and essays can be helpful, though they do add considerably to the heft of the volume. This version includes the entire Christian Bible (OT and NT), plus the Apocrypha. It should be useful to you in many other courses at AST.
Buy the NRSV on or
If you only want the text (it’s far more portable without notes), buy that instead on or
NJPS option: Adele Berlin and Marc Zvi Brettler, eds., The Jewish Study Bible: Second Edition (Oxford / New York: Oxford University Press, 2014).
A superb alternative, equally well-regarded in the academy but not well known in the church, the notes and supplementary essays in this study Bible are a cut above those of the main alternatives. The single-column layout is easier to read, too. The main drawback is that it lacks the NT and Apocrypha (for obvious reasons), and so may prove less useful in other courses at AST.
Buy the NJPS on or
Joel Kaminsky and Joel Lohr. The Hebrew Bible for Beginners: A Jewish and Christian Introduction. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2015.
Buy it on or
Making Sense
Margot Northey, Bradford A. Anderson, and Joel N. Lohr. Making Sense in Religious Studies: A Student’s Guide to Research and Writing. 3rd ed. Don Mills, ON: Oxford University Press, 2019.
This title is optional but strongly recommended. It includes sound advice on things like reading religious texts, writing essays and book reviews, making oral presentations, and learning languages. Study it and put it into practice. It should help you in any course you take in religion or theology.
Buy it on or

*Please note that textbook selections for my courses often change with each iteration of the course.