Offered Fall 2016

Required Textbooks

The following texts are required. Students are strongly encouraged to purchase their own copies. Library copies that are not reference works have been placed on a 2-hour reserve.

  1. NRSV = Michael D. Coogan, ed. New Oxford Annotated Bible with Apocrypha: NRSV. 4th ed. Oxford / New York: Oxford University Press, 2010. ISBN 978-0195289602.
  2. HBFB = Joel Kaminsky and Joel Lohr. The Hebrew Bible for Beginners: A Jewish and Christian Introduction. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2015. ISBN 978-1426775635.
  3. Heschel = Abraham J. Heschel. The Sabbath: Its Meaning for Modern Man. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1951 (repr. 2005). ISBN 978-0374529758.
  4. Irenaeus = St Irenaeus of Lyons. On the Apostolic Preaching. Trans. John Behr. Crestwood, NY: St Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1997. ISBN 978-0881411744.

An acceptable alternative study Bible is the NJPS: Adele Berlin and Marc Zvi Brettler, eds., The Jewish Study Bible: Second Edition (Oxford / New York: Oxford University Press, 2014). A reference copy is available in the library, and it is well worth consulting. However, the instructor will cite the NRSV when writing quizzes and exams.


Course Description

From the Academic Calendar: This course explores the First Testament of the Bible as a foundational element of Christian religious heritage. Students will be introduced to a progression of historical and literary data important to understanding the Old Testament in its originating cultural contexts and to considering its resonances in later cultural contexts, including our own.

The broad sweep of biblical tradition and related historical considerations will be presented in large part through guided study of the course textbook. Each week we will also give close attention in class to a particular textual instance, allowing students to develop their exegetical and interpretive skills in a process that moves towards integration of historical, literary and theological elements.

In addition, we will explore a range of practices—“things you can do with the Bible”—thus encountering the Hebrew Bible in the context of applications that have constituted much of its experienced liveliness within faith communities over millennia. The Bible’s historical and contemporary contributions to personal and communal spiritual formation and practice come into focus here, and students are given an opportunity to consider how the Bible might figure in formative ways within their practice of ministry.

Course Objectives

By the end of the course students should be able to: name major Old Testament people and events; give key dates for Israel’s history and summarize the succession of superpowers in the Ancient Near Eastern political theatre from the time of Egypt to Greece; locate a few important biblical sites on a map; classify prophetic literature relative to the exile; recognize genres of biblical literature and cite examples from the reading; understand the general shape of the Masoretic Text tradition and differentiate it from other canonical orders; defend a decision to pronounce or circumlocute the divine name; report on parallel and divergent material across the Law and the Prophets; articulate multiple rationales for sabbath observance; memorize and recite ten verses of a psalm.

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.


Download the latest syllabus as PDF.