Fall 2023: Offered On Campus Only

Course Description

The First Testament of Christian Scripture is a fundamental part of Christian tradition and durable rule of faith and practice. Students in this course will be introduced to historical and literary data important for understanding the origins of the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament and its subsequent function as scripture in a variety of contexts. The outlook will be broadly ecumenical, with case studies that exemplify Jewish and Christian interpretation.

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 illustrative commentary from various biblical interpreters. Students will develop their exegetical skills by studying these examples, and so learn to appreciate the diverse canonical, cultural, hermeneutical, historical, literary, and theological elements involved in the art of biblical interpretation.

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; defend a decision to pronounce or circumlocute the Divine Name; 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 and begin to evaluate a variety of ancient and modern approaches to the Bible.

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 Texts (Fall 2023)*

In a change from past iterations of this course, there is only one required text this fall.

NJPS Study Bible
Berlin, Adele, and Marc Zvi Brettler, eds. The Jewish Study Bible: Second Edition. 2nd ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014. ISBN 978-0199978465.
Students are strongly encouraged to purchase their own copy. A non-circulating copy is held in the AST Library reference section: BS 895 J4 2014.
Be sure to get the 2nd, revised edition. The newer hardback edition is more current, more durable, and often less expensive than the older paperback edition.

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

Kaminsky, Joel, and Joel Lohr. The Hebrew Bible for Beginners: A Jewish and Christian Introduction. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2015. ISBN 978-1426775635.
Heschel, Abraham Joshua. The Sabbath. FSG Classics. Farrar Straus Giroux, 2005. ISBN 978-0374529758.
Irenaeus of Lyon. On the Apostolic Preaching. Translated by John Behr. St Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1997. ISBN 978-0881411744.
Making Sense
Northey, Margot, 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 highly recommended. It includes basic advice on things like reading religious texts, writing essays and book reviews, making oral presentations, and learning languages. It should help you master fundamental tasks in nearly any course in religion or theology.
The SBL Handbook of Style, 2nd Edition, is the definitive style manual for biblical studies and related disciplines.
A blog (sblhs2.com) and free Student Supplement (PDF) should cover the issues most common to term papers. The AST library copy is in the reference section at PN 147 S26 2014.
Serious students of biblical studies will want a copy of their own. Order one from SBL Press or elsewhere online. ISBN 978-1589839649.
See my resources page for further advice on writing, style, and research.

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