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Level 4

4AAT1005 Introduction to the Hebrew Bible / Old Testament


The modules run in each academic year are subject to change in line with staff availability and student demand so there is no guarantee every module will run. Module descriptions and information may vary depending between years.

Credit value: 15
Module tutor: Professor Paul Joyce
Assessment: One 2,000-word essay (40%); one two-hour exam (60%)

Students are reassessed in the failed elements of assessment and by the same methods as the first attempt.

Teaching pattern: one two-hour weekly classes over ten weeks
Pre-requisites: none

Do you want to know why Abraham tells Pharaoh that his wife Sarah is his sister? Why Lot’s daughters seduce their father? Why Hosea marries a prostitute and Amos announces destruction for Israel? Come and learn about the Hebrew Bible / Old Testament in this introductory module aimed at students who want to learn about the Hebrew Bible / Old Testament and scholarly ways of studying the text contained in it.

Sample topics

  • Introduction: What is the Old Testament?
  • Methods for Reading and Interpreting Old Testament Texts
  • The Patriarchal Tradition (Genesis)
  • The Exodus Tradition (Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers)
  • The Conquest Tradition (Deuteronomy, Joshua)
  • God Save the King? (Judges, 1 & 2 Samuel, 1 & 2 Kings)
  • Historicity and the Old Testament (British Museum Visit)
  • An Interruption in Regularly Scheduled Programming: the Prophets
  • The Wisdom Tradition (Proverbs, Job, and Qoheleth)
  • Temple and Worship (Psalms and non-canonical worship)

Further information

Module aims
  • To introduce students to a variety of biblical texts of different genres (law codes, narratives, prophetic texts, poetry, and wisdom) and to the variety of critical issues that arise in interpreting those texts.
  • To help students to examine these texts by applying the major critical methods –historical-critical, traditio-historical, literary, ideological, and sociological perspectives.
Learning outcomes

Generic skills

  • Ability to read critically and interpret ancient texts in translation
  • Ability to analyse and evaluate secondary literature.
  • Ability to think cross-culturally yet with sensitivity to historical and social differences.
  • Ability to write critical essays on primary and secondary source material.

Module specific skills

  • Familiarity with the content of the Hebrew Bible and the basic characteristics of its various genres.
  • Ability to explore, from a variety of methodological perspectives, ancient narrative, legal, and poetic material in its own historical context.
  • Ability to evaluate critical interpretations of texts in order to determine their utility to answering a particular research question.
Past syllabi
Previous syllabus document available here for academic year 2015-16.

Please note that module syllabus and topics covered may vary from year to year.
Preliminary reading
  • John J. Collins, A Short Introduction to the Hebrew Bible (Fortress Press, 2007).
  • John W. Rogerson (ed.), Beginning Old Testament Study (second edition; SPCK, 1998).
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