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Level 5

5AAT2042 Ritual in 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 this module will run. Module descriptions and information may vary depending between years.

Credit value: 15
Module tutor: Dr Jonathan Stökl
Assessment: One 2,000-word essay (40%) and 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: Two-hour weekly classes over ten weeks.
Pre-requisites: none

This module is intended to enable students to explore a range of texts from the Hebrew Bible / Old Testament relating to ritual, from a variety of perspectives (historical, theological, literary, gender-critical, anthropological, cultural).

Sessions will be interactive lectures, including mixed lecturing and discussion formats, varied according to the requirements of the particular topic.

Sample topics

  • Introduction: what is ritual?
  • Theological aspects of ritual
  • Rituals in the Old Testament: The Passover
  • Rituals in the Old Testament: Sacrifice
  • Rituals in the Old Testament: Purification
  • Rituals in the Old Testament: Day of Atonement
  • Rituals in the Old Testament: Ordination
  • Rituals in narrative; Jephthah's daughter
  • Old Testament critiques of ritual

Further information

Learning outcomes

Generic skills

  • deal critically and sensitively with a text that originates in a very different time, culture and language
  • engage critically with primary and secondary sources
  • present ideas in both written and oral form
  • understand the significance of context in reading texts
  • understand different methods of interpretation and their effect on how the text is understood

Module specific skills

  • know a range of Old Testament material relating to the area of ritual
  • understand the range of functions that ritual fulfils, and how the rituals described in the Old Testament might fulfil those functions
  • establish and analyse the kind of world-view that is illustrated by the Old Testament texts on ritual
  • use Old Testament (texts on) ritual to stimulate reflection on contemporary issues such as identity and world-view
Module aims
  • To Understand the range of functions that rituals fulfil in general, and how the rituals described in the Hebrew Bible / Old Testament fulfil those functions in particular
  • To analyse how ritual texts reflect their authors’ world-views
  • To be able to use Hebrew Bible / Old Testament ritual texts responsibly in reflection on contemporary issues.
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

- Bell, Catherine M., ‘Ritual’, in Robert A. Segal (ed.), The Blackwell Companion to the Study of Religion (Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 2006), 397-411.

- Carr, David M., An Introduction to the Old Testament: Sacred Texts and Imperial Contexts of the Hebrew Bible (Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 2010).

- Wright, David P., ‘The Study of Ritual in the Hebrew Bible’, in Frederick E. Greenspahn (ed.), The Hebrew Bible: New Insights and Scholarship (Jewish Studies in the Twenty-First Century, New York: New York University Press, 2008), 120-138.






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