The Old Testament (or, Hebrew Bible) is the record of the interaction between the people of ancient Israel and their God. As a religious text, the Bible is inextricably intertwined with the cultures of Israel’s neighbors, including the Canaanites, Syrians, Greeks, Assyrians, Babylonians, Arabs, Egyptians, and the peoples of the eastern desert. To study the Hebrew Bible and its development during the first millennium BCE is to study the history, culture, and literature of the entire region.
This course introduces students to the literature of ancient Israel, its rituals, the stories which established a people’s identity, and which defined their moral behavior. Great figures of the texts, such as Moses, David, Solomon, Bathsheba, Ruth, Jeremiah, Daniel, and Ezra, teach us important lessons about life and how people of faith attempted to relate to one another, to God, and to people outside their ethnic group. Students will read from the biblical text, as well as from secondary source readings which contains scholarly opinion from a variety of sources. Recent archaeological and epigraphical studies will be incorporated into the course to enhance our work.
The ultimate goal will be to assess the meaning of the texts in their ancient Near Eastern environment; to understand the development of Hebrew religion and the beginnings of Rabbinic Judaism; and to understand the connection between biblical studies and other fields of study, such as History, Religious Studies, Archeology, Linguistics, and Comparative Literature.