NEJS 111 a Marc Brettler

MWTh 12-1, Lown 201 Office: Lown 210; x 62968

Email: brettler@brandeis Office hrs: Thursday 1-3

Web Page:

THE HEBREW BIBLE - Spring 2004

The Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) is a complex compilation of material, reflecting a millennium of beliefs, desires and norms from ancient Israel. In this course, we begin to understand this diversity of material, and the various approaches that have been taken in the scholarly world toward approaching it. We will accomplish this by reading a significant portion of the Hebrew Bible in English, along with representative selections from secondary literature.

Course requirements include a midterm (Monday, March 1, covering units 1-16 [Genesis-Judges]), a three hour final, and a 5-10 page paper (topics must be approved by April 1; paper is due April 26 at 5 P.M.). The midterm will comprise 30% of your grade, the final 35% and the paper 35%. If you are a student with a documented disability at Brandeis University and if you wish to request a reasonable accommodation for this class, please see me immediately. Please keep in mind that reasonable accommodations are not provided retroactively.

All students should purchase The Jewish Study Bible (JSB), ed. Adele Berlin and Marc Brettler. This Bible has maps, annotations, and essays that you are encouraged to use. Though you might want to read other Bibles as well, I suggest that you bring this translation to class on a regular basis. Also, purchase the following two paperbacks, available from the bookstore: Richard Elliott Friedman, Who Wrote the Bible, and Steven L. McKenzie and M. Patrick Graham, editors, The Hebrew Bible Today: An Introduction to Critical Issues. You should also learn to use biblical atlases, found in Judaica Reference, and The Anchor Bible Dictionary, an encyclopedia found in Judaica Reference and on-line in one of the computers in the library. Other readings will be available on WebCT, or on Reserve.

You are expected to prepare for each class. Two thirds of the classes will be largely lecture, and will cover broad portions of the biblical text, while one-third will look at shorter segments of the text and will involve extensive class participation. I have attached study questions to help you prepare for each class. Completing the biblical and secondary readings before class and thinking through the issues raised in the study questions will make the lectures more interesting and easier to follow and will facilitate class participation.

Sheila Reeder will serve as a TF for this course. She will be available to answer your questions, and will conduct review sessions for the exams and will help with the papers. You may contact her at

1. Wednesday, January 14. Introduction.

Orientation to the Bible its contents. The study of the Bible through the ages. Class requirements.

After class, familiarize yourself with the structure of the JSB, and read its introductory material. In addition, read the essay on "The Modern Study of the Bible" (pp. 2084-2096), to give you a sense of the methods we will be employing (and don't worry if you do not understand everything in this essay), and "Jewish Translations of the Bible" (pp. 2005-2020), to orient you to the NJPS Tanakh translation that we will be using as well as other translations. Whenever you need to read a book of the Bible at home, be sure to read carefully its introduction in the JSB. Additional useful background information is found in the following essays in the JSB, which you are encouraged to read at your leisure: "Languages of the Bible" (pp. 2062-2067); "The Bible in the Dead Sea Scrolls" (pp. 1920-1928); "Textual Criticism of the Bible" (pp. 2067-2072); and "The Development of the Masoretic Text" (pp. 2077-2084).

2. Thursday, January 15. Creation.

Read "Torah" in JSB (pp. 1-7), and Genesis 1:1-2:4 in the JSB; organize this unit into paragraphs. Which phrases repeat? What does this repetition accomplish?

Read Everett Fox, The Five Books of Moses (handout). How is "myth" usually defined? Is "a myth" wrong? Is this story a myth?

Begin reading John Van Seters, "Pentateuch," in McKenzie and Graham, eds., The Hebrew Bible Today, 3-49. Continue to read this in parallel with the relevant sections from the Torah, as they are covered in class.

Read the essay on the "Historical and Geographical Background to the Bible" the JSB 2048-2062.

Monday, January 19 – No Class (MLK Day)

3. Wednesday, January 21. The Creation in Israel and Mesopotamia.

Why do we use comparisons to understand texts in modern literature? Why might we use comparisons to further our understanding of ancient texts?

Read Enuma Elish ("The Epic of Creation") in Stephanie Dalley, Myths From Mesopotamia, 228-277. Be sure that you can summarize its plot. Has this text changed your appreciation of Genesis 1-2? For example, what is the importance of man and God/gods in each story?

4. Thursday, January 22. Crimes and Punishments.

Read Genesis 2:5-11:32. What misdeeds are perpetrated in these biblical chapters? Does the text consider them all as "sins"? What was the result of eating from the tree?

Compare the biblical flood story to the Epic of Gilgamesh tablet eleven (Stephanie Dalley, Myths From Mesopotamia, 109-120). Using the observations of the previous class, how would you compare these stories?

Evaluate the analysis of T. Gaster, Myth, Legend and Custom in the Old Testament, 132-138. How would Genesis 1:28 and 9:7 affect his argument?

What functions did these stories have in antiquity, both as independent stories and as stories immediately preceding the choosing of Abraham in Genesis 12?

5. Monday, January 26. Genesis as an Entirety.

Complete Genesis. Summarize the careers of the patriarchs. Do they have distinct personalities? Do the same events happen to more than one patriarch? What patterns do you discern? To what extent are God's promises to the patriarch (=covenant) fulfilled? What issues concerning themselves were the authors of these chapters addressing?

Read the handout of rabbinic exegesis on Gen 22. What is each commentator's underlying assumption?

Read the literary analyses of Genesis 22 in Eric Auerbach, Mimesis, 3-23 ("Odysseus' Scar"). What questions is he concerned with?

Read the essay by P. Kyle McCarter Jr., "The Patriarchal Age" in Hershel Shanks, ed., Ancient Israel, 1-29. To what extent are the literary and historical approaches mutually enlightening?

6. Wednesday, January 28. Source Criticism.

Read the handout carefully. Why does it not read well? How do you explain its awkwardness? Can you draw any analogies to difficulties that you have encountered reading Genesis?

Reread Genesis, making a list of inconsistencies, stories told twice (doublets) and awkward splices between stories. Then read Richard Elliott Friedman, Who Wrote the Bible?, 15-100, 188-245, and Joseph Blenkinsopp, "The Documentary Hypothesis in Trouble," Approaches to the Bible: The Best of Bible Review, vol. 1, ed. Harvey Minkoff, 10-22.

Using your understanding of source criticism, describe why various traditions concerning the early history of Israel existed, and how and why these traditions became combined in Genesis.

7. Thursday, January 29. God Remembers.

Read Exodus 1-18. What is the structure and purpose of the narratives? Why was "history" recorded in ancient Israel?

What purpose do the introductory narratives (1-3) have? Which texts do they recall? How is the character of Moses developed?

To what-extent are the plague narratives told as "history"? What repetitions are evident in these narratives? What functions do these repetitions serve?

8. Monday, February 2. Law and Lawgiver.

Read Exodus 19-24. Outline the literary framework of the law. How is the awesomeness of the giving of the law expressed? Why isn't a uniform picture depicted in the framework?

Isolate the decalogue (ten commandments). What is its structure? Why has it been given particular prominence by tradition?

Write an outline of chapters 21-23, trying to subsume collections of laws under broad headings. How are the laws organized? What are the different types of forms in which the laws of Exodus 21-23 are cast? How might you explain these differences?

Would they have formed a complete legal handbook? What type of society do they reflect? Are they civil or religious legislation?

9. Wednesday, February 4. Exodus 1-24: Source Criticism.

Reread Exodus 1-24, searching for contradictions, awkward splices and other difficulties.

What structures are evident in the plague narratives in their current form? Note any discrepancies and repetitions in the plague narratives; pay particular attention to the plague of blood. Note the various attitudes concerning the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart.

Compare Psalm 78:42-51 and Psalm 105:23-38. Using source and form criticism, explain the differences within Exodus, and between Exodus and each of the Psalms. How might traditional exegesis resolve these same problems?

10. Thursday, February 5. A Priestly Viewpoint.

Read Leviticus. What is the structure of the book? How many times does it end? What makes this book so different?

What is the purpose of the many rituals mentioned in this book? In what way does the Bible’s concept of impurity differ from our own? How would Leviticus 26 fit your thesis?

What is the function of the ritual in Leviticus 16? How does it work?

Read "Concepts of Purity in the Bible," pp. 2041-2047 in the JSB, and Jacob Milgrom, "Israel's Sanctuary: The Priestly 'Picture of Dorian Gray,'" in Studies in Cultic Theology and Terminology, 75-84.

How does P's account in Genesis agree with Leviticus?

11. Monday, February 9. Studying Biblical Law: Some Approaches.

Read the prologue, epilogue and at least fifty assorted laws in the Code of Hammurabi (William Hallo, Context of Scripture [=COS], 2.131 or Martha T. Roth, Law Collections form Mesopotamia and Asia Minor, 71-142). How does the framework of the laws differ in Mesopotamia and in Israel? Probe the implications of these differences.

Read M. Greenberg, "Some Postulates of Biblical Criminal Law," in The Jewish Expression, ed. Judah Goldin, 8-37. To what extent is biblical law unique within its ancient Near Eastern setting?

Reread Leviticus 11 with Mary Douglas, Purity and Danger, 1-6, 41-57 ("The Abominations of Leviticus.")

To what extent are these various approaches to biblical law compatible?

12. Wednesday, February 11. Again!

Read Deuteronomy. Divide the book into broad units (prologue, legal stipulations, epilogue), noting the purpose of each of these sections. According to Deuteronomy, why is the book written? Is this credible? What emphases are prominent in the book? What does this imply about its purpose of composition?

Read: Friedman, Who Wrote, 101-149, Jeffrey H. Tigay, The JPS Torah Commentary: Deuteronomy, xi-xxxi (Judaica Reference) and the classic treatment of Gerhard von Rad, "The Form-Critical Problem of the Hexateuch" in The Problem of the Hexateuch and Other Essays, 1-13. (.Optional: Martin J. Buss, "Form Criticism," To Each its Own Meaning: An Introduction to Biblical Criticism and Their Application, ed. Steven L. McKenzie and Stephen R. Haynes, 69-85.)

Read the Vassal Treaties of Esarhaddon (James Pritchard, Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old Testament [=ANET], 534-541) in conjunction with Tigay, Deuteronomy, 494-497 (Excursus 27). Note shared specifics and structures between the treaties and Deuteronomy. What are the implications of these common elements?

13. Thursday, February 12. Comparing Laws.

Reread the laws in Exodus 21-23 (the Covenant Collection), Leviticus 17-26 (The Holiness Collection) and Deuteronomy 12-26. Note any emphases that are specific to a particular collection.

Compare the laws of the ingathering festival (sukkot): Ex 23:16; Lev 23:33-43; Deut 16:13-15, and the laws of servants/slaves (Ex 21: 1-11; Lev 25:35-55; Deut 15:12-18) contained in these three collections. Read the classic treatment of Julius Wellhausen, Prolegomena to the History of Ancient Israel, 83-112. If you were an ancient jurist, how might you reconcile the discrepancies between these laws? Compare your solution to the rabbinic midrash Mekilta (handout). To better understand the background of the Mekilta, you are encouraged to read the essays on "Classical Biblical Interpretation" and /or "Midrash and Midrashic Interpretation" in JSB 1844-1875.

February 16-20 Winter Break

14. Monday, February 23. Did the Walls Come Tumbling Down?

Read Joshua (skim 13:8-21:42) and Judges 1:1-2:10. Keep a biblical atlas at your side. How was the land of Israel conquered? How much was conquered? Do these sources tell the same story? Isolate the stories' sources and characterize them in terms of their historicity.

What is the purpose of the conclusion of Joshua (chapter 24)? How does it relate to texts that we have studied earlier?

Begin reading G. Graeme Auld, "The Former Prophets," in McKenzie and Graham, eds., The Hebrew Bible Today, 53-68. Continue to read this in parallel with the relevant sections from the Former Prophets, as they are covered in class. Concerning the relation of Joshua to the previous book of Deuteronomy, and the following books of Judges, Samuel and Kings, read the classic treatment in Martin Noth, The Deuteronomistic History, 12-17, 75-78.

15. Wednesday, February 25. The Archeology of the Conquest.

As background to the archeological approach to the Bible, read Old Testament Interpretation Past, Present and Future, 245-260.

Read Hershel Shanks, "Defining the Problems: Where We Are in the Debate," in The Rise of Ancient Israel, ed. Hershel Shanks et al., 1-25 (the rest of this book is very readable and interesting as well), and William G. Dever, Recent Archaeological Discoveries and Biblical Research, 37-84. Read the classic essay by Albrecht Alt, "The Settlement of the Israelites in Palestine" in Essays on Old Testament History and Religion, 173-221. You should also become familiar with the following two reference texts: Amihai Mazar, Archaeology of the Land of the Bible 10,000-586 B.C.E. and Amnon Ben-Tor, ed., The Archaeology of Ancient Israel.

What types of models and materials may be used in addition to the biblical text to create a historical picture of the conquest/settlement? Why has no consensus been reached? Which types of evidence is more valuable: literary or archaeological?

16. Thursday, February 26. Premonarchic Leadership.

Complete Judges. Where do the stories about Judges end? How are the stories organized in the book? What function does the material at the end of the book have? How does the portrayal of Israel in Judges differ from that in Joshua?

Read 2:1-3:6 carefully. Which phrases from this unit recur in the rest of the book? According to this unit (these units?), why does God establish judges? Read the Samson cycle carefully. Isolate folklore motifs, repetitions, foreshadowing, and other methods that make this story work. Is this unit historical? What roles did the Judges play? Are they ideal leaders? What judges are "good guys" and which are "bad guys"? Which tribes are they from? Check a map. What literary role would the Book of Judges have played as the book before Samuel, which describes the institution of kingship in Israel?

Concerning reading biblical historical texts, read the (near-)classic treatment of Robert Alter, The Art of Biblical Narrative, 23-46.

Note the prominent role that women play in Judges; compare Danna Nolan Fewell, "Judges," in The Women's Bible Commentary, ed. Carol A. Newsom and Sharon H. Ringe, 67-77. This is a useful work that you should become familiar with.

17. Monday, March 1. Midterm Examination

18. Wednesday, March 3. From Saul to David.

Read 1 Samuel. What is/are the author's/authors' attitude toward kingship? toward Saul? Toward David? Is the book biased? What type of source materials might the author(s) have used? Do you feel more sympathy toward David or Saul?

Read "Israelite History and the Historical Books of the Old Testament" in M. Tsevat, The Meaning of the Book of Job and Other Biblical Studies, 177-187 and reflect on how would you use this book to reconstruct ancient Israelite history.

For a general orientation to the Book of Samuel, read Joel Rosenberg, "1 and 2 Samuel," The Literary Guide to the Bible, ed. Robert Alter and Frank Kermode, 122-145. This is a useful reference book; look through it and learn how to use it.

19. Thursday, March 4. David as King.

Read 2 Samuel.

How is this material organized? What attitudes toward David are reflected? Is he a "messianic" figure? To what extent is this a complete account of David's kingship? How is the material in 21-24 organized? What is its significance for understanding the editing of biblical books?

Compare the biblical account to the reconstruction of Steven L. McKenzie, King David: A Biography, 185-189.

20. Monday, March 8. One "Historical" Survey (part one).

Read 1 Kings. We will concentrate on chapters 1-14 and 16:17-28.

What are the main concerns of the authors and editors of these chapters? To what extent are they writing "balanced history"?

21. Wednesday, March 10. One "Historical" Survey (part two).

Read 2 Kings. We will concentrate on chapters 17, 21-25.

22. Thursday, March 11. A Second "Historical Survey."

Read Chronicles (I & II), skimming I Chronicles 1-9.

In what way does the Chronicler's version of history differ from the other sources? Specifically, what role do the following events and people play in Chronicles: the patriarchs, the exodus, Saul, David and the Temple, David and Bathsheba, the fight between David’s successors, the Northern kings, the high places? How would Kings and Chronicles answer the following questions: Why didn't David build the Temple? Who decided that Solomon should reign? Did Solomon sin? Why does evil befall good people? (See specifically Amaziah and Uzziah.) Why did Josiah die? Why did Manasseh live so long? Who caused the exile? How are the ends of Chronicles and Kings similar and different?

Generalize: How does Chronicles differ from Kings? Why was Chronicles written? The article "Chronicles" by Sara Japhet in Encyclopedia Judaica (=EJ) though technical, is very informative and is highly recommended. Read M. Patrick Graham, "The 'Chronicler's History,'" in McKenzie and Graham, eds., The Hebrew Bible Today, 201-215; concentrate on the section about Chronicles. To help you understand how Chronicles and similar books reinterpret earlier biblical literature, read "Inner-biblical Interpretation" in JSB 1829-1835.

23. Monday, March 15. Library meeting.

We will meet in the Judaic Reference section of the library to discuss resources that you might use for your papers.

24. Wednesday, March 17. Biblical Historiography.

Reread 2 Kings 18-20. Break these chapters up into sources. (Note: there are at least three sources.) What perspectives characterize each source?

Reread 2 Chronicles 29-32. How has it rewritten Kings? Read the account of the third campaign of Sennacherib in COS 2.119B. What types of sources and biases are evident in this account?

How would you integrate these accounts? Try to generalize: What was the importance of history in ancient Israel? Who wrote history and for what reasons was it written? How would you resolve the tensions between sections of the historical books as history, literature or instruction? Reread the essay of Tsevat (unit 17).

25. Thursday, March 18. Prophecy: An Introduction.

Reread the passages concerning Elijah and Elisha (in 1K17-2K13) and review the roles of the prophets Nathan and Gad.

Read ANET, 605 ("Oracles Concerning Esarhaddon") and H. Huffman "Ancient Near Eastern Prophecy," in The Anchor Bible Dictionary, 477-482. This "Dictionary," actually an encyclopedia, is a major research tool, and you should become familiar with its use. It is also available on CD-ROM. Characterize early biblical prophecy and ancient Near Eastern prophecy.

Read Isaiah, chapters 1, 40: Jeremiah 1, 25:1-11, 33:1-13, Ezekiel 4, Amos 1-2. Read the articles by Wolff and Wilson in James Luther Mayes and Paul J. Achtemeier, eds., Interpreting the Prophets, 1-26.

Begin reading the sections on prophecy in McKenzie and Graham, eds., The Hebrew Bible Today, 69-126. Continue to read this in parallel with the relevant sections from the Prophets, as they are covered in class.

To what extent is classical prophecy a revolution, and to what extent does it follow its precursors?

26. Monday, March 22. Amos.

Read Amos carefully, noting its content and its literary devices. For historical background, review 2 Kings 14:23-29.

Reread Amos 1-2. Imagine that you were an ancient Israelite listening as these verses were recited in Bethel. What would your reaction be as he continued his recitation? What sins does Amos list? Why are they listed--are they a call to repentance or an accusation? Why is Israel held accountable for its sins? Why did Israel think that it would not be punished? (These two questions are intertwined.)

Reread Amos 9. Does it fit? Answer this question from the perspectives of both an eighth century Israelite and a sixth century Judaean.

Read Shalom Spiegel, "Amos vs. Amaziah," in The Jewish Expression, ed. Judah Goldin, 38-65.

27. Wednesday, March 24. Isaiah Son of Amos.

Read Isaiah 1-6. To help you understand the poetic style of these chapters, read "Reading Biblical Poetry," JSB 2097-2104.

What is the function of Isaiah's prophecy? If Israel repents, will it be forgiven? To what time period does Chapter 2 refer? What is the function of Isaiah 6? What is its theology? Why are these chapters so difficult to understand?

Complete Isaiah to chapter 39, collecting and synthesizing his passages on Zion's fate, the remnant and his vision of the future. Do we have much biographical information about the prophet?

28. Thursday, March 25. Jeremiah.

Read Jeremiah, skimming 46-52. How is the book organized? What is the function of this order? What was Jeremiah's political message? How does it differ from Isaiah's? What is the role of repentance? How does Jeremiah's message change in chapter 20? Read chapter 25 carefully. What does it share with Isaiah (see especially Isaiah 10:5ff.)? In what sense is it more radical? What does verse 26 imply about the editing of prophetic books?

A classical problem of biblical scholarship is the relationship between prophecy and law. Where does Jeremiah cite or allude to Torah material? Is there any evidence for early (re)interpretation of Torah material?

29. Monday, March 29. Ezekiel.

Paper topics must be approved by this date!

Read Ezekiel (skim 25-32 and 40-48). Read Friedman, Who Wrote, 150-160.

What is the book's structure? How is it similar to Jeremiah and Amos? Why is it easier to read than Isaiah? Imagine yourself exiled to Babylonia in 597. Picture yourself as Ezekiel's next-door neighbor in the plush exile neighborhood. What do you think of his behavior and of his prophecies? Does he fill any of your psychological needs as an exile? Do you find his prophecies, many of which are addressed to the people in Israel, helpful? Did it surprise you when you found out that he was a priest? Is he "strange"?

What is Ezekiel's relationship to Torah material? Does he always slavishly follow the "earlier authoritative sources"? (Cf. esp. Ezekiel chapter 18 and the decalogue, Exodus 34:7 & Deuteronomy 24:16).

30. Wednesday, March 31. Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel: Some Comparisons.

Reread the "call" or "dedication narratives" of the three prophets (Isaiah 6, Jeremiah 1, Ezekiel 1:1-2:5). Outline their shared and unique characteristics. How would you explain the differences between them? Do all three prophets share the same image about the future of restored Israel?

Read closely: Isaiah 5:1-7, Jeremiah 2:21 and Ezekiel 15. How do each of these prophecies make their point? How do the later texts build on the earlier one?

How did the relationship of these three prophets with God and with the people differ? To what extent can the historical circumstances under which each one prophesied explain these differences?

31. Thursday, April 1. Restoration.

Read Isaiah 40-55 (Deutero-Isaiah), Ezra-Nehemiah and COS, 2.124.

Deutero-Isaiah was an exilic prophet living in Babylon. To what extent does he use traditional material, including his predecessor's prophecies of restoration? What elements in his message are new? How does he polemicize against contemporaneous pagan theological notions (e.g., idolatry and Cyrus as a god's chosen)? Does he fairly represent the viewpoint of the other side?

Describe the personalities and functions of Zerubabel, Ezra and Nehemiah. How did their roles differ? From your readings of Ezra- Nehemiah, the prophets and the Torah, why is the invective against foreign wives and for the observance of the Sabbath so fierce? Is there any evidence for (re)interpretation of biblical texts in Ezra and Nehemiah?

April 5-13 Spring Break

32. Wednesday, April 14 (Brandeis Monday). The Post-Exilic Prophets: From Prophecy to Apocalypse.

Read Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi and Daniel. Read Shanks, Ancient Israel, 177-204. How do these prophets' messages and forms compare to those of the pre-exilic prophets? What roles does the Davidic king have in their restoration?

By whom was the post-exilic period seen as a fulfillment of the pre-exilic prophecies of restoration? What happened when these prophecies failed to materialize? What role did Jeremiah's prophecy of seventy years (Jer 25:11-12 & 29:10) play in this period?

What new genres and ideas does Daniel introduce? What precursors did these have, especially in Zechariah? How are these related with the author's historical circumstances?

Read: John J. Collins, "From Prophecy to Apocalypticism: The Expectation of the End," in The Encyclopedia of Apocalypticism, vol. 1, 129-161.

Thursday, April 15 - No class (Brandeis Tuesday)

33. Friday, April 16 (Brandeis Monday). Psalms.

Read the Egyptian and Mesopotamian psalms in the JSB. Skim Psalms. Read at least twenty psalms carefully.

Is there any structure to the book? (Cf. the end of Psalm 41, 72, 89, 106, and 150.) Compare Psalm 14 and 53. Did the book come together slowly or at once? When were the psalms recited? Collect all of the hints given in the superscriptions (title lines, e.g., in Psalm 3). Are the superscriptions historically trustworthy?

Read Psalm 6 carefully. Divide each verse in half. What is the relationship of the verse halves to each other? Explain the tenses in the last three verses.

Read Psalm 121 carefully. Who is the speaker/ are the speakers? Why are words and ideas repeated in the psalm? Do you find the psalm moving?

Read the following psalms: 5, 8, 15, 20, 23, 29, 30, 44, 47, 50, 83, 103, 104, 119 (skim), 122. What function could they have served in ancient Israelite society? Who might have composed or recited them? At what occasions might they have been composed or recited? (One answer cannot subsume all of these psalms.)

By now, the tremendous variation within the Book of Psalms should be evident. Still, what holds it together as a book? Does the book have an introduction and a conclusion? After formulating your own theories about Psalms, read N. Sarna, Songs of the Heart, 3-23, John H. Hayes, "The Songs of Israel," The Hebrew Bible Today, 153-166, and the classic treatment of Hermann Gunkel, The Psalms: A Form-Critical Introduction, introduction-25.

34. Monday, April 19. Proverbs and Qohelet.

Read Proverbs 1:1-6, 10-19; 6:1-5, 27-35. How do these verses differ from biblical material that we previously studied? Read Proverbs 1 and 3. How do these differ from the last set of verses? Who is wise? Compare 21:31 and 24:6; how should you wage a war?

Read chapter 15. What is its structure?

Characterize the theology of 3:5-10; 10:27; 14:27; 16:20 and 29:25.

What is the point of Proverbs 7-9? How is this point argued? (Note: In Hebrew, the word "wisdom" hokmah, is a feminine noun.) What are the likely origins of Proverbs? Is wisdom a secular or a religious genre?

Begin reading Kathleen A. Farmer, "The Wisdom Books," in McKenzie and Graham, eds., The Hebrew Bible Today, 129-151. Continue to read this in parallel with the relevant sections from Wisdom literature, as they are covered in class.

Compare the selections of Proverbs to Qohelet (Ecclesiastes).

What is the book's structure? Is it a unity? Does it have appendices? What is the author's attitude toward wealth? wisdom.? happiness? (Cite verses.) What is the book's message or theme? Does it belong in the Bible?

35. Wednesday, April 21. Job: An Overview.

Read Job. What is the book's structure? Distinguish between the book's prose framework and its poetic center. Do they tell the same story? How is the prose section structured? What does this structure accomplish?

What are the main contentions of Job and of his "friends"? Does each friend have a unique argument? Is there a dialogue between Job and his friends?

Read "Introduction" to The Book of Job, translated by Greenberg, Greenfield and Sarna.

36. Thursday, April 22. Interpreting Job.

Study the dialogue between God and Job. Does God answer Job? Compare your answer to answer Athalya Brenner, "God's Answer to Job," Vetus Testamentum 31 (1981), and 129-137, M. Tsevat, "The Meaning of the Book of Job," in The Meaning of the Book of Job and Other Essays, 1-37. Why do these critics disagree? What are their different underlying assumptions? Is any interpretation better or worse than the others?

37. Monday, April 26. The Biblical Heroine.

The papers are due in my box by 5 P.M. on April 26.

Read the books of Ruth and Esther. Outline the structure of each book. To what extent is Ruth or Esther a heroine? How do their actions compare to those of the male protagonists throughout the Bible? What attitudes toward kingship, foreign nations, women and sexuality do you see in these works?

Compare the chapter "A Human Comedy" (on Ruth) in Phyllis Trible, God and the Rhetoric of Sexuality, 166-199 and on Esther, Old Testament Interpretation Past, Present and Future, 195-209.

Read The Hebrew Bible Today, 173-179, 185-191.

To help you understand the backgrounds of these readings, read "Jewish Women's Scholarly Writing on the Bible" in JSB, 2000-2005.

38. Wednesday, April 28. Love Poetry.

Read the Song of Solomon (Song of Songs) with The Hebrew Bible Today, 179-185; compare the translations of Marcia Falk, Love Lyrics from the Bible, Ariel and Chana Bloch, The Song of Songs, and Marvin Pope, Song of Songs, Anchor Bible. How do these differ?

Why was this book composed? How was it used? How would different answers to these questions affect how you understand the song? Why is this book in the Bible?

Read the selections of interpretation on the handout. What is each commentator's presupposition?

39. Thursday, April 29. The Bible: Its Themes, Form and Formation.

Collect the diverse perspectives in the Bible on the following issues: Is God just? Can people approach God? Is God dangerous? Is repentance worthwhile? What will the future bring and when will it come? A summary of some of these issues may be found in "The Religion of the Bible," JSB 2021-2040.

Collect the hints contained in the Bible about how, when and where various writings became "biblical." How did such diverse books become joined into one book?

Read: John Barton, "The Significance of a Fixed Canon of the Hebrew Bible," Hebrew Bible/Old Testament: The History of Its Interpretation, vol. 1, ed. Magne Saebø, 67-83, "The Canonization of the Bible," JSB 2072-2077, and Shaye J. D. Cohen, From The Maccabees to the Mishnah, 174-213.

Final Exam: Tuesday, May 11 at 9:15 am