From the creation of the world in Genesis to the rebuilding of the Temple in Ezra—from poetic wisdom literature to narratives of Israel’s history—the Hebrew Bible spans a vast range of genres, was written by innumerable people over many centuries, and is endlessly complex. In this course we will read substantial selections from each of the three divisions of the Bible: the Torah, the Prophets, and the Writings. We will deploy different methods useful for the academic study of the Bible, considering it by turns as literature, as history, as data for the study of religion, as a collection of texts written, edited, and canonized over a long period of time. One conclusion of this investigation will be that the Bible is a dynamic, moving target; it means different things to different audiences over time—indeed, what for some readers is simply the Bible is, for others, the Old Testament. Accordingly, we will also explore a series of episodes in the history of reading, interpreting, and appropriating the Bible. This component of the course will involve reading and discussing exegetical and hermeneutic approaches to the Bible originating in several distinct religious and intellectual contexts from antiquity to the present.
No previous knowledge of the Bible is expected; all readings are in English. [Pre-1900]