Description of the Class

This class will meet at 2:10 0n Tuesdays and Thursdays

This course will be a historical-critical introduction to the Bible as literature, as narrative, as philosophy, as history, as revelation, and as myth. As literature, the Bible has influenced the whole history and development of Western literary tradition. As narrative, it has provided the basis of the Western culture's stock of stories, influencing and shaping both the arts and society. As history (or historiography), it has shaped the understanding of the meaning of history for generations. As scripture, it has provided the religious images and mythical structures which have been perceived as truly meaningful by both Jews and Christians. As a combination of all of these, the Bible has been a source of significance throughout the ages and still can be, even for "non-religious" individuals.

The course will commence with the history of the Old Testament as the Tanakh or Hebrew Bible. This will involve consideration of the original contexts of the books of the Old Testament and will constitute an introduction to Biblical genres including History, Prophetic Literature, Wisdom Literature, Myth, Apocalyptic Literature, and Theology. The question of the significance of the Hebrew Bible for Jesus and for the Early Church will provide a pivot as we move onto a similar consideration of the New Testament.

General notes on the class.

 Basis for Grading

Class quizzes (4 @ 10%), the final examination (20%), and two written papers (3-4 pp. and 5-6 pp. 15% @) will constitute the basis for grading, study guides and attendance and class participation will total 10% of your final grade.

 You must attend classes.


The aim of this course is academic rather than theological. The pursuit of historical research is seen as complementary rather than antagonistic to faith. One's personal belief in the truth of the Bible can be affirmed independently of questions of historical or literal accuracy. However, the academic understanding of the Biblical text is dependent on historical and literal accuracy. Students are offered the opportunity to consider and discuss the methods, theories, and conclusions of Biblical scholarship. In this way they can gain a thorough basis both for a well-considered personal understanding of the Bible and for any further, more detailed study they might undertake.


The primary text will be the Bible. Students can use whichever translation they prefer as variations in translation are illuminating. But a Bible must be brought to class! The sections from John Hayes' Introduction to the Bible must be read before the dates listed for their discussion.

To prepare for each class you should read the given section of Hayes' Introduction and also the Bible references made there. I will assign more extensive Bible readings as the classes progress. Try and formulate any questions that arise from these readings and have them ready to ask in class. I advise you to write out your questions as this will help you to put them clearly before the class. If it is possible discuss the issues raised in the readings with your classmates (or anyone else who's interested) outside of the classroom.

The classes will generally follow a question-and-answer pattern. I will ask students to outline and explain what they understand from their reading and the class as a whole will discuss the topic. During that discussion I will attempt to answer students' questions as thoroughly and clearly as I can. All students will be expected to participate in discussions. The ability to express yourself clearly before a small audience like this is absolutely necessary to your advancement in many areas of life.

The schedule of classes, quizzes, etc. remains negotiable until the eight week of term. Changes must be made before this date. Attendance in class is mandatory. You will not be given extra points for attendance and participation. Rather you will be allowed three absences, thereafter you will lose percentage points which will result in a lowering of your final grade. Reading alone will not give you the skills or the information needed to pass this course satisfactorily. The class discussions and explanations are a necessary component of the course.

Westminster College as an institution and I as an individual both pursue a strict policy of academic honesty. Plagiarism--the undisclosed use of other people's work as your own--will be treated severely. But always remember that while using someone else's work without declaring your source is dishonest, doing the same thing and citing the source is good scholarship! Books must be cited in the correct bibliographic style and personal sources can also be cited.

Please remember that high grades reflect very well on my teaching record. I want to give you good grades! But I am examined also and you must give me cause to give you a good grade. Like most other skills academic ability improves with practice. If you feel weak in public speaking or critical analysis now is the time to practice and improve.