Sample Questions

These are samples of the sort of questions you should be able to answer after taking this course. Many of these questions will appear in your quizzes and in the final examination, although there will be others. If you cannot come up with your own topic for your papers most of these questions can be adapted to essay length replies.

(p.# in parentheses refer to Hayes, Introduction to the Bible where consideration of each question begins.)

Group One - Bible Studies

Section 1. General Biblical Content

Discuss the question of the number of books in the Bible. (4)

Modern Jews call their scripture the Tanakh. What is the origin of this word? How does the Tanakh relate to the Christian Old Testament? (3)

What categories of literature are found in the Old Testament? Give some examples. (14)

Section 2. Canonization/Translation

How and when did the books of the Bible come to be collected together? What is this process called? (19)

Which is the oldest collection of writings in the Old Testament? What evidence do we have for our conclusions? (135)

Why are there slightly different versions of the Bible in English? How did they come to be written? (28)

Group Two - Old Testament Studies

Section 3. Critical Analysis

Four sources of literary tradition appear to compose the Pentateuch (Torah). They are usually referred to as J, E, D, and P. What are the identifying characteristics and major emphases of each? Which is oldest? (48-55, 135-147, 244-246)

There appear to be two separate accounts of the creation of the world in the book of Genesis. What are the differences between them and what do these differences imply? (50)

Section 4. Geography

Most of the events in the Old Testament take place in the area between the Nile to the South West and the Tigris/Euphrates valley to the East. Describe this region using sketch maps.

(30-41 and maps)

What is the significance of the geographical location of the land of Canaan? (43-44)

Section 5. The Exodus and the Conquest of Canaan

The Jewish festival of Pesa (Passover) commemorates the release of the Hebrew people from the domination of Egypt. What were the historical circumstances of that transition? (67)

The Book of Joshua paints a rather different picture of the "conquest" of Canaan from passages in the Book of Genesis (Gen 34:9-10,21, 49:13-17). How might these differences be explained? (72)

Discuss the crossing of the "Red Sea" in Exodus 14. (69)

Explain the terms "etiological" and "eponymous" with examples from the Pentateuch. How do you think these concepts might affect our reading of the Bible?

When did the Hebrews begin to worship God by the name of Yahweh? How could the different accounts in Exodus 6:2 and Genesis 4:26 be explained? (49-51, 66)

Section 6. Hebrews in Canaan

The authors of the books of the Old Testament were Hebrews. Who were these "Hebrews?" What was their history? (47-71)

How did the Hebrews express their independent cultural identity in the land of Canaan? (84-98)

Section 7. The Rise and Fall of the Hebrew Monarchy

When and for how long were the Hebrew people an independent political unity? (99-134)

What were the reasons for the establishment of a Hebrew monarchy? What were the reasons for its eventual division? (99-103)

What are the special features of the "Throne Succession Story" in 1Samuel 9-20 and 1 Kings 1 and 2? (115)

Did the priests and prophets of Yahweh support or oppose the monarchy.

Section 8. Exile

What was the effect of the exile on the culture and the religion of the Hebrew people?

"By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, yea we wept, when we remembered Zion. We hanged our harps upon the willows in the midst thereof. For they that carried us away captive required of us a song; and they that wasted us required of us mirth, saying, Sing us one of the songs of Zion." (Pss 137:1-3) What were the historical events reflected in this Psalm? (223, 230)

Where and what is Mesopotamia? What role did this land play in Biblical history? (See Index in Hayes)

Give a brief outline of the history of the Israelites from their entry into Canaan (or from the division of the monarchy) to their exile in Babylon. (47-214)

Section 9. The Post-Exilic Period

Describe the events which followed Cyrus the Great's edict allowing exiled peoples to return to their homes. (223)

Compare the message of the prophet Jeremiah with that of Ezra. Why are the differences so marked? (204, 269)

How and why was Solomon's Temple in Jerusalem destroyed in 587 BCE and rebuilt seventy years later? (207, 267)

The narrative of the first six chapters of the book of Daniel are set in Babylon during the Exile. Do you think the setting is contemporary with the writing of this book? Explain your conclusions. (284)

"The prophet (Isaiah) depicts the return from exile in the category of a new exodus parallel to the original exodus out of Egypt but far more glorious and wonderful." (Hayes, 225) In what ways did the return from Babylon resemble the Exodus? In what ways did it differ? (223-229)

Section 10. The Prophets.

Who were the prophets? What kind of literature did they produce? When and where did they operate? (160)

What particular elements of the theology of the prophets of Post-Exilic Israel seem to have influenced early Christianity? (227, 378)

What are the three factors which contributed to the rise of the prophets? (160)

There are generally three types of material in the prophetic books. What are these and what does their inclusion reflect?(161)

What are the central messages of Amos and Hosea? (162)

What is the significance of the "New Covenant" of Jeremiah 31:31 and of the suffering servant narratives in Deutero-Isaiah? (220)

Section 11. Wisdom literature.

Which books of the Bible are identifiable as Wisdom Literature? Which virtues do they encourage? (250-261)

Hayes (250) identifies four types of Wisdom literature practical, theological, philosophical, and skeptical. Which types would you associate particularly with which books of the Bible? (250-261)

How does the Book of Job deal with the problem of theodicy (divine justice)? What mistaken concepts does it seek to correct? What conclusions does it reach? (285)

Section 12. Apocalyptic literature.

What are the characteristics of Apocalyptic literature? How are these characteristics inter-connected? (282)

What historical circumstances surrounded the composition of the Book of Daniel? How would these circumstances explain the symbolism and the cryptic (concealed) references in this book? (284-288)

Apart from the Book of Daniel what sections of the Old Testament might be identified as Apocalyptic Literature? (282)

Can the development of the doctrines of resurrection and messianism in Apocalyptic Literature can be seen as a bridge between prophetic literature and the New Testament? (282)

Group Three - New Testament Studies

Section 13. The Quest for "History"

There are certain specific problems connected with the attempt to reconstruct the factual history of the Gospel narratives. What are these problems and how does this affect Christian faith? (319-321, 323)

What are the ipsissima verba and the ipsissima vox? What criteria have been applied in the attempt to recover them? (335)

"Any attempted reconstruction of the historical Jesus and his preaching must satisfactorily fulfill three basic goals. (1) It must understand Jesus in the context of first century Palestinian Judaism. (2) It must explain the reasons for his death . . . what lead to his crucifixion? (3) It must explain why he attracted a following . . . and why this following took root [after his death]." (Hayes, 336) Are these reasonable goals? Are they possible goals? To what extent have they been achieved?

Section 14. The Gospels

What is the synoptic problem? How might it be explained? (325-330)

In what ways do the gospels differ one from another? (325-326)

Describe the structure of Mark's Gospel. How does it compare to that of the other gospels? (338)

Section 15. The Gospel Narratives

Mark's gospel emphasizes Jesus' preaching of the Kingdom of God. Although the divine kingship of God was an ancient Jewish idea it had recently been modified by Apocalyptic thought. What was new about this idea and how did Jesus describe the Kingdom in this gospel? (345-350)

What is the significance of the "cleansing of the Temple" in the Gospels? Both for the followers of Jesus and for twentieth century students of the Bible? (360-361, 365)

"The basic issue is not so much how exactly the events of the resurrection occurred, but rather the existential truth conveyed in the resurrection story: through Jesus mankind triumphed over sin and death." (Greeley, Unsecular Man, 247) Does a close reading of the resurrection narratives in the New Testament bear out Greeley's conclusion? (369, 372-375)

What questions are raised by the accounts of the resurrection of Jesus in the New Testament? How might these questions be resolved? (368-9)

Section 16. The Gospel of John

In what ways does the Gospel of John differ from the synoptic Gospels? (325, 438)

"In the beginning was the word and the word was with God and the word was God." (John 1:1) Discuss the introduction to John's Gospel, particularly the significance of the Logos. (439)

Discuss the last supper and the crucifixion as related in John's gospel. How does this differ from the synoptics? (444)

Section 17. The Acts of the Apostles

What evidence is there for identifying the author of the Acts of the Apostles with the author of Luke's Gospel? (370-372)

The author of Luke/Acts gave his intention in Luke 1:3 as writing an "orderly account" of the work of Jesus and the early Church. How does he order his account in the Acts of the Apostles? (370-371)

What is the significance of Pentecost as related in Acts? What is the meaning of the name and why would the Apostles have been gathered together on this particular day? (380-381)

Section 18. Paul and the Church in The Roman Empire

How did the Pax Romana, the protracted period of peace under Roman rule established by the emperor Augustus (28 BCE - 14 CE) contribute to the spread of Christianity? What other contributory factors were involved? (Video, 385-389)

What particular ideas did the early Church derive from pre-Christian Judaism and from Greco/Roman culture?

Describe the changing relationship of Early Christianity and Judaism.

Apart from the Epistles themselves our main source for knowledge of Paul is the Acts of the Apostles. Discuss the inconsistencies and agreements between Paul and the author of Acts?

Section 19. The General Epistles

What are the general epistles and why are they so called? What do they reveal to us about the early Church?

Discuss the disagreement over justification by works between Paul and the letter of James. How serious do you think this is?

Section 20. The Revelation to John

Where and when was the Revelation to John written? What was the major stimulus which provoked its writing? (438)

Compare the Revelation to John to the Book of Daniel. In what ways do they differ, in what ways are they alike? (438, 284)

What was the primary purpose of the Book of Revelation? How does John communicate his message? (438)