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Advanced Old Testament

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Session 01: Sin and Flood

This session explores the familiar accounts of Cain and Abel, the Flood and Noahide covenant. The story of Cain and Abel expresses the notion of the God-endowed sanctity of human life and a “universal moral law” governing the world. Examination of the contradictions and doublets in the flood story leads to a discussion of the complex composition and authorship of the Pentateuch.

Burning Bush

Session 02: Jacob, Joseph & Moses

In this session we explore the significance of Jacob's change of name, Joseph and his brothers, the story of Moses birth and descriptions of God in the Hebrew Bible.

Mount Sinai

Session 03: Biblical Law

This session traces the account of the Exodus (and the origin of the Passover festival as a historicization of older nature festivals) and Israel’s liberation from bondage under Pharaoh. The story reaches its climax with the covenant concluded between God and Israel through Moses at Sinai. Drawing heavily on the work of Jon Levenson, the lecture examines Ancient Near Eastern parallels to the Sinaitic covenant and describes the divine-human relationship (an intersection of law and love) that the covenant seeks to express.


Session 03: Sacrifice, Purity & Holiness

In this session, the Priestly source (P) found primarily in Leviticus and Numbers is expored. The symbolism of the sacrificial cult and purity system, the differences between moral and ritual impurity, as well as holiness and purity are explained within the Priestly context. The concept of holiness and imitatio dei, or human imitation of God, is explained.

Book of Joshua

Session 04: Life In the Land

This session concludes the study of Deuteronomy and traces the contribution of the Deuteronomistic School. The books of the Former Prophets are introduced.


Session 05: The Non-Literary Prophets

This session introduces the phenomenon of Israelite prophecy which included ecstatic prophecy and prophetic guilds. The non-literary prophets of the historical books of the Bible and their various roles (as God’s zealot; as conscience of the king) are examined.

Eagle Soaring

Session 06: Literary Prophecy

Micah, eighth-century southern prophet and contemporary of Isaiah, is discussed. Several short prophetic books are also discussed: Zephaniah; the Book of Nahum, depicting the downfall of Assyria and distinguished for its vivid poetic style; and the book of Habbakuk, which contains philosophical musings on God’s behavior. The final part of the lecture turns to the lengthy book of Jeremiah.


Session 07: Responses to Suffering & Evil

This session begins with the Book of Lamentations, and moves on to introduce the third and final section of the Hebrew Bible - the Ketuvim, or “Writings.”


Session 08: The Restoration

This session continues the discussion of the psalms before turning to the period of the Restoration when the Judean exiles returned to what was now the province of Yehud under Cyrus, the Persian ruler. The books of 1 and 2 Chronicles refer to some of the events of this time as well as the books of Ezra and Nehemiah.


Session 09: Visions of the End

The Book of Ruth expresses a view of gentiles entirely opposed to that of Ezra and Nehemiah. Other prophets of the Restoration period are discussed, including Third Isaiah, Zechariah, Joel and Daniel.


Session 10: Alternative Visions

In this session, Esther and Jonah are examined and their attitudes towards foreign nations compared. Professor Hayes concludes the course with remarks regarding the dynamic and complex messages presented in the Hebrew Bible.

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