Academic Programs 

Major Themes in the Bible and Qur’an    (SC-634)
Fall 2006

This course will engage the scripture of Christians and Muslims (Hebrew Scriptures, New Testament and Qur’an) through a comparative reading of common themes. Similarities and differences of interpretation will be analyzed with reference to historical and modern forms of exegesis, attention being given to the social-cultural contexts in which scriptures and commentaries exist.


Meeting Day, Time and Dates: 
Wednesdays from 4:30 p.m. to 6:50 p.m., beginning September 13

Jane I. Smith
Professor of Islamic Studies and Christian-Muslim Relations

Contact Information:
(860) 509-9500


Course Syllabus

Intent of the Course:

The course is designed to give students an opportunity to trace some of the most significant theological and ethical teachings of the Old and New Testaments and the Qur’an. Biblical and Qur’anic doctrines of covenant and prophecy, repentance and forgiveness, love and justice will be analyzed to illustrate how these scriptures have expressed the relationship between human and divine, and the ethical responsibilities of humans to one another.

Attention will be given to the definition of scripture, its function in worship life, the use of scripture in its oral as well as its written form, and methods of scriptural interpretation.



Students are expected to bring to each class session a version of the Bible (Old and New Testaments) or the Qur’an, depending on the session. The New Revised Standard Version Harper Collins Study Bible (paper) and the Majid Fakhry translation (interpretation) of the Qur’an (paper) are available in the Seminary Bookstore and are recommended, although other versions are generally acceptable.

Additional weekly readings will be made available on-line and on library reserve.



Each student taking the course for credit will be responsible for:

  1. Reading and discussing in class the weekly assigned materials.
  2. Participating in general class discussions.
  3. Providing at the end of the 5th, 8th and 11th weeks a brief (2-3 pages) response to the readings and presentations on the scriptural text most recently considered.
  4. Writing a 10-12 page essay on one of a list of topics to be distributed.


Class Structure:

 September 13 Introduction to the Course

September 20  What is Scripture?


  1. Peter Gomes, The Good Book, pp. 3-52.
  2. John Esposito, “Qur’an,” in The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Modern World, pp. 385-400.


September 27  Old Testament Themes I


  1. “Ancient Texts & Versions of the Old Testament”, New Interpreter’s Bible I, pp. 292-304.
  2. “Modern English Versions of the Bible,” New Interpreter’s Bible I, pp. 22-32.


October 4        Old Testament Themes II


  1. “Introduction to the History of Ancient Israel,” New Interpreter’s Bible I, pp. 244-71.
  2. “Introduction to the Pentateuch,” New Interpreter’s Bible I, pp. 305-318.


October 11      I. Scripture from the Jewish Perspective
                      II. Who was Hagar?

Reading: [Each student will be assigned one of the following, all from Phillis Trible and Letty M. Russell, eds., Hagar, Sarah and Their Children. Jewish, Christian and Muslim Perspectives. John Knox, 2006]

  1. Phillis Trible, “Ominous Beginnings for a Promise of Blessing,” pp. 33-62
  2. Letty M. Russell, “Twists and Turns in Paul’s Allegory,” pp. 71-92
  3. Riffat Hassan, “Islamic Hagar and Her Family,” pp. 149-164

First short essay due

October 18      NO CLASS  [Note: use this time to read ahead!]

October 25      New Testament Themes I


Gerd Theissen, Fortress Introduction to the New Testament, pp. 1-13.
Martin Copenhaver, To Begin at the Beginning, pp. 3-80.

November 1     New Testament Themes II


  1. D.T. Niles, The Preacher’s Task and he Stone of Stumbling, chaps. 1-3


November 8     Preaching the Bible and Reciting the Qur’an


                        a.  [to be determined]
                        b. Michael Sells, Approaching the Qur’an, pp. 1-28

Second short essay due


November 15   Qur’an Themes I


a.   Sohaib Sultan, The Qur’an for Dummies, pp. 2-77
b. Fazlur Rahman, Major Themes of the Qur’an, pp. 1-16

November 22   READING WEEK

November 29   Qur’an Themes II


  1. Fazlur Rahman, Major Themes of the Qur’an, pp. 80-105
  2. Wilfred Cantwell Smith, “Is the Qur’an the Word of God?” in Questions of Religious Truth, pp. 39-62.

Third short essay due

December 6     Feminist “Re-Readings” of Scripture [each student will be assigned one of the following]


  1. Carolyn Osiek, “Reading the Bible as Woman,” The New Interpreter’s Bible I, pp. 181-187.
  2. Elizabeth Fiorenza, “Neither Male Nor Female: Galatians 3:28 – Alternative Vision and Pauline Modification,” in In Memory of Her, pp. 205-236.
  3. Amina Wadud, “Alternative Qur’anic Interpretation and the Status of Muslim Women,” in Gisela Webb, ed., Windows of Faith, pp. 3-21


December 13   Conclusion [presentation of essay topics]


Hartford Seminary  77 Sherman Street  Hartford, CT  06105   860-509-9500