Academic Programs 

Hebrew Bible Survey II (SC–520)
Winter/Spring 2008

Contextual interpretation like other methods of biblical interpretation takes three factors into account in the process of interpreting the Bible: the text, the world that created the text, and the contemporary situation in which interpretation takes place. However, unlike older, more traditional methods, it takes the context of the interpreter as the starting point in the hermeneutical process. Students will examine their own lived contexts and use their analyses to engage with selected texts from the Deuteronomistic History (Joshua to Kings in the Hebrew Bible).

Meeting Day, Time and Dates:
Thursday from 4:30 pm to 6:50 pm, beginning January 3

Uriah Kim
Professor of Hebrew Bible

Contact Information:
(860) 509-9564

Course Syllabus

Course Objectives
1. Through this course students will become more familiar with the content of the Prophets and the Writings.
2. Students will have greater understanding of the historical and socio–political context in which the Hebrew Bible emerged.
3. Students will also examine their contexts from which interpretations “happen.”

Requirements & Grades:
1. Students are expected to attend all class sessions and to participate actively in class (10% toward the final grade).
2. Students are required to write two short reflection papers (3 pages in length). The professor will pass out the questions on February 21 and March 27. The papers are due February 28 and April 3 respectively. Each paper is worth 25% toward the final grade.
3. Students are required to write a sermon or a reflection paper (6 pages in length) based on their critical engagement with biblical text, biblical scholarship, and their own socio-cultural context and is due May 1. It will count 40% toward the final grade.

Required Books
• John J. Collins, Introduction to the Hebrew Bible (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2004)
• Abraham Heschel, The Prophets (New York: Harper & Row, 1962)

Recommended Books
• Joseph Blenkinsopp, A History of Prophecy in Israel (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 1996)
• James L. Crenshaw, The Psalms: An Introduction (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans, 2001)
• Victor H. Matthews and Doc C. Benjamin, Old Testament Parallels (Paulist Press, 2007)
• Roland E. Murphy, The Tree of Life: An Exploration of Biblical Wisdom Literature (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans, 2002)
• Daniel Patte et al., eds., Global Bible Commentary (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2004)

Class Schedule

1. January 31 Introduction to the Prophets

Reading Assignment
• Blenkinsopp, pp. 1-64
• Heschel, pp. xiii-26

Focus Passages and Questions:
• Amos 5:21-24; Micah 6:6-8; Isaiah 1:11-17
What are common elements of these prophecies? Are these prophets proposing a religion different from the official religion of Israel?

2. February 7 The Eighth-century Prophets of Israel: Amos and Hosea

Reading Assignment
• Amos and Hosea
• Collins, pp. 283-306
• Heschel, pp. 27-60

Focus Passages and Questions:
• Amos 3:13-4:3; 5:10-15; 6:4-6
Why is Amos so upset? What are some problems Amos reports?
• Hosea 2:2-15
How is Hosea using the metaphor of marriage to characterize the behavior of Israel? Does the metaphor bother your modern sensibility?

3. February 14 The Eighth-century Prophets of Judah: Isaiah and Micah

Reading Assignment
• Isaiah 1-39 and Micah
• Collins, pp. 307-29
• Heschel, pp. 61-102

Focus Passages and Questions:
• Isaiah 6
What is the setting of the vision? Where is Isaiah? What does God want Isaiah to do? Is God setting up Isaiah for a failure?
• Micah 3:9-12
Compare this prophecy with Isaiah 31:4-5 and what you know about Isaiah’s Zion theology. How do you account for the difference between Micah’s message and Isaiah’s message in regards to Jerusalem (Zion)?

4. February 21 The Seventh-century Prophets of Judah: Jeremiah

Pass out the questions for the reflection paper #1

Reading Assignment
• Jeremiah
• Collins, pp. 331-52
• Heschel, pp. 103-139

Focus Passages and Questions:
• Jeremiah 1
How is the call narrative of Jeremiah similar and different from the call narrative of Moses (Exodus 3)?
• Jeremiah 20:7-18
Do you want to be a prophet after listening to Jeremiah’s lament/complaint?
• Jeremiah 14:13-16; 23:16-22; 27:9-16; 28:1-17; 29:8-9
Is there a crisis in prophecy? What is Jeremiah saying about the other prophets? Is he the only true prophet? How does he understand the Babylonian exile?

5. February 28 The Exilic Prophets: Ezekiel and Deutero-Isaiah

The reflection paper #1 due

Reading Assignment
• Ezekiel and Isaiah 40-55
• Collins, pp. 353-89
• Heschel, pp. 145-158

Focus Passages and Questions:
• Ezekiel 1
What do you think Ezekiel saw? What do you think he means by “This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord” (Ezekiel 1:28)?
• Ezekiel 9:3-11:25; 43:1-12; 48:35
Follow the movement of the glory of God. Why does Ezekiel think the glory of God left Jerusalem?
• Isaiah 40 and 55
How is the tone of these two passages different from the tone of Isaiah 1-39?

6. March 6 The Postexilic Prophets

Reading Assignment
• Isaiah 56-66; Zechariah; Malachi
• Collins, pp. 389-424
What are some conflicts the community of Isaiah 56-66 is facing? Can you speculate which factions/groups are involved in conflict?

7. March 13 Daniel and Apocalyptic Literature

Reading Assignment
• Daniel
• Collins, pp. 553-580
• Patte, pp. 253-261

Focus Passages and Questions:
• Daniel 12:1-4
Why do you think the idea of resurrection occurs so late in the Hebrew Bible? Is this idea foreign to the Israelite religion? How is the second half of the book of Daniel, considered an example of apocalyptic literature, different from the prophetic writings?

8. March 20 Reading Week/No Class

9. March 27 Wisdom Tradition: Proverbs

Pass out the questions for the reflection paper #2
Reading Assignment
• Proverbs
• Murphy, pp. 1-32
• Patte, pp. 163-174
• Collins, pp. 487-504

Focus Passages and Questions:
• Proverbs 30:18-19; 5:18-20; 21:19
Who is the implied audience? Who is the implied speaker? If you are not part of the implied audience, how do you understand these proverbs?
• Proverbs 10
What is retribution theology? How does the Book of Proverbs support this theology? What do you think about the validity or usefulness of this theology?

10. April 3 Wisdom Tradition: Job and Qohelet (Ecclesiastes)

The reflection paper #2 due
Reading Assignment
• Job and Qohelet (Ecclesiastes)
• Murphy, pp. 33-64
• Patte, pp. 141-150, 175-179
• Collins, pp. 505-528

Focus Passages and Questions:
• Job 1:6-12
Often we struggle with the question of theodicy (whether God is just) when bad things happen to good people or when good things happen to bad people. But in this passage we are privy to a question God struggles with: Why are humans religious? Why do humans worship God?
• Ecclesiates 7:15-18
What do you think of Qohelet’s suggestion in this passage?

11. April 10 The Chronicler’s History

• Collins, pp. 427-460
• Patte, pp. 119-134

Focus Passages and Questions:
• 2 Chronicles 36:22-23; Ezra 1:1-4; Isaiah 44:28-45:3
Who was Cyrus? Why is he so highly praised in these passages? Is he a messiah?
• Ezra 9-10
What’s the issue in these two chapters? Do you agree with Ezra’s policy? Are you sympathetic to his policy under the circumstance of the returnees? What would you do if you were married to a non-Israelite? What would you do if you were a foreign wife?

12. April 17 Ruth and Esther

Reading Assignment
• Ruth and Esther
• Collins, pp. 529-551
• Patte, pp. 86-91, 135-140

Focus Passages and Questions:
• Esther 1-2
Who do you think is a better feminist, Vashti or Esther? Why?
• Ruth 1:6-22
Who do you admire more, Ruth or Orpah? Why? Who do you think did the right thing? Why? What would you do? Why?

13. April 24 Song of Israel: Psalms

Reading Assignment
• Psalms 24, 71, 73, and 115
• Collins, pp. 461-486
• Crenshaw, pp. 1-52

14. May 1 Final Matters
• Sermon/reflection due

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