Intro to the Hebrew Bible

Prof. Mark K. George
Office: I-110, (303) 765-3168
Office hours: I am happy to arrange a meeting with students. Please contact me in class or by email to make arrangements.

Rodé Molla, GTA (Graduate Teaching Assistant)

Introduction to the Hebrew Bible

Course Description

Catalogue description: An introduction to the literature and history of ancient Israel and early Judaism with special attention to the various methods appropriate to studying the Hebrew Bible.

Additional description: As an introductory course, this class is designed to provide a one quarter survey of the Hebrew Bible. It is organized according to the canonical arrangement of the Hebrew Bible. We study the content and themes of the books of the Hebrew Bible, their historical and social backgrounds, and scholarly interpretations and approaches to the materials. Among the objectives of the course is to prepare students for further coursework in biblical studies and to develop each student’s skills in critical, close readings of biblical texts.

Course Goals and Objectives

The goal of this course is to familiarize students with major aspects of the critical study of the Hebrew Bible. In order to accomplish this goal, students:

  1. are introduced and familiarized with the content of the Hebrew Bible, the types of literature it contains, and the historical and cultural contexts in which this literature was produced, through readings, lectures, online discussions, and assessments;
  2. are helped in developing their abilities to read the Hebrew Bible critically by examining scholarly theories and approaches to its interpretation, through readings, lectures, and online discussions;
  3. improve their skills in critical reading of biblical texts, through readings and online discussions;
  4. learn to see and interpret material artifacts and sites pertinent to the study of the Hebrew Bible, through readings and online discussions.


New Revised Standard Version (NRSV). This is the translation we will use in the course for all class work, written work, online postings, and other “official” contexts. If you do not own a copy of the NRSV or have easy electronic access to a copy, please make arrangements to gain access. If you would like to purchase a copy, I recommend Harold W. Attridge, ed. The HarperCollins Study Bible-Student Edition: Fully Revised and Updated . San Francisco: HarperOne, 2006. ISBN 978-0060786847.

Brown, Michael Joseph. What They Don’t Tell You: A Survivor’s Guide to Biblical Studies . Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2000. ISBN 978-0664222208. Note: Please read this book prior to the first week of class.

Coogan, Michael D. A Brief Introduction to the Old Testament: The Hebrew Bible in its Context . 3 rd ed. New York: Oxford University Press, 2016. ISBN 978-0190238599. Please note: a new (4th) edition of this book was published recently, so please do not confuse editions. For this course, we will use the 3rd edition . It is a bit cheaper (especially if you can find a used copy in good condition) and not that much new information is in the 4th edition.

Newsom, Carol A. Sharon H. Ringe, Jacqueline E. Lapsley, eds. The Women’s Bible Commentary . 3 rd edition. Revised and expanded. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2012. ISBN 978-0664237073.

Petersen, David L. The Prophetic Literature: An Introduction . Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2002. ISBN 978-0664254537.

Additional readings will be made available through this Canvas site.

NOTE: the syllabus and schedule are subject to change at the sole discretion of the professor.

  1. Regular attendance and participation in class. Our class time will be divided between a lecture and discussion on the week's materials as well as exegetical (interpretive) work on a biblical text. Outlines (in Word) for lectures will be posted on the Canvas site before class for your use with each week’s lecture. Students are to come to each class prepared to discuss, raise questions, and thereby engage all the assigned materials. Additional readings, when listed, are optional and listed for students who wish to have supplementary perspectives on the materials. Please note that Week 5 involves online work due to the way campus courses are scheduled during Gathering Days for Journey students.
  2. Terms quizzes. Most weeks there will be a short quiz (10 items) on terms, names, sites, and dates relevant to our study and understanding of the HB.
    1. Many of these come from the terms Coogan lists at the end of his chapters, but others do not, since Coogan does not list every term I consider important for your basic knowledge of the Hebrew Bible. I suggest consulting Coogan and a one-volume Bible dictionary for help learning the terms. I also suggest working with others from class to define and learn the terms.
    2. These quizzes and terms are another way to learn about the Hebrew BIble and its contents. You may ask questions about terms in class if you are not finding useful information elsewhere, but please do your homework before asking in class; I want to add to what you've learned rather than being your one source for information!
    3. Each quiz must be completed no later than 11:45 p.m. MDT on Friday (there is no quiz in Week 5, Gathering Days, or Week 10). Each quiz has a time limit of 10 minutes.
    4. You may take the quiz a total of three (3) times, with Canvas recording your highest score. The terms on each quiz are listed in the schedule for that week. There are more terms than will appear on each quiz because Canvas mixes up which questions appear each time you take the quiz, so please learn them all. I provide the list of terms that might appear for a week's quiz in the schedule. However, terms from earlier weeks will not be listed again, even though they may appear again in later weeks.
    5. Quiz questions come in a variety of forms, including true/false, multiple choice, all that are correct, etc. These different formats are designed to help you learn these terms adequately.
  3. Map quizzes. There are two map quizzes for this course, one on sites in the larger ancient Near East (ANE), the other on sites in Canaan. Each quiz is administered online over a two-day period. The first quiz, on sites in the ANE, will be available for students between Wednesday, 25 Sept. at 6:00 a.m. MDT and Friday, 27 Sept. at 12:00 p.m. MDT. The second quiz, on sites in Canaan, will be available for students between Wednesday, 30 Oct. at 6:00 a.m. MDT and Friday, 1 Nov. at 12:00 p.m. MDT.
    1. In order to help you learn and study for these quizzes, you can download the full list of map sites for the ancient Near East and Canaan for use in the Google Earth website on Chrome. (I suggest you download the Google Earth Pro stand-alone program to your personal computer or laptop; if you do so, please use these links to files suitable to that program: ancient Near East quiz and the Canaan quiz). If you are using the Chrome browser and have Google Earth open in a window, here is how you get the map sites to open on it:
      1. Once you have Google Earth open, click on the "My Places" icon on the left side of the screen (it's the small ribbon icon, third from the bottom of the icons).
      2. Once My Places is open, then click on the link at the bottom of the box that lets you import kml files (a change that must be made in "Settings" in Google Earth). Save this change of settings.
      3. You should now see the "Import KML File" open in My Places. Click on this, then click on "Open file..." in the drop-down menu.
      4. Locate the downloaded map file(s) and click on one. It should open in Google Earth.
      5. You can remove particular sites, regions, etc. by clicking on the "eye" icon in My Places.
      6. The pins are color-coded: Yellow = site, Red = region, White = bodies of water
      7. Regions are indicated by dark borders and shaded areas.
    2. I suggest you learn each site by its relationship to fixed landmarks or bodies or water, since not every pin will appear on the map questions.
    3. In each quiz, students are to identify correctly sites, regions, and bodies of water on the map. Each question has a colored pin on the map indicating which site must be identified. Each question is multiple choice; select the correct answer from the list.
    4. Each quiz has a time limit of 10 minutes. You have three (3) attempts at each map quiz, with Canvas recording your highest score. As with the terms quizzes, there are more sites in for each quiz than you will be asked, so you are likely to have at least one or two different sites posed for you from one quiz attempt to the next.
    5. Practice map quiz. A practice map quiz is available for your use. Based on New Testament sites, it is designed to help you become familiar with how the quiz works in Canvas.
  4. Examinations. There will be two examinations in the course: a midterm and final. Both involve writing essays in response to questions created by the professor.
    1. Midterm: the midterm examination questions will be posted on Tuesday, 8 October in Week 5; answers are due on Wednesday, 16 October no later than 11:45 p.m. MDT.
    2. Final: the final examination questions will be handed out in class in Week 9 (and then posted online); answers are due on Wednesday, 13 November no later than 11:45 p.m. MST.
    3. Both examinations are open book. Students may consult their course materials, discuss the questions with others in the class and what they understand each question to be asking, and how they might go about formulating an answer. However, each student must write their own answers for the examination. Students may not share answers, review the answers of others, or assist directly in any way with the answer of another student. What I am encouraging is collaborative work preparing your answers, but once you begin answering the question, I ask that you not work with others but rather create and produce your own answer.
    4. Both examinations are essay exams. Both will be comprehensive of the materials to that point in the course (i.e., through Wk 5 for the midterm, through Wk 10 for the final). Students will be given 2 or 3 questions and asked to write essay answers to them. All essays are to follow graduate school standards for written work: typed, in 12 point font, with 1 inch margins on all sides, double-spaced, proof-read and carefully checked for grammar and style, with proper citation style. Examinations can be answered on the basis of assigned course materials. In other words, the examinations are not research papers. As a result, references to assigned course materials do not require bibliographic information beyond author, title, and page(s). Only if you must cite an outside source (i.e., other than the materials assigned for this course) do you need to provide proper bibliographic information in a footnote for that source.

        Degree Learning Goals: Please take some time to look over the Professional Degree Learning Goals (MDiv, MASC, MAPSC) and the Academic Degree Learning Goals (MTS, MA).

        Pass/Fail: Please see the policy for P/F for this course, as described on the Grading page.

        Incompletes: Please see the policy for Incompletes for this course, as described on the Grading page.

        Credit Hours: For each graduate credit awarded by a course at the Iliff School of Theology, students should be spending approximately one hour (50 minutes) in contact with the instructor and three hours (150 minutes) on course work outside of class per week over the equivalent of a 10-week quarter. This applies to residential, intensive, online and hybrid classes alike. For more details see Iliff's Credit Hour Policy.

        Academic Integrity and Community Covenant: All students are expected to abide by Iliff’s statement on Academic Integrity, as published in the Masters Student Handbook, or the Joint PhD Statement on Academic Honesty, as published in the Joint PhD Student Handbook, as appropriate. All participants in this class are expected to be familiar with Iliff’s Core Values.

        Title IX Mandatory Reporting Policy: As a professor, one of my responsibilities is to help create a safe learning environment on our campus. I also have ory reporting responsibility related to my role as a professor. It is my goal that you feel able to share information related to your life experiences in classroom discussions, in your written work, and in our one-on-one meetings. I will seek to keep information you share private to the greatest extent possible. However, I am required to share with the Title IX coordinator information regarding instances of sex/gender-based harassment, discrimination, and sexual misconduct in the Iliff community. Students may speak to someone confidentially by contacting our Confidential Reporters: the Dean of the Chapel and Spiritual Formation, the Associate Dean of Admissions, and the Director of Consultation and Formation. Information on our Title IX Policy can be found on Iliff’s website.

        AccommodationsAccommodations: Iliff engages in a collaborative effort with students with disabilities to reasonably accommodate student needs. Students are encouraged to contact their assigned advisor to initiate the process of requesting accommodations. The advising center can be contacted at or by phone at 303-765-1146. The Disability Services Officer at Iliff is Vince Tango, Associate Dean of Admissions/Student Services, For more information, go to the Disability Services in the Master Student Handbook.

        Writing Lab: Grammar and organization are important for all written assignments. Additional help is available from the Iliff Writing Lab, which is available for students of any level who need help beginning an assignment, organizing thoughts, or reviewing a final draft. 

        Inclusive Language: It is expected that all course participants will use inclusive language in speaking and writing, and will use terms that do not create barriers to classroom community. 

        B+...................88–90 (NB: a score of 90 is a B+)
        F.....................59 or below

        Weekly class participation............................................................................. 20%
        Terms quizzes...................................................................................................10%
        Map quizzes......................................................................................................10% (5% each)
        Midterm examination..................................................................................... 25%
        Final examination............................................................................................ 35%

        Late work is graded down one full letter grade for every 24 hour period it is late. Work more than two days late (48 hours) may be graded a zero, at the professor's discretion.

        Pass/Fail requests must be made by e-mail to Prof. George ( no later than Sunday, 15 September 2019. E-mailed responses approving or denying each request will come from the Professor. If you do not receive an email response by Friday, 20 September 2019, please contact the Professor by email.

        Incomplete grades will be granted only in the rarest of cases, and will follow the published incomplete policy in the Masters Student Handbook, which is online, with the addition that students who receive an incomplete will be required to make up all work, plus write a 5 page exegesis paper.

        Please see the Policy and Services page for additional information.

        1. Electronic devices. I strongly suggest you turn off all electronic devices while studying. Research indicates students learn more when they take notes with pen and paper rather than taking notes on a computer. There is a lot of material to learn in this course, so do whatever you can to improve your learning and retention of it. Turning off electronic devices is a big step in this direction. In my research practice, I read with pen and paper at my side so I can take notes (source, page, quotations [if really needed], observations I have, ideas I have). Once I’m done reading, I summarize the main point of the reading in my notes. Only once I’ve done all this do I turn on my computer and transcribe my notes into it so I have them. This practice gives me two opportunities at learning the material: when I take notes (which requires me to put ideas from the reading into my own words, thereby aiding me in learning it and making sure I understand it), and again when entering them on my computer (I use the Evernote app for this purpose).
        2. Reading. Be an active reader. When you begin, read through the section headers so you can see the structure of the argument. Then read through the material with a pencil, noting and underlining important information and elements of the argument. If you are underlining everything, it’s too much. Stop, put down the pencil, and read through the material quickly. When you finish, articulate out loud the central argument of claim being made in the reading. Then pick up your pencil and go back and read more slowly, noting and underlining the important elements of the argument.
        3. Use the resources in Coogan. The Coogan textbook offers a variety of ways to learn the materials. The terms and review questions at the end of each chapter are helpful for making sure you understand what you just read, and later, for review. The Glossary, Chronology, maps, charts, images, and other materials in each chapter and at the end of the book are very helpful. I encourage you to use them regularly.
        4. Review and study! In preparation for examinations, review your lecture and reading notes before beginning the examination. When you receive the examination questions, read through each question carefully to ensure you understand it. If you do not, then contact the professor right away and ask for clarification. You also can contact other students in the course to ask for help clarifying the question(s), but be forewarned, the professor is the best interpretive source on them and what he is asking! Once you understand the question, review your notes, the lectures, and the readings that are pertinent to it. Write out an outline of a possible response, then edit and fill in gaps as needed.. The review and outlining of questions will deepen your understanding and comprehension of the materials presented in the course. Not only will this time and effort help prepare you for the examination, it will make you better equipped to tackle questions about the Bible in the future and therefore be more confident as a person with a graduate school degree from Iliff!

        Sep 10, 2019TueWk 1: Introduction; Making a Book/Scroll: The Pentateuchdue by 07:00PM
        Sep 14, 2019SatWk 1 Terms Quizdue by 05:45AM
        Sep 17, 2019TueWk 2: The Struggle over Israeldue by 07:00PM
        Sep 21, 2019SatWk 2 Terms Quizdue by 05:45AM
        Sep 24, 2019TueWk 3: Becoming Subjects: The Conduct of Conductdue by 07:00PM
        Sep 27, 2019FriAncient Near East Map Quizdue by 06:00PM
        Sep 28, 2019SatWk 3 Terms quizdue by 05:45AM
        Oct 01, 2019TueWk 4: Entering Canaan: The Importance of Space and Placedue by 07:00PM
        Oct 05, 2019SatWk 4 Terms quizdue by 05:45AM
        Oct 08, 2019TueMidterm Examinations — Questionsdue by 07:00PM
        Oct 08, 2019TueWk 5: Online — Sovereignty and Its Subjectsdue by 07:00PM
        Oct 10, 2019ThuWk 5: Sovereignty - reminder to make your Wednesday postingdue by 05:45AM
        Oct 12, 2019SatWk 5: Sovereignty - FRIDAY reminderdue by 05:45AM
        Oct 15, 2019TueWk 6: Sovereignties; Prophecydue by 07:00PM
        Oct 17, 2019ThuMidterm Examination — Upload Answers heredue by 05:45AM
        Oct 19, 2019SatWk 6 Terms quizdue by 05:45AM
        Oct 22, 2019TueWk 7: The End of Monarchy: Subjugationdue by 07:00PM
        Oct 26, 2019SatWk 7 Terms quizdue by 05:45AM
        Oct 29, 2019TueWk 8: Exile, Domination, and Exilic Prophecydue by 07:00PM
        Nov 01, 2019FriCanaan/Israel Map Quizdue by 06:00PM
        Nov 02, 2019SatWk 8 Terms quizdue by 05:45AM
        Nov 05, 2019TueWk 9: Wisdom and Its Discontentsdue by 08:00PM
        Nov 09, 2019SatWk 9 Terms quizdue by 06:45AM
        Nov 12, 2019TueWk 10: Life After Exile; Why Bible Mattersdue by 08:00PM
        Nov 14, 2019ThuFinal Examination—Upload Answers heredue by 06:45AM