Intro to the Hebrew Bible

Prof. Mark K. George
Office: I-113, (303) 765-3168
Office hours: I am happy to arrange a meeting with students. Please contact me by email to make arrangements.

Elyse Pierce, GTA (Graduate Teaching Assistant)

2021-06-18 note : Hi everyone, and welcome to the HB Intro course (residential) for Fall 2021. If you've landed here, then you are interested in the course (hooray!) and what lies ahead. It's early summer, so those details will not be forthcoming for a while. But the books we will be using are listed below so you can make arrangements to acquire them. I (Mark) don't anticipate you will see much activity here until mid- to late-August. Elyse and I are making some changes to the course over the summer, which is why we won't publish anything before then. Even at that, I am a believer in preserving and protecting everyone's summer, so won't make the specifics of the course visible until the first day of Fall, with one exception: the assignment for week 1.  That week's materials and assignments will be posted minimally one week before the term begins, perhaps more. I'll make an announcement about that when I publish it and it is available to you. For now, please enjoy the summer, rest, connect with others (now that we're getting vaccinated and able to meet in person again), and know more information will be available later. Cheers!

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 Outcomes

The following are the desired student outcomes for this course:

  1. students gain greater understanding of the major aspects of the critical study of the Hebrew Bible;
  2. students increase their knowledge of 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, course discussions, and assessments;
  3. students improve their critical reading skills of biblical (and other) texts, through readings and course discussions;
  4. students learn and begin to use scholarly theories and approaches to the interpretation of the Hebrew Bible, through readings, lectures, and class discussions;
  5. students learn to interpret the Hebrew Bible in the larger context of material artifacts, archaeological and geographic sites, and other ancient materials, through readings and course 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. The only online site of which I know that provides access to the NRSV is Oremus ; please make sure you use the NRSV from the options provided in the drop-down menu under the search box.

Brown, Michael Joseph. What They Don’t Tell You: A Survivor’s Guide to Biblical Studies . 2nd edition. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2015. ISBN 978-0664235949 . If you only can find the 1st edition, that also is acceptable. Note: Please read this book prior to the first week of class.

Coogan, Michael D. and Cynthia R. Chapman. A Brief Introduction to the Old Testament: The Hebrew Bible in Its Context . 4th edition. New York: Oxford University Press, 2020. ISBN 978-0190903756 (p).

Newson, 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.

If you would like to begin reading over the summer , please start reading the Bible. This might sound like a cliché (maybe it is), but becoming familiar with the content of each book will be extremely helpful for the course. You don't have to read every book, chapter, and verse, but spend time with each book. Skim it for content. If something catches your eye, slow down (or stop) and read more carefully. Take a few notes for yourself about what you find in the books. Let the narratives and stories capture your interest and imagination. Read closely. What I mean is, slow waaaaaaay down and pay attention to what the stories themselves say, not what you've heard or been taught about them. Allow yourself to be stumped, puzzled, thrilled, angered, mystified, or whatever. Take a couple notes for yourself when this happens, noting your reaction and what book, chapter, and verse(s) provoked your reaction. This will be valuable information for our class during the term.

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 or a discussion of how science informs biblical studies. 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 have 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 8 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. Caveat: terms from earlier weeks will not be re-listed, 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.
  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, 29 Sept. at 6:00 a.m. MDT and Friday, 1 Oct. at 12:00 p.m. MDT. The second quiz, on sites in Canaan, will be available for students between Wednesday, 3 Nov. at 6:00 a.m. MDT and Friday, 5 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 quiz and the Canaan quiz (I suggest you download the Google Earth Pro stand-alone program to your personal computer or laptop, but the files also will open Google Earth as a website in Chrome).
      1. Once you have Google Earth open on your desktop, using either the stand-alone program or the web version, you need to download the two lists of map sites, then open them in Google Earth. Once they are in Google Earth, click the box next to the “ANE Map Site – Key” or “Canaan Map Sites – Key” so that all the places are indicated on your map.
      2. The pins are color-coded: Yellow = site, Red = region, White = bodies of water.
      3. 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 8 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 provided by the professor.
    1. Midterm: the midterm examination questions will be posted at 12:00 pm MDT (noon) on Saturday, 16 October; answers are due on Wednesday, 20 October no later than 11:45 p.m. MDT.
    2. Final: the final examination questions will be handed out in class in Week 10 (and then posted online); answers are due on Saturday, 20 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, collaboration or consultation with others is prohibited. Each student is to write their 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.

Grade Scale
Policies and Services
Suggestions for Successful Studying and Learning

Please note the following announcement from the Dean’s Office : “In the event that any participant in a course meeting on campus tests positive for COVID, that course will move to synchronous virtual meeting during the scheduled class time for the next two weeks. After that quarantine period the course will then resume meeting on campus as scheduled.”

Revision date: 06 August 2021

Sep 14, 2021TueWk 1: Making a Scroll: The Pentateuchdue by 02:30PM
Sep 22, 2021WedWk 2: The Struggle over Israeldue by 05:45AM
Sep 29, 2021WedWk 3: Becoming Subjectsdue by 05:45AM
Oct 06, 2021WedWk 4: Entering Canaandue by 05:45AM
Oct 13, 2021WedWk 5: Sovereignty and Its Subjects — ONLINE WORKdue by 05:45AM
Oct 14, 2021ThuWk 5 Discussion Reminderdue by 05:45AM
Oct 15, 2021FriWk 5 Exegesis work — ONLINE WORKdue by 05:45AM
Oct 20, 2021WedWk 6: Sovereignties; Prophecydue by 05:45AM
Oct 27, 2021WedWk 7: Monarchy Ends: Subjugationdue by 05:45AM
Nov 11, 2021ThuWk 9: Wisdom and Its Discontentsdue by 06:45AM
Nov 17, 2021WedWk 10: Life After Exiledue by 06:45AM