H.B. Lit: Deuteronomy
Prof. Mark K. George
Course description (catalogue copy)
: The book of Deuteronomy for centuries has been viewed as laying out a political view of Israel’s life together. Josephus, for example, described Deuteronomy as Israel’s
or “form of government.” Government certainly is an issue in the book, particularly as it involves the conduct of self and others. More recently, Deuteronomy is understood to play a foundational role in the books of the Former Prophets within the theory of the Deuteronomistic History. This course examines these and other critical issues in the study of Deuteronomy. Prerequisite: TX-Breadth.
Fuller course description for this term:
How do we read the Bible differently, and compared to what? These are questions we consider this term, in part because Deuteronomy is a good book with which to ask them. Deuteronomy receives a great deal of scholarly attention, and not without reason. A variety of scholarly issues are debated by those who study this book. Some are canonical. Is Deuteronomy part of the Torah, as tradition holds, or the Deuteronomistic History, as 20
century scholarship argues? Both? Neither? Either? Does it matter? Other issues are historical in focus. When was it written, where, by whom, for what reason(s), and how much of it can be ascribed to a specific point in history? These are common questions and concerns in “modern” scholarship. A related set of historical questions arose in the 20
century after scholars recognized similarities and differences between Deuteronomy and ancient Near Eastern international treaty forms, commonly referred to as suzerainty treaties. Written evidence discovered through archaeological work indicates these treaties were used across the ancient Near East from the second millennium into the first, a period in which identifiable imperial powers and relationships formed in this part of the world. Biblical scholars identified a form or structure within this treaty evidence, then identified the same (or similar) form in parts of the Hebrew Bible, especially Deuteronomy. This identification prompted theological questions and claims about the “covenant” between Israel and its deity, YHWH. It also prompted arguments about political subversion of imperial power, because YHWH appears to be the dominant party in Deuteronomy, not a foreign king.
Each of these clusters of issues offer a way of reading Deuteronomy differently from earlier Christian readings of the book. This term we will add another reading to these, involving subjectivity, government (in the sense of conduct), and technology. The subject of Deuteronomy is Israel, something that it creates and defines through a particular system and set of operations. Important to this system is the technology of writing and scrolls (i.e., “books”), the possibilities of which are realized for governing actions and thereby shaping people in distinct ways.
To increase students’ knowledge of the Book of Deuteronomy and the various interpretive issues it presents, through readings, discussions, and exegetical papers.
To develop and improve exegetical and interpretive skills in reading the Hebrew Bible, through weekly readings of biblical and secondary literature and the exegesis papers.
To improve critical thinking, communication, and writing skills by means of discussions and postings, exegetical papers, and responses.
To advance our ability to interpret biblical materials in light of contemporary issues, using postings and other written work.
Discipline & Punish: The Birth of the Prison
(New York: Vintage, 1979). The version now available is the 1995 2
edition, ISBN 9780679752554 (p).
. JPS Torah Commentary. Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1996. ISBN 9780827603301 (c).
New Revised Standard Version (I recommend the
HarperCollins Study Bible
if you do not own a print copy of the NRSV). The Student edition is ISBN 9780060786847 (p).
- Regular participation in weekly Canvas discussions. Each week I will offer a recording of my reflections and comments about the week’s readings and topic (normally these will be posted by Tuesday evening of the previous week). Before participating in the online discussions for the week, please listen to these comments and complete the readings. We minimally have two "official" engagements with one another during the week, as follows:
- Tuesday: Your initial, substantive posting for the week is to be posted on Tuesday. It is where our discussion for the week begins and is the one in which your voice and engagement with the materials for the week are most clearly articulated. I do not offer prompting questions about the week’s materials (although I may raise some in my recorded comments), so our discussion will emerge from the things you want to talk about.
- By 11:45 p.m. MDT, please log in and offer your considered reflections and contribution for the week. Offer for discussion and consideration your considered thinking and insights on the week’s materials. For example, how does it help you think about Deuteronomy differently? Do you understand in a new way the history of scholarship? Or the assumptions scholars make as they undertake their work and interpretation? Perhaps something in the reading brings to light your own assumptions about Deuteronomy, Israel, history, yourself as a reader, the tradition of interpretation, or something else? Or tell us what doesn’t make sense, or questions you have about the material.
- The readings in the course come from a variety of perspectives, not all of which I agree with. Practice and develop your critical reading skills with them. What I mean by this is, as you read, engage them with a critical and analytical perspective. Ask a series of questions about them: what is the central argument being made, on what assumptions does that argument depend, how is the being made (evidence, organization, etc.), and what is at stake in making this argument? Critical reading and engagement with other scholars and their perspectives is a skill, one we are trying to improve during this course. This is a process of listening carefully to others to learn from them. When you finish a reading, try to state the central thesis in your own words. If you can, then you probably understand it! If you cannot, try to find the author’s thesis statement (usually in the first page or two), then try to state it in your own words. (If you try this and can’t find the thesis, make this part of your Tuesday posting.) Once you feel confident you have done this, outline the argument. Scholarship is, at its best, a conversation, so this work of identifying the thesis and outlining the argument opens the conversation. Then enter into a conversation with the author as you write out your thoughts. What kind of conversation do you want to have with that scholar, why, and on what grounds? What are your own assumptions, and what is at stake for you?
- Recognizing when we are confused by something, or noting when something doesn’t make sense, or where you got lost, or the myriad other ways in which we don’t understand what we are reading is a part of critical thinking. So this can form the basis of your posting. However, don’t simply say, “I’m confused,” or “George’s argument doesn’t make sense to me.” Do your best to diagnose what you don’t understand. Ask yourself where, precisely, in a reading you get confused or lost, and try to figure out why. Ask yourself if the thesis of a reading matches the conclusion. If so, does reading the conclusion help you figure out how the reading is organized, and thus alleviate your confusion? If not, where does it break down, and why? Ask about the assumptions you see at work for the author(s), and consider whether you find them appropriate, and why (or why not). These sorts of questions involve hard (mental) work but can be very helpful in unearthing our own reading habits and assumptions. They also can help us become better speakers and writers as we learn from the mistakes or infelicities of others.
- When you are making your Tuesday contribution, the more specific you can be in explaining your thinking, the more it helps the rest of us hear you, understand how you think about the materials, help us think about them with you, and thus facilitates our learning together. But please keep the next point in mind!
- Please don’t write everything you are thinking about the week’s materials. Three (3) paragraphs (no more than one page total) should be enough to get us going. What are the 1 or 2 most important ideas, arguments, questions, connections, or take-aways for you from the week’s materials in terms of how you are thinking about what it means to be human in the Bible? You may have more than this in mind, so please remember you can introduce other ideas about the materials during the week’s discussion.
- Please note that this discussion is set up in such a way that you cannot see other contributions until you enter your own. This is intentional. It helps the rest of us hear you and what you are thinking and learning before the ideas of others influence you.
- Thursday: By 11:45 p.m. MDT, please read through the Tuesday contributions and respond to at least 2 others in the class. The goal of these responses is to advance our learning and understanding of the week’s materials. Answer a question. Pose a question. Connect the dots between ideas of one person with those of another. Tell us how your own thinking is developing as you think about something another person contributed.
- Your responses do not have to be lengthy; a (short-ish) paragraph normally is sufficient.
- Please note that the quality of our discussions depends on what you contribute on Tuesday and the ways you respond to others on Thursday.
- Writing assignments. A reflection on history and two (2) exegesis paper are required.
- For Wk 1, please see the assignment in Canvas, where you are asked to write 300–450 words on the importance of history.
- Two exegesis papers are required during this term.
- The first paper is due on Monday, 26 April no later than 11:45 p.m. MDT.
- The second paper is due either Friday, 21 May (graduating students), or Monday, 24 May (continuing students), no later than 11:45 p.m. MDT.
- Each paper is to be 2100–2400 words (approximately 7–8 pages, but please note that word count is what you need to follow, not pages). Please indicate your word count at the end of your paper (place it before the bibliography). Your name and bibliography are not part of the word count.
- Expectations for the two exegesis papers:
- Thesis and argument. Each student is to formulate a critical, analytical argument about the pericope or topic in Deuteronomy about which they are writing. A clear thesis or central argument is to be made and then logically and carefully argued throughout the paper. Attention and consideration need to be given to your approach or method, which is the means by which you make your argument (the professor is ready to help you think this through, so don’t hesitate to ask for help). A convenient shorthand to summarize this expectation is, what are you going to say and how will you say it?
- Current scholarship. Because these are scholarly papers, engagement with the work of other scholars is required and expected. Normally this is demonstrated through citations in footnotes that include minimally 1 monograph and 2 peer reviewed journal articles. (Commentaries, dictionaries, encyclopedias, websites, and other reference works are not monographs.) These sources are to be recent, by which I mean they were published within the last 20 years. Older sources may be included but engagement with the current scholarly discussion is expected in these papers.
- Style and format. Papers are to be double-spaced (including notes), in 12-point font, with one (1) inch margins on all sides, and page numbers. They are to follow the style guidelines for The Chicago Manual of Style, 17th edition (this resource is available through Taylor library [see the list of databases here] after you log in with your user credentials; please contact the library staff or firstname.lastname@example.org for assistance if you do not know how to do this), as well as the guidelines for papers in biblical studies provided by The SBL Handbook of Style, 2nd edition (library access here). Also, please make use of the resources of the Iliff Writing Center as a way of improving your skills at writing, organizing your thinking, refining ideas and organization, finding research help, and the other ways the Writing Center staff can help you.
- Consultation. Students are advised to consult with the professor about their topics well in advance of the due dates to discuss their project, outline, and working bibliography.
- Response to exegesis papers. Every student will be assigned another student’s exegesis paper to which they will provide a written response. Twenty-four (24) hours after papers are submitted to Canvas, the system will assign papers for responses (in case any papers are submitted late). To access the paper assigned to you, log into Canvas and click on the exegesis paper assignment (the same link you used to upload your paper). Once on that page, click on the “Peer Review” link in the right-hand column of the screen. Responses are to be no longer than one page, typed, single-spaced, although they may be shorter as long as they address each area specified in the Guidelines (the Guidelines for responses are available here. Responses are to be submitted on Canvas no more than 48 hours later, i.e., 2 days, after papers are assigned for a response. For the first paper, that means Thursday, 29 April; for the second paper, two dates are operative, depending on whether or not you are graduating: Monday, 24 May for graduating students, or Thursday, 27 May for continuing students. Please note the deadline to submit responses on the due date is 11:45 pm MDT.
Participation in discussions........................................................................................35%
Wk 1 history response...................................................................................................5%
Exegesis Paper 1...........................................................................................................20%
Exegesis Paper 2...........................................................................................................30%
Responses (5%/per response)....................................................................................10%
Pass/Fail requests must be submitted to the instructor in writing by e-mail no later than Friday, 26 March 2021.
Incomplete grades will be granted only in the rarest of cases and will follow the policy in the online Masters Student Handbook.
Notice: Will all those who plan to graduate this year please send an email to the professor by the end of the first week (that is, by Friday, 26 March 2021) with this information? I believe there are two such students, but my information may be incorrect!
Late work is unacceptable. It adversely affects our collective discussion work by depriving us all of your voice and ideas. The same holds for the exegesis papers because of student responses. For this reason, late contributions to the Tuesday discussion will be graded down one full letter grade if made up within 24 hours. Contributions made later than 24 hours will receive a grade of zero (0). The Thursday discussion is not graded individually but is part of the overall participation grade, so failure to participate or consistently late participation will adversely affect your participation grade. Each paper will be graded down one full letter grade for each 24 hour period it is late, up to a maximum of 48 hours. After that time, a late paper will receive a grade of zero (0). Additionally, because another student’s paper response grade depends on having a paper to read, the student who does not submit a paper will receive a grade of 0 (zero) for the paper response because it prevented the other student from completing that assignment. The upshot is please, please, please submit your papers on time! Everyone is depending on you.
Please review the topics in the "Policies & Services" page listed to the left of this paragraph. Please note that the statements contained in this syllabus regarding Pass/Fail and Incompletes are the policies for this course.
B+.................88–90 (NB: a 90 is a B+)
F.....................59 or below
Please note that an average grade in my courses is a C, as you might expect given the standard grading scale. A B+ extends to 90, making the “B” range a bit wider than usual.
If a student turns in all materials on time and satisfies the basic requirements of the assignment, this is a “C” or pass. With more insight and engagement in the assignment, students earn higher scores and grades. Exceptional performance on assignments earns a score and grade that is exceptional. This schema holds for all graded assignments.
Grading for participation and discussions (T & Th): Your grade for each week’s discussion reflects both your Tuesday posting and subsequent participation in the discussion. Because class is online, the richness (or not) of the course depends on how we engage in discussion. Your Tuesday posting is the primary basis for your weekly participation grade (90%). The remaining 10% will be determined on the basis of your participation in the discussion (although the Thursday grade in Canvas is recorded as “Complete/Incomplete” due to how Canvas works). For Tuesday, I am looking for you to demonstrate you have read the week’s materials, understood them, can engage the ideas expressed in them, and thus are synthesizing them with your own ideas. This does not mean you need to say something about each one each week on Tuesday. If one of the readings (or something in Deuteronomy) captures your thinking and needs to be your focus, go for it. But then, in discussion, see if you can draw other readings into your responses.
If your Tuesday posting consists of a general comment or two about the readings, or your own thoughts and no considered engagement with the readings, will earn you a lower grade than a posting that reflects your reading, thinking, and reflection on our materials. The more you demonstrate your critical understanding and engagement with all the materials, the higher your grade. Please note that you can do this (or something along these lines) as you explain what confuses you and why, or something you don’t understand. When you do these things in a way that also demonstrates how the materials shape your own critical thinking about Deuteronomy, this is “A” level work.
I use the comments feature Canvas provides in the grade book to provide individualized feedback. I suggest ways to improve, as needed. If my comments are not sufficiently specific, or are confusing, or you don’t understand them, or in some other way lead you to want further information, please email me so we can discuss them.
Please note that I rarely assign 100 points to for discussions or assignments. I reserve this score for work I deem exceptional!
Grading for papers: a “C” means you have a thesis or claim I can identify, make an argument or two, meet the minimum requirements in terms of scholarship, only a couple of format and style errors, and thus can do quite a bit more to improve your writing and argumentation. A “B” paper has a clear thesis suitable to the length of the paper and provides several arguments that demonstrate engagement with the biblical text and secondary materials, but has several weaknesses in logic and argument, while formatting, documentation, spelling, and other formal features of the paper are correct. An “A” paper demonstrates outstanding clarity in thesis and argument, engages with the biblical and secondary literature in insightful ways that offer insight to the biblical passage that is thought provoking, and has no formatting, spelling, documentation, or other formal errors.
Grading paper responses: a “C” means you provided a response that didn’t quite identify or rephrase the paper’s thesis and addressed a couple of aspects of the other students’ paper without offering much in the way of suggestions for improvement. A “B means you identified the thesis and generally understood it when you rephrased it in your own words, noted a strength and weakness with a suggestion for how to improve the paper. An “A” means your rephrasing of the paper’s thesis demonstrates you identified it, understand it well, and you provide useful and helpful comments about the paper’s strengths and weaknesses. Please see the “Guidelines for paper respondents” for how to provide a substantive, helpful response.
Guidelines for Respondents to Papers
Adapted from Materials Originally Produced by Dr. Pamela M. Eisenbaum
(Available as a pdf for downloading here.)
The primary objectives of responding to a paper are: 1) to assist the author with constructive criticism so the author might thereby improve the quality of the paper; 2) to articulate issues and questions that will generate discussion (if the paper is being presented to a class) or help the author think further about the arguments made in the paper.
- Articulate in your own words what you understand to be the author’s primary thesis in the paper, including what you think its significance is or might be. You should do this in no more than 3–5 sentences. If there is a thesis statement that you wish to highlight by quoting, that is fine, but it is not a substitute for putting it in your own words; you still must interpret that thesis statement. Be sure, however, you can state the page on which you see the author’s thesis statement (if there is one). If the thesis is not clear, articulate what you think is the general topic, and then say you are uncertain what is the central thesis. Do not summarize the contents of the paper.
- Identify the strengths of the paper. If it is very well-written and -argued paper and you find yourself listing more than a half dozen, limit yourself to what you see as the most important ones (e.g., ones that get at issues central to the themes and topics of the class, one that you think fulfill the assignment particularly well). If you only can find one strength, then name only one—do not try to force it. For each strength you name, you must give a reason why you think it is a strength. Do not engage in unnecessary or (even worse) insincere flattery.
- Identify the weaknesses of the paper. Your focus here should not be on very minor things (e.g., “incorrect spelling of the author’s name in footnote 2”) but on things that characterize the paper or major sections of it (if the author has used inappropriate footnote style or bibliographic citation throughout, that deserves comment). As with Guideline #2, any weakness you name must be backed up with an argument or example explaining why you think it is a weakness.
- Wherever possible, make constructive and concrete suggestions about how the paper might be improved. Here you most likely will focus on the paper’s weaknesses, but you need not limit your comments to them. You may also see ways the author can build on the paper’s already existing strengths (e.g., a particular passage, secondary reading, or argument may add subtlety to the author’s arguments).
- Highlight anything in the substance of the paper that you find especially compelling, illuminating, or convincing, as well as points of agreement between yourself and the author of the paper.
- Articulate points you find unconvincing, strained, obvious, or untrue. As always, you must explain why this is the case. If you cannot say why, don’t mention it.
- Articulate questions. Questions may serve different purposes. Here are a few examples:
- They may enable the author to see the same issues from a different, perhaps better, perspective, thereby assisting the author in improving the paper.
- They may signal to the author certain issues or subtopics either are unclear (i.e., poorly explained or argued in the paper) or that require further elaboration in order to become cogent and persuasive to future readers.
- If you are doing the review for the purpose of a class discussion, questions may enable you to generate material for discussion that you think will be of interest to the group.
- Do not make generalizations about the person (or even the person’s academic work) drawn from the paper. In other words, you job is to provide a critique of the paper, not the person.
- All critical comments—positive and negative—should use language appropriate to an academic context and discourse and be as substantive and specific as possible.
- Inappropriate: “Your first example was stupid.”
- Appropriate: “Your first example failed adequately to illustrate your point, because…”
- Respect the limits articulated for the review, so as to be as effective as possible in relation to the primary objective articulated above.
|Mar 22, 2021||Mon||Wk 1 - Start Here !||due by 06:00PM|
|Mar 24, 2021||Wed||Wk 1: Introduction; "Israel's" History||due by 05:45AM|
|Mar 26, 2021||Fri||Wk 1 Reminder||due by 05:45AM|
|Mar 27, 2021||Sat||History reflection||due by 05:45AM|
|Mar 31, 2021||Wed||Wk 2: Let's Talk About YHWH||due by 05:45AM|
|Apr 02, 2021||Fri||Wk 2 Reminder||due by 05:45AM|
|Apr 07, 2021||Wed||Wk 3: Suzerain-Vassal Relations, Hittite Style||due by 05:45AM|
|Apr 09, 2021||Fri||Deuteronomy Conversation Hour||due by 01:15AM|
|Apr 09, 2021||Fri||Wk 3 reminder||due by 05:45AM|
|Apr 14, 2021||Wed||Wk 4: Suzerain-Vassal Relations, Neo-Assyrian Style||due by 05:45AM|
|Apr 16, 2021||Fri||Deuteronomy Conversation Hour||due by 01:15AM|
|Apr 16, 2021||Fri||Wk 4 Reminder||due by 05:45AM|
|Apr 21, 2021||Wed||Wk 5: Subversion; Paper #1 due||due by 05:45AM|
|Apr 23, 2021||Fri||Deuteronomy Conversation Hour||due by 01:15AM|
|Apr 23, 2021||Fri||Wk 5 Reminder||due by 05:45AM|
|Apr 27, 2021||Tue||Paper #1||due by 05:45AM|
|Apr 28, 2021||Wed||Wk 6: Government||due by 05:45AM|
|Apr 30, 2021||Fri||Deuteronomy Conversation Hour||due by 01:15AM|
|Apr 30, 2021||Fri||Response #1||due by 05:45AM|
|Apr 30, 2021||Fri||Wk 6 Reminder||due by 05:45AM|
|May 05, 2021||Wed||Wk 7: Conduct Becoming Israel||due by 05:45AM|
|May 07, 2021||Fri||Deuteronomy Conversation Hour||due by 01:15AM|
|May 07, 2021||Fri||Wk 7 Reminder||due by 05:45AM|
|May 12, 2021||Wed||Wk 8: Regimented Behavior||due by 05:45AM|
|May 14, 2021||Fri||Deuteronomy Conversation Hour||due by 01:15AM|
|May 14, 2021||Fri||Wk 8 Reminder||due by 05:45AM|
|May 19, 2021||Wed||Wk 9: Normalizing Judgments; Paper #2 due (Graduating students)||due by 05:45AM|
|May 21, 2021||Fri||Deuteronomy Conversation Hour||due by 01:15AM|
|May 21, 2021||Fri||Wk 9 Reminder||due by 05:45AM|
|May 26, 2021||Wed||Wk 10: Writing Remains; Paper #2 due (Continuing students)||due by 05:45AM|
|May 28, 2021||Fri||Deuteronomy Conversation Hour||due by 01:15AM|
|May 28, 2021||Fri||Wk 10 Reminder||due by 05:45AM|