HIST 25003 - The World of the Bible


Course Title

The World of the Bible



The Hebrew Bible (the Christian Old Testament) is a library of works that reflect much more than one thousand years of ancient Jewish history that has attained immense spiritual authority in history and still in our time. The Bible is a collection of many writings -- narratives, laws, poetry of various kinds, prophetic oracles, proverbs, reflections on life, wisdom, etc. These works were influenced by almost all the ancient civilizations of the Middle East from Mesopotamia and Egypt to the Greeks and Romans. Biblical writing relates to many great themes of human self-exploration: why there is a universe at all, what is the goal of history and why it full of turmoil, what are the supreme values, the meaning of collective and individual existence -- and suffering, the relation of faith, revelation, and spiritual redemption. Biblical authors were reacting not only to internal problems of the people of Israel. They not only borrowed from the surrounding cultures but viewed them critically. A historical concern of the course is how the biblical writings came in to be written down against a background of social turmoil, military upheavals, and power politics. We will also discuss how the Hebrew Bible became a ground of ancient Christianity and rabbinic Judaism (and indirectly Islam). Study of "the biblical world" is almost the study of world history in miniature. No prior religious knowledge is required. A student who does have some background should find it challenged by the historical analysis of this course.

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Fall, Spring

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