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Unit information: The Bible in the Academy in 2018/19

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Unit name The Bible in the Academy
Unit code THRS20093
Credit points 20
Level of study I/5
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 1 (weeks 1 - 12)
Unit director Professor. Gethin
Open unit status Not open




School/department Department of Religion and Theology
Faculty Faculty of Arts


Why does biblical studies exist in universities today, and what does a biblical scholar do? The unit will trace the history of critical approaches to the study of the Bible in the West, exploring key turning points in the life of biblical scholarship, from late antiquity to the long Nineteenth century, concluding with trends in current scholarship in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Trends, challenges, and debates both present and potential will be dissected in seminars. The unit will explore the stories of manuscript discoveries and archaeological trends, as well as the achievements of past biblical scholars, such as the Scottish twin sisters Agnes Lewis and Margaret Gibson, who knew twelve languages between them and discovered the Cairo Genizah in 1896. Examples of each critical method (e.g. midrashic, humanist, historical-critical, reader-oriented, etc.) will be treated side by side with a selected biblical text. Each week there will be a two-hour lecture (the second hour of which will be a group analysis of primary texts, and a one-hour seminar for group work, discussion, and opportunities for presentation.

Intended learning outcomes

Upon successful completion of this unit, students will be able to:

(1) articulate knowledge of the Bible's reception in the academy;

(2) demonstrate an understanding of the different ways in which a given biblical book has been handled by scholars;

(3) analyse and evaluate one particular approach or set of related approaches to that biblical book.

(4) demonstrate skills in critical thinking and in written and oral communication appropriate to level I.

Teaching details

1 x two-hour lecture and 1 x one-hour seminar weekly

Assessment Details

1 x 2500 essay (50%) [ILO 1-4]

1 x two-hour exam (50%) [ILO 1-4]

Reading and References

  • Bible with Apocrypha (ESV, RSV, or NRSV)
  • Hauser, Alan J., and Duane Frederick Watson, eds. A History of Biblical Interpretation. 3 volumes. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2003-2017.
  • Barton, John, ed. The Cambridge Companion to Biblical Interpretation. Cambridge Companions to Religion. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998.
  • Barton, John. Reading the Old Testament: Method in Biblical Study. New York: Darton, Longman & Todd, 1996.
  • Harrisville, Roy A., and Walter Sundberg. The Bible in Modern Culture: Baruch Spinoza to Brevard Childs. 2nd ed. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2002.
  • Reventlow, Henning. History of Biblical Interpretation. Translated by Leo G. Perdue. 4 vols. Resources for Biblical Study 50, 61–63. Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2009.
  • Westerholm, Stephen and Martin Westerholm. Reading Sacred Scripture: Voices from the History of Biblical Interpretation. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2016.