Dr. John C. Reeves
Office hours: TWR 1:00-2:00; or by appointment
‘The light therefore that must guide us in this question, must be that which is held out unto us from the Bookes themselves: And this light, though it show us not the writer of every book, yet it is not unusefull to give us knowledge of the time, wherein they were written.’ (Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan ).
Modern biblical criticism derives in large part from early attempts to resolve the numerous compositional and structural anomalies and discrepancies found in the Mosaic Pentateuch or ‘Five Books of Moses’; i.e., the ‘five books’ of Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. We will sample the diverse genres of literature contained within the Torah, seek out and study the alleged anomalies and discrepancies, and thereby acquire an appreciation for the productive methods used in the modern critical study of the Bible. This project necessitates a close reading of the entire Torah, with our primary emphasis laid upon acquiring a nuanced understanding of the meaning of the constituent texts and their contents within their historical, social, and literary contexts.
There is one fundamental text required for this course—that of the Hebrew Bible itself in a suitable English translation. While many students already own Bibles or at least have access to public copies in the library, very few undergraduates realize that certain popular translations are outdated and/or are of substandard quality. Moreover, most of the popular and/or liturgical editions possess little (if any) competent annotation and cross-referencing. Therefore, in order to complete the assignments for this course, the following text is required:
Tanakh, The Holy Scriptures: The New JPS Translation According to the Traditional Hebrew Text (Philadelphia & Jerusalem: The Jewish Publication Society, 1985).
Occasionally, supplementary readings may be assigned or distributed by the instructor as needed.
a. Homework exercises. An indeterminate number of written exercises (at least three or four per week; optimally one per day) will be prepared and submitted for in-class discussion and out-of-class evaluation. These exercises vary in length from less than one (1) to a maximum of three (3) typewritten or electronically printed pages. All of these exercises will be announced and explained by the instructor during the course of or at the conclusion of a class meeting. The instructor’s evaluation of the student’s collective written exercise performance (based on the scale √+ = A-; √ = C+; √- = D) will comprise 50% of the course grade.
b. Final Examination. One (1) written final examination, consisting of one or more essays, comprising 25% of the course grade. The exam will occur in class during the final class meeting. This exam is subjective in format, comprehensive in content, and will draw equally upon assigned readings and class discussion for its content.
c. Individual involvement. Almost perfect attendance (see below) is an essential requirement for this course. Each class meeting builds upon the knowledge gained during previous meetings. Moreover, in-class discussion and analysis comprise a significant portion of every class meeting. Preparation for every class usually involves the completion of a series of assigned readings and/or written assignment(s). Students are expected to contribute in an informed manner to the public analysis and discussion of any assigned topic, and the instructor reserves the right to administer occasional unannounced ‘pop-quizzes’ should he deem the situation so warrants. The instructor’s assessment of one’s attendance, apparent class preparation, oral contributions, and performance on pop-quizzes will constitute 25% of the final course grade.
d. Zakhor (Remember!): Mastery of the assigned readings and diligent class attendance are necessary prerequisites for the successful completion of this course. Each student is responsible for all lectures, class discussions, assignments, and announcements, whether or not he/she is present when they occur.
a. The grading scale used in this course is as follows:
91-100 A = demonstrable mastery of material; can creatively synthesize
81-90 B = some demonstrable proficiency in control of material & analysis
71-80 C = satisfactory performance of assignments; little or no analysis
61-70 D = inadequate and/or faulty understanding of material
0-60 F = unacceptable work
b. One of the requirements of this course is to complete the work of the course on time. Sometimes there are legitimate reasons for late work—an illness or other emergency. ‘Emergency,’ however, does not include your social involvements, travel plans, job schedule, disk and/or printer failures, the state of your love life, your obligations to other courses, or general malaise over the state of the world. The world has been in a mess as long as anyone can remember, and most of the world’s work is done by people whose lives are a mass of futility and discontent. If you haven’t learned yet, you had better learn now to work under the conditions of the world as it is. Therefore:
1) All missed quizzes, unwritten reports, and neglected homework exercises will be averaged as a 0 in the computation of the course grade. There is no such thing as a ‘make-up pop quiz.’ No exceptions will be considered or granted.
2) All papers and written exercises are due on the dates scheduled in the syllabus, or on the date announced by the instructor in class (usually, the following class meeting). ‘Late’ submissions of reports (not homework exercises—see below) bear the following penalties: one day late/one letter grade; two days late/two letter grades; three or more days late/F. Please note: these ‘days’ are calendar days, not class meeting days. For accounting purposes, letter grades bear the following values: A=95; A-=92; B=85; C+=78; C=75; D=65; F=30. An untyped submission automatically receives the grade F, as do those typed papers which violate the required parameters or which the instructor deems physically unacceptable and/or grammatically incomprehensible.
3) Homework exercises are due on the date announced by the instructor in class. Since we will normally discuss these exercises together in class on that date, it would clearly be unfair to those who submitted their work on time for me to accept ‘late’ work from those privy to our in-class discussion. Hence I will not accept ‘late’ homework submissions; however, ‘early’ submissions are always welcome and will receive full credit.
4) Attendance at class meetings will be monitored by the instructor. One or two absences, while regrettable, are unexceptional; three (3) is the limit of tolerability. Each successive absence lowers the Individual Involvement component of your assessment by one letter grade; seven (7) or more earns an automatic F in that component. Please note that the instructor does not distinguish ‘excused’ from ‘unexcused’ absences. Unsanctioned late arrivals and early departures will be tallied as absences.
c. Assistance and solicitation of criticism is your right as a member of the class. It is not a privilege to be granted or withheld. Do not hesitate to request it nor wait too late in the course for it to be of help.
Rough Course Outline
1. Introduction: the Pentateuch (Torah) as literary corpus
a. canonization of Tanakh
b. torat-Mosheh in Prophets (Nevi’im) & Writings (Ketuvim)
c. torat-Mosheh at Qumran
d. writings of Moses in early Jewish, Christian, and Muslim sources
All biblical passages which reference ‘law …,’ ‘scripture …,’ or ‘book(s) of Moses.’
CD 5:8-9, 21; 8:14-15 (= 19:26); 15:2, 12; 16:1-5; 1QS 1:3; 5:8; 8:22; 1QM 10:6-8; 4QMMT C 10-11, 17, 21.
Ben Sira/Sirach, prologue; Lk 24:44.
Q 53:36-54; 87:18-19.
James E. Bowley and John C. Reeves, “Rethinking the Concept of ‘Bible’: Some Theses and Proposals,” Henoch 25 (2003): 3-18.
Marc Zvi Brettler, “The Canonization of the Bible,” in The Jewish Study Bible (ed. Adele Berlin and Marc Zvi Brettler; Oxford: OxfordUniversity Press, 2004), 2072-77.
Robert A. Kraft, “Scripture and Canon in Jewish Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha,” in Hebrew Bible/Old Testament: The History of Its Interpretation (ed. Magne Sæbø; 2 vols.; Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1996-2000), 1:199-216.
Hava Lazarus-Yafeh, “Tawrāt,” Encyclopaedia of Islam (new ed.; 11 vols.; Leiden: Brill, 1960-2002), 10:393-95.
John C. Reeves, “Scriptural Authority in Early Judaism,” in James E. Bowley, ed., Living Traditions of the Bible: Scripture in Jewish, Christian, and Muslim Practice (St. Louis: Chalice Press, 1999), 63-84.
2. A brief introduction to source criticism of the Pentateuch
a. constituent parts of the Pentateuch by genre: myths, stories, lists, rituals, laws, hymns
b. explicitly marked sources
c. implicitly referenced sources
d. editorial rubrics
e. some doublets/variant versions:
(1) Gen 12:10-20/20:1-18/26:6-11
(2) Exod 17:1-7/Num 20:2-12
(3) Exod 20:2-14/Deut 5:6-18
(4) Exod 18:13-27/Num 11:14-17, 24-30/Deut 1:9-18
f. modern (i.e., post-Enlightenment) source criticism of the Pentateuch
g. profiling J, E, D, P, and other ‘letter-labels’
Gen 2:18-24; 11:1-9; 36:24; 49:2-27; Exod 2:1-10; 15:1-18; 21:1-23:19; 34:10-26; Lev 7:35-37; 11:46-47; 14:1-20, 54-57; 26:46; 27:34; Num 5:11-31; 10:35-36; 21:12-15; 28:3-30:1; 33:1-49; 36:13; Deut 1:1-5; 21:1-9; 32:1-44; 33:1-29.
S. R. Driver, An Introduction to the Literature of the Old Testament (9th ed.; Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1913), esp. 1-159.
Otto Eissfeldt, The Old Testament: An Introduction (trans. Peter R. Ackroyd; Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1965), esp. 155-241.
Richard Elliott Friedman, “Torah,” Anchor Bible Dictionary (6 vols.; Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1992), 6:605-22.
3. Character cycles
c. Isaac-cycle (?)
f. Profiling Moses
Gen 11:27-25:10; 25:11-26:35; 27:1-37:1; 37:2-50:26; Exod 1:1-14:31; 15:19-19:25; 24:1-18; 32:1-34:35; 40:17-38; Lev 10:1-20; 24:10-23; Num 9:15-23; 10:11-12:16; 13:1-14:45; 16:1-17:28; 20:1-22:1; 22:2-24:25; 25:1-18; 27:12-23; 31:1-32:42; Deut 31:1-30; 32:44-52; 34:1-12.
All extra-Pentateuchal biblical references to pentateuchal figures like Abraham, Jacob, Moses, etc.
Parascriptural treatments of same.
Medieval Hebrew Petirat Mosheh (cf. Deut Rab. 11 [end]).
Medieval Hebrew Chronicles of Moses.
Jan Assmann, Moses the Egyptian: The Memory of Egypt in Western Monotheism (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1997).
Louis Ginzberg, Legends of the Bible (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1956).
Howard Schwartz, Tree of Souls: The Mythology of Judaism (New York: Oxford University Press, 2004).
Eli Yassif, The Hebrew Folktale: History, Genre, Meaning (trans. Jacqueline S. Teitelbaum; Bloomington: IndianaUniversity Press, 1999), esp. 8-69.
4. Some structural themes and integral complexes
a. Promise(s) to the patriarchs
b. Exodus from Egypt
c. Wilderness sustenance and guidance
d. Revelation at Sinai/Horeb
e. The ‘primeval history’
Gen 1:1-11:32; 12:1-3; 13:14-17; 15:1-17:27; 22:1-19; 26:3-5, 23-24; 28:3, 13-15; 32:10-13; 35:9-12; 46:1-4; 48:3-4, 21-22; Exod 1:1-Num 36:13 (narrative portions); Deut 1:6-3:29; 4:1-49; 5:1-30; 6:1-11:32 (esp. 9:8-10:11); 26:5-11; 29:1-31:30; Psalms 78:1-72; 105:1-45; 106:1-48; 114:1-8.
5. Intersections of ‘law,’ ‘narrative,’ and ideology
a. Resolving judicial conundrums
(1) Lev 24:10-16, 23
(2) Num 9:6-11
(3) Num 15:32-36
(4) Num 27:1-11; 36:1-12
b. Decalogue, Covenant Code, and Sinai
c. Cultic service and priesthood
d. The problem of Deuteronomy
e. The so-called ‘Holiness School’
Exod 19:1-23:33; 25:1-31:17; 34:1-28; 35:1-40:38; Lev 8:1-9:24; 16:1-34; 17:1-26:2; Num 1:46-54; 2:17, 33-34; 3:1-4:49; 5:1-10; 6:22-27; 7:1-8:26; 10:1-10; 12:1-16; 15:1-31; 16:1-17:28; 18:1-32; 25:1-18; 26:57-65; 28:1-30:1; 35:1-34; Deut 1:1-34:12.
The discussions in Driver and Eissfeldt above.
Israel Knohl, “The Priestly Torah Versus the Holiness School: Sabbath and the Festivals,” Hebrew Union College Annual 58 (1987): 65-117.
6. Some parascriptural images of the Torah
Sir 24:1-34; 44:1-46:10; 49:14-16; Wis 10:1-19:22; Bar 3:9-4:4; Jubilees 1:1-50:13.
Q 3:3, 48, 50, 65, 93; 5:43-46, 66, 68, 110; 7:157; 9:111; 48:29; 61:6; 62:5.
James L. Kugel, “The Life of Torah,” in his The Bible As It Was (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1997), 503-48.
E. E. Urbach, “Torah,” in Judaism: A People and its History (ed. Robert M. Seltzer; New York: Macmillan, 1989), 85-100.
Supplemental Bibliography for RELS 3000 Pentateuch/Torah
In response to student requests for recommendations regarding useful and enlightening discussions of certain topics, themes, and personalities that are presented in class and/or readings, I offer the following suggestions for further study at the student’s leisure. I confine myself to materials which I myself have used with profit and which are currently available at Atkins Library.
It is often helpful for the student to begin with appropriate articles in the standard Bible dictionaries. The latest and best is The Anchor Bible Dictionary (6 vols.; New York: Doubleday, 1992). Also reliable are The Interpreters’ Dictionary of the Bible (4 vols.) and its Supplementary Volume (ed. George A. Buttrick; Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1962 & 1976), and the Harper’s Bible Dictionary (ed. Paul J. Achtemeier; San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1985). Highly recommended are the relevant articles in the Encyclopaedia Judaica (16 vols., Jerusalem: Keter, 1971).
Joseph Blenkinsopp, The Pentateuch: An Introduction to the First Five Books of the Bible (New York: Doubleday, 1992).
Antony F. Campbell and Mark A. O’Brien, Sources of the Pentateuch: Texts, Introductions, Annotations (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1993).
Ronald E. Clements, One Hundred Years of Old Testament Interpretation (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1976). See his chapter on the Pentateuch.
Michael Fishbane, Biblical Interpretation in Ancient Israel (Oxford: Clarendon, 1985).
______, Biblical Text and Texture: A Literary Reading of Selected Texts (Oxford: Oneworld, 1998). A convenient reprint of a classic title first published in 1979.
Richard Elliott Friedman, Who Wrote the Bible? (New York: Summit, 1987).
Louis Ginzberg, The Legends of the Jews (7 vols.; Philadelphia: The Jewish Publication Society, 1909-38).
Stephen A. Kaufman, “The Temple Scroll and Higher Criticism,” Hebrew Union College Annual 53 (1982): 29-43. Empirically demonstrates how one ‘sectarian’ torah scroll was redacted from different source documents.
Yehezqel Kaufmann, The Religion of Israel: From its Beginnings to the Babylonian Exile (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1960).
Israel Knohl, The Sanctuary of Silence: The Priestly Torah and the Holiness School (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1995).
James L. Kugel, The Bible As It Was (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1997). Important anthology of parascriptural resources for the study of the Pentateuch.
Ernest W. Nicholson, The Pentateuch in the Twentieth Century: The Legacy of Julius Wellhausen (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998).
Ilana Pardes, The Biography of Ancient Israel: National Narratives in the Bible (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2000).
______, Countertraditions in the Bible: A Feminist Approach (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1992).
John C. Reeves, “Some Explorations of the Intertwining of Bible and Qur’ān,” in Bible and Qur’ān: Essays in Scriptural Intertextuality (ed. John C. Reeves; Leiden/Atlanta: Brill/Society of Biblical Literature, 2003), 43-60.
John W. Rogerson, ed., The Pentateuch (Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1996).
Joel Rosenberg, King and Kin: Political Allegory in the Hebrew Bible (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1986).
S. David Sperling, The Original Torah: The Political Intent of the Bible’s Writers (New York and London: New York University Press, 1998).
Jeffrey H. Tigay, “Anthology in the Torah and the Question of Deuteronomy,” in The Anthology in Jewish Literature (ed. David Stern; Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004), 15-31.
______, ed., Empirical Models for Biblical Criticism (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1985). With regard to the inherent plausibility of source criticism, see especially the first two chapters and the appendix.
John Van Seters, “Recent Studies on the Pentateuch: A Crisis in Method,” Journal of the American Oriental Society 99 (1979): 663-73.
Geza Vermes, The Complete Dead Sea Scrolls in English (New York: Allen Lane/Penguin, 1997).
Moshe Weinfeld, Deuteronomy and the Deuteronomic School (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1972).
Julius Wellhausen, Prolegomena to the History of Ancient Israel (1878; repr., New York: Meridian, 1957). Enormously influential for subsequent scholarly reconstructions of the literary history of the biblical books. No serious student of biblical literature can ignore this work.
Brannon M. Wheeler, Prophets in the Quran: An Introduction to the Quran and Muslim Exegesis (London and New York: Continuum, 2002).
In addition, one can consult the relevant individual volumes (e.g., Genesis; Exodus 1-18; etc.) in philologically responsible biblical commentary series such as the International Critical Commentary, Hermeneia, the Anchor Bible Commentaries, the new JPS Commentary series, and the Old Testament Library.