Scribes, Apostles and Sages: Early Jewish Biblical Exegesis (THE2118)

StaffProfessor Siam Bhayro - Convenor
Credit Value30
ECTS Value15
NQF Level5
Duration of Module Term 2: 11 weeks;

Module aims

This module will enable you to better understand and critique ideas about the emergence of monotheism (‘one-god’ religion), aniconism (imageless worship), and constructs of the divine in the societies that gave rise to the Hebrew Bible and related early Jewish and Christian writings. You will learn how to read literary, visual, and archaeological material with critical eyes, and consider the ways in which power, gender, sexuality, materiality, class, and place intersect to shape ancient and modern responses to this material. 

ILO: Module-specific skills

  • 1. Describe and understand the context of each successive stage of exegesis including the exegetical methods used at each stage
  • 2. Identify elements of change and continuity between each stage
  • 3. Demonstrate, with limited guidance, detailed comprehension of and engagement with the richness of successive Jewish corpora in its varied forms
  • 4. Discuss and demonstrate detailed comprehension, with limited guidance, of the sources of classical Judaism
  • 5. Demonstrate detailed understanding of the multi-faceted complexity of successive stages of Jewish exegesis, and in particular the relationship between the various corpora and the biblical text and the corpora themselves

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

  • 6. Evaluate and analyse, with limited guidance, a diversity of primary and secondary sources

ILO: Personal and key skills

  • 7. Shape detailed information into a coherent and rigorous account, with some guidance
  • 8. Make thorough use of selected written sources, with some guidance
  • 9. Communicate clearly in writing

Syllabus plan

Whilst the content may vary from year to year, it is envisioned that it will cover some or all of the following topics:

  • Early Jewish Corpora from Bible to Talmud
  • Ancient near eastern and Biblical scribes (e.g. Jeremiah and Baruch)
  • Inner-Biblical Exegesis
  • Pseudepigrapha (e.g. 1 Enoch and Jubilees)
  • Dead Sea Scrolls – Pesharim (e.g. Pesher Habakkuk)
  • Dead Sea Scrolls – Rewritten Bible (e.g. Genesis Apocryphon)
  • Apocrypha (e.g. Baruch and Tobit)
  • New Testament (e.g. Matthew, James, 2 Peter & Jude)
  • Targum and The Rise of the Sages
  • Midrash (e.g. Genesis Rabbah and Pesiqta of R. Kahana) and The Rabbinic Corpora
  • Mishnah and Talmud

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled Learning and Teaching2211 x 2 hour lectures
Scheduled Learning and Teachin1111 x 1 hour seminars
Guided Independent Study267Private Study

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Analysis of preparatory reading for each classOne chapter per class1-8Group discussion

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Essay905500 words1-9Written and in tutorial
Module participation10Continuous assessment of contributions to class discussion1-9Written and oral

Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Essay Essay 1-9Referral/Deferral period
Module participationMitigation or discussion with tutor1-9Referral/Deferral period

Re-assessment notes

Deferral – if you miss an assessment for certificated reasons judged acceptable by the Mitigation Committee, you will normally be either deferred in the assessment or an extension may be granted. The mark given for a re-assessment taken as a result of deferral will not be capped and will be treated as it would be if it were your first attempt at the assessment.

Referral – if you have failed the module overall (i.e. a final overall module mark of less than 40%) you will be required to submit a further assessment as necessary. If you are successful on referral, your overall module mark will be capped at 40%.

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

  • M. Fishbane, Biblical Interpretation in Ancient Israel (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1985)
  • Jacobs, The Midrashic Process: Tradition and Interpretation in Rabbinic Judaism (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995)
  • A. Samely, Rabbinic Interpretation of Scripture in the Mishnah (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002)

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