The Bible

CASRN101A1 (Fall 2004)

Main lecture and discussion sections

Lecture STH B19 Tue,Thu 12:30pm 2:00pm

Discussion Section B1
CAS 221 Wed 1:00pm 2:00pm Class Full
Discussion Section B2
STH B20 Fri 11:00am 12:00pm
Discussion Section B3
STH 625 Fri 12:00pm 1:00pm


Michael Zank, PhD Associate Professor of Religion
Office: 145 Bay State Road, Room 506
Office hours: TBA

Joshua Pederson <>

Required textbooks

New Oxford Annotated Bible (New Revised Standard Version)
Oxford University Press; 3rd edition (February 1, 2001)
ISBN: 019528478X

The Jewish Study Bible, ed. Adele Berlin, Marc Brettler, et al.
Oxford University Press; (October 1, 2003)
ISBN: 0195297547


Course goals

A few general remarks


Course goals

1. While the Bible is one of the foundations of Western civilization, its pages are hardly familiar territory. The first goal of this course is therefore a familiarization with the content of the Bible.

2. In pre-modern Europe and still in most Jewish and Christian communities today, Scripture provided divine revelation conveying guidance for the right way of life for communities and individuals, churches and states. Though grounded in the biblical tradition, these collectives have often disagreed on the meaning of this guidance. Our second goal is therefore to familiarize with the Bibles of the different traditions as well as with their different interpretations of the Bible.

3. Over the course of the past 300 years, Western civilization has developed a distrust of its biblical foundation and developed tools of examining its stability. Critical biblical scholarship subjected the historicity of the events described in the Bible to doubt and thus dismantled the authority of the Bible as a divinely inspired guide toward the right way of life. The third goal is therefore to familiarize with the concerns, assumptions, theories and questions of critical scholarship on the Bible.

4. Though regarded by many as sacred and sui generis, the Bible is literature and as such has inspired a vast array of artistic works in literature, music, and the visual arts. A fourth aspect of the course is therefore dedicated to the connections between biblical literature and the arts .



A few general remarks
There are no prerequisites other than diligent reading, regular attendance, and an open mind.

This course fulfills a Humanities distribution requirement in the College of Arts and Sciences. For this reason it attracts many students who are used to lectures and labs in the social and natural sciences rather than to Humanities courses. Distribution requirements are built into the curriculum in order to provide students at least minimal exposure to methods and approaches outside of their major area. For this reason, courses meeting distribution requirements are method-conscious and interested in teaching skills basic to the area. For this reason, we will be empasizing the interconnections between reading and writing by requiring students to read, write, and revise their writing extensively.

On top of exposing students to the Bible as a core text of Western culture, the course is burdened with making something as abstract and fuzzy as Western culture and some of its trappings perspicacious to students who are used to very clearly cut problems and approaches to their solution. Literature, the arts, and the rich symbolic texture of the religious experience are not easily unravelled. What this means is that students are required to muster a good deal of patience and tolerance for fuzziness, complexity, and opacity.

An additional concern of our classroom involves the place of students' personal spiritual approach to the Bible. Students taking this class are advised to 'bracket' their religious sensitivities and encouraged to let themselves be challenged by hitherto unencountered perspectives and observations. Since the overall goal of the liberal arts curriculum is to foster a culture of critical thinking and reasoned argumentation, it would be inappropriate to exempt the foundational literature of our hemisphere from critical examination.


courses by michael zank