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This lecture provides an introduction to the literature of the Hebrew Bible and its structure and contents. Common misconceptions about the Bible are dispelled: the Bible is a library of books from diverse times and places rather than a single, unified book; biblical narratives contain complex themes and realistic characters and are not "pious parables" about saintly persons; the Bible is a literarily sophisticated narrative not for children; the Bible is an account of the odyssey of a people rather than a book of theology; and finally, the Bible was written by many human contributors with diverse perspectives and viewpoints.
In this lecture, the Hebrew Bible is understood against the background of Ancient Near Eastern culture. Drawing from and critiquing the work of Yehezkel Kaufmann, the lecture compares the religion of the Hebrew Bible with the cultures of the Ancient Near East. Two models of development are discussed: an evolutionary model of development in which the Hebrew Bible is continuous with Ancient Near Eastern culture and a revolutionary model of development in which the Israelite religion is radically discontinuous with Ancient Near Eastern culture. At stake in this debate is whether the religion of the Hebrew Bible is really the religion of ancient Israel.
This lecture introduces the modern critical study of the Bible, including source theories and Wellhausen's Documentary Hypothesis, as well as form criticism and tradition criticism. The main characteristics of each biblical source (J, E, P, and D) according to classic source theory are explained. This lecture also raises the question of the historical accuracy of the Bible and the relation of archaeology to the biblical record.
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