Introduction to the Old Testament I

The main objective of this course is to supply an all-embracing introduction, presentation and summary of the content of the Old Testament/Hebrew Bible, including some basic questions concerning the genesis and development of the canon of the Old Testament/Hebrew Bible. This objective will be achieved through the employment of the various books of the Old Testament / Hebrew Bible as primary sources. While the course takes a textual-based approach as regards to the accounts, history and literature of the Old Testament/Hebrew Bible, time will be allocated for questions and facts of theological, ethical and sociological nature. The goal is also to facilitate engagement with the most important scriptural facts, which at first sight cause difficulty to the modern and/or postmodern student / reader.

The specific objective of this course is to introduce the student into the Hungarian text and content of the Old Testament / Hebrew Bible by means of summarising presentations, section by section and chapter by chapter. Topics to be tackled include the primeval and patriarchal periods, the exodus, the Sinai covenant and the desert wanderings. The course homes in on the interpretative enterprise en ensemble, which encapsulates a comprehensive knowledge about the authors and the historical background of the individual books of the Old Testament / Hebrew Bible and its wider cultural milieu in the ancient Near East. Theological facets of these ancient works are also explored, shifting from the theoretical issues to the more practical matters of daily life and experience. This course does not presume any special degree of competence in terms of the content of the Old Testament / Hebrew Bible on the part of the student. The student with prior knowledge of the Old Testament / Hebrew Bible will experience this course to be advantageous but those who lack such an acquaintance will not be at disadvantage.

Competences

Specific competences

By means of this course, the student will become familiar with basic issues related to the formation of the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament. Moreover the student will acquire a solid scriptural working knowledge of the Torah, the first five books of the Bible. More specifically the student will:
  • be able to explain the process of development of the canon of the Old Testament/Hebrew Bible.
  • be educated on a medium level in the subject area of bibliology and textual history;
  • understand and explain the content of the Torah;
  • use extra-biblical texts in relation to the Torah;
  • recite verbatim the Bible verses specified on the Selected Bible Verses Sheet supplied by the lecturer at the beginning of the course from one of the Hungarian translations of the Old Testament/Hebrew Bible, which verses have been opted for on the basis of their relevance for Christian theology.

General competences

  • The student’s ability to work in a team will be improved, just as his/her oral or writing skills, respect and also development of professional thinking and ethics, proficiency in solving questions pertaining to the content of the Hungarian text of the Old Testament/Hebrew Bible.
  • The student will also gain some expertise in recognizing and respecting cultural and ethnic diversity present in the relevant ancient texts.
  • The student will be encouraged to be imaginative in terms of his/her theological thinking and future homiletical practice, whereby nurturing a constant openness in order to discover the minute details of the content of the Hungarian text of the Old Testament/Hebrew Bible.

Course structure

  1. Approaching the Bible

    The lecture focuses on the elaboration of the subject matter concerned with the question of approaching the Bible on the basis of the trajectory shown by the following aspects of the discussion, namely the Bible as revelation, as word of God and as word of human beings. This is followed by elaborative observations on such related topics as Scripture and canon, inspiration and authority, the Old Testament/Hebrew Bible as literature and Scripture and the Bible as a classic and as Holy Scripture.

    Reading:

    • Archer, Gleason L.: Az ószövetségi bevezetés vizsgálata, 29-47 (19)
    • Carson, Don A.: Approaching the Bible, 1-10 (10)
    • LaSor, William Sanford, Hubbard, David Allan, Bush, Frederic William: Old testament Survey. The Message, Form, and Background of the Old Testament, 585-597 (13)
    • Walton, John H., Hill, Andrew E.: Old Testament Today: A Journey from Original Meaning to Contemporary Significance, 21-32 (12)
    • House, Paul R.: Beyond Form Criticism: Essays in Old Testament Literary Criticism, 25-38 (14) 39-46 (8)
  2. The Development of the Canon of the Hebrew Bible (1): Name, Prehistory and the Formation of the Canon

    The lecture is concerned with the name, prehistory and the formation of the canon. The latter issue is developed along the lines of the following aspects: the traditional view of the formation of the canon, the actual process, the enumeration and arrangement of the books of the canon and the tradition represented by the Greek Septuagint and by the Qumrān documents.

    Reading:

    • Archer, Gleason L.: Az ószövetségi bevezetés vizsgálata, 87-101 (15)
    • Pecsuk Otto: Bibliaismereti kézikönyv, 19-21 (3)
    • Schmatovich János: Bevezetés az Ószövetségbe. Az ígéretek emlékezete, 15-37 (23)
    • Rózsa Huba: Az Ószövetség keletkezése, 15-30 (16)
    • LaSor, William Sanford, Hubbard, David Allan, Bush, Frederic William: Old testament Survey. The Message, Form, and Background of the Old Testament, 598-605 (8)
    • Walton, John H., Hill, Andrew E.: Old Testament Today: A Journey from Original Meaning to Contemporary Significance, 487-492 (6)
    • Schmidt, Werner H.: Einführung in das Alte Testament, 2-6 (5)
    • Eissfeldt, Otto: Einleitung in das Alte Testament, 758-773 (16)
    • Harrison, Roland Kenneth: Introduction to the Old Testament, 199-288 (90)
    • Carson, Don A.: Hermeneutics, Authority and Canon
  3. The Development of the Canon of the Hebrew Bible (2): Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha

    The first part of the lecture is concerned with general considerations as regards to the definition of the Apocrypha and continues with a brief enumeration and presentation of apocryphal books, such as: 1 Ezra, 3 Ezra, 1-2 Maccabees, Tobit, Judith, Prayer of Manasseh, Additions to Daniel, Additions to Esther, Baruch, Epistle of Jeremiah, Sirach/Ecclesiasticus, Wisdom of Solomon, Psalm 151, Prayer of Azariah, Bel and the Dragon, Song of the Three Young Men and Susanna.
    The second part of the lecture is preoccupied with general remarks regarding the definition of the Pseudepigrapha and follows on with a listing of all ninety-six Old Testament pseudepigraphic books and a brief presentation of the most important ones, such as: Letter of Aristeas, Jubilees, Martyrdom and Ascension of Isaiah, Psalms of Solomon, 3-5 Maccabees, Sibylline Oracles, 1 Enoch (Ethiopic Apocalypse), 2 Enoch (Slavonic Apocalypse), 3 Enoch (Hebrew Apocalypse), Assumption of Moses, 4 Ezra (2 Ezra), 2 Baruch (Syriac Apocalypse), 3 Baruch (Greek Apocalypse), Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs and the Life of Adam and Eve.

    Reading:

    • Archer, Gleason L.: Az ószövetségi bevezetés vizsgálata, 87-101 (15)
    • Pecsuk Otto: Bibliaismereti kézikönyv, 413-422 (10)
    • A Magyar Bibliatársulat Szöveggondozó Bizottsága: Deuterokanonikus bibliai könyvek a Septuaginta alapján, 1-184 (184)
    • Eissfeldt, Otto: Einleitung in das Alte Testament, 773-864 (92)
    • Zenger, Erich: Einleitung in das Alte Testament, 352-362 (11) 363-370 (8) 435-440 (6) 464-467 (4)
    • Harrington, Daniel J.: Invitation to the Apocrypha
    • Walton, John H., Hill, Andrew E.: Old Testament Today: A Journey from Original Meaning to Contemporary Significance, 492-499 (8)
    • Harrison, Roland Kenneth: Introduction to the Old Testament, 1173-1278 (106)
    • Schmatovich János: Bevezetés az Ószövetségbe. Az ígéretek emlékezete, 33-34 (2) 474-491 (18) 552-565 (14) 575-583 (9) 608-613 (6)
    • Rózsa Huba: Az Ószövetség keletkezése, 481-542 (62)
  4. The Development of the Canon of the Hebrew Bible (3): Apocryphal and Pseudepigraphical Writings Among the Qumrān Texts. Bibliology and the History of the Ancient Versions of the Bible

    The first part of the lecture explores the discoveries of texts made in the wilderness of Judea since 1947, ensued by an enumeration and brief exposition of the following texts, namely the Manual of Discipline, the Damascus Document, the War Scroll, the Hymn Scroll and similar collections of songs and prayers, the Habakkuk Pesher and similar ‘commentaries,’ the apocalypses, haggadic narrative works, parenetic and didactic writings and finally juridical and astrological works.
    The second part of the lecture continues with the dilation of the subject of bibliology and the history of the ancient versions of the Bible, with a specific focus on the Massoretic Text, the Greek Septuagint, the Aramaic Targums, the Latin Vulgate, the Uncials etc. and major Hungarian Bible translations.

    Reading:

    • Schultz, Samuel: Üzen az Ószövetség, 11-16 (6)
    • Soggin, J. Alberto: Bevezetés az Ószövetségbe, 449-495 (47)
    • Rózsa Huba: Az Ószövetség keletkezése, 30-49 (20)
    • Zenger, Erich: Einleitung in das Alte Testament, 37-65 (29)
    • Eissfeldt, Otto: Einleitung in das Alte Testament, 864-980 (117)
    • LaSor, William Sanford, Hubbard, David Allan, Bush, Frederic William: Old testament Survey. The Message, Form, and Background of the Old Testament, 606-618 (13)
    • Walton, John H., Hill, Andrew E.: Old Testament Today: A Journey from Original Meaning to Contemporary Significance, 481-487 (7)
    • Schmatovich János: Bevezetés az Ószövetségbe. Az ígéretek emlékezete, 38-67 (30)
  5. The Basic Aspects of the Torah / Pentateuch. Primeval History: Genesis / Bereshit 1-11,26

    The first part of the lecture commences with an explanation of the terms Torah, respectively Pentateuch. This is followed by a discussion concerned with aspects of genre. Such further questions as whether the Torah/Pentateuch may be considered a biography of Moses, or a national history, or whether one is dealing with simply torah or law and why five books are included in it, are also being tackled. The second part of the lecture elaborates the following topics: ancient near eastern parallels to Genesis/Bereshit 1-11, Genesis’/Bereshit’s transformation of oriental origin stories, the organization of Genesis/Bereshit 1-11 and the New Testament’s use of Genesis/Bereshit 1-11. Further topics to be discussed include: the opening lines of the Sumerian King List, the definition of myth, retelling modern cosmology theologically, significant days in Genesis/Bereshit 1, Genesis/Bereshit and Ecology, the symbolism of Eve, the protevangelium, did Methushelah really live 969 years, palistrophe, was there a universal flood and Noah’s drunkenness.

    Reading:

    • Schultz, Samuel: Üzen az Ószövetség, 17-24 (8)
    • Pecsuk Otto: Bibliaismereti kézikönyv, 32-38 (7) 52-67 (16)
    • Wenham, Gordon J.: Exploring the Old Testament: A Guide to the Pentateuch, 1-34 (34)
    • Arnold, Bill T., Beyer, Bryan E.: Encountering the Old Testament: A Christian Survey, 63-69 (7) 73-75 (3)
  6. Patriarchal History and Israel’s Sojourn in Egypt: Genesis/Bereshit 11,27-50

    This lecture homes in on the various toledoth of Genesis/Bereshit 11,27-50, with a specific focus on the story of Abraham (11,27-25,11), the genealogy of Ishmael (25,12-18), the story of Jacob and Esau (25,19-35,29), the genealogy of Esau (36,1-37,1) and the story of Joseph and his brothers (37,2-50,26). The lecture continues with the topic of the New Testament’s use of Genesis/Bereshit 11,27-50. Further topics to be discussed include: the historicity of the patriarchal accounts, changing promises, the akedah or sacrifice of Isaac, ancient marriage customs, the religion of the patriarchs, Egypt in the Joseph story and Judah’s speech.

    Reading:

    • Schultz, Samuel: Üzen az Ószövetség, 24-46 (23)
    • Pecsuk Otto: Bibliaismereti kézikönyv, 52-67 (16)
    • Wenham, Gordon J.: Exploring the Old Testament: A Guide to the Pentateuch, 35-56 (22)
    • Arnold, Bill T., Beyer, Bryan E.: Encountering the Old Testament: A Christian Survey, 89-101 (13)
  7. Exodus / Shemot (1): From Egypt to Mount Sinai

    The lecture commences with a structural outline of the book and continues with the presentation of the following topics, namely slavery in Egypt and liberation (1,1-18,27) and the law-giving at Mount Sinai (19,1-24,18). Further topics to be discussed include: the name of God, hardening of the heart, the Passover, the Ten Commandments in today’s society, two problems in the law, namely slavery and lex talionis.

    Reading:

    • Schultz, Samuel: Üzen az Ószövetség, 47-64 (18)
    • Pecsuk Otto: Bibliaismereti kézikönyv, 68-76 (9)
    • Wenham, Gordon J.: Exploring the Old Testament: A Guide to the Pentateuch, 57-74 (18)
    • Arnold, Bill T., Beyer, Bryan E.: Encountering the Old Testament: A Christian Survey, 103-114 (12)
  8. Exodus / Shemot (2): From Egypt to Mount Sinai

    The lecture continues the amplification of the contents of Exodus/Shemot by focusing upon the chapters concerned with the Holy Tabernacle (25,1-40,38) and also discusses the New Testament’s use of Exodus. Further topics to be discussed include: what did the cherubim look like and the golden calf.

    Reading:

    • Schultz, Samuel: Üzen az Ószövetség, 64-66 (3)
    • Pecsuk Otto: Bibliaismereti kézikönyv, 77-80 (4)
    • Wenham, Gordon J.: Exploring the Old Testament: A Guide to the Pentateuch, 74-80 (7)
    • Arnold, Bill T., Beyer, Bryan E.: Encountering the Old Testament: A Christian Survey, 114-115 (2)
  9. Leviticus / Wayyikra: Instructions for Holy Living. The Priestly Legacy. Cult and Sacrifice, Purity and Holiness

    The lecture starts with an outline of the structure of the book and then elaborates the various difficulties that one might encounter in the process of reading it. Aspects of visualization, significance and interpretation are also being addressed. This is followed by a comprehensive presentation of the four major building blocks of this book, specifically laws on sacrifice (1,1-7,38), institution of the priesthood (8,1-10,20), uncleanness and its treatment (11,1-16,34) and prescriptions for practical holiness (17,1-27,34). The lecture also deals with the issue of the New Testament’s use of Leviticus/Wayyikra. Further topics to be discussed include: making sense of sacrifice, clean and unclean and cleanness rules.

    Reading:

    • Schultz, Samuel: Üzen az Ószövetség, 66-82 (17)
    • Pecsuk Otto: Bibliaismereti kézikönyv, 81-82 (2)
    • Wenham, Gordon J.: Exploring the Old Testament: A Guide to the Pentateuch, 81-101 (21)
    • Arnold, Bill T., Beyer, Bryan E.: Encountering the Old Testament: A Christian Survey, 117-126 (10)
  10. Numbers / Bamidbar (1): Failure in the Desert

    The lecture proceeds with an outline of the structure of the book, ensued by a detailed presentation of the contents of it, which include Israel’s preparation to enter the Promised Land (1,1-10,10), the journey from Sinai to Kadesh (10,11-12,16) and the forty years near Kadesh (13,1-19,22). Further topics to be discussed include: reflection on the census results, ancient versions of the priestly blessing, parallels between Exodus/Shemot and Numbers/Bamidbar, why were later complaints treated more harshly, archaeology and the tassels.

    Reading:

    • Schultz, Samuel: Üzen az Ószövetség, 82-85 (4)
    • Pecsuk Otto: Bibliaismereti kézikönyv, 83-86 (4)
    • Wenham, Gordon J.: Exploring the Old Testament: A Guide to the Pentateuch, 103-114 (12)
    • Arnold, Bill T., Beyer, Bryan E.: Encountering the Old Testament: A Christian Survey, 127-135 (9)
  11. Numbers / Bamidbar (2): Failure in the Desert

    The lecture continues the treatment of the content of Numbers/Bamidbar with a presentation of the chapters concerned with the journey from Kadesh to the Plains of Moab (20,1-22,1) and with Israel’s stay in the plains of Moab (22,1-36,13). The lecture also intercepts the issue of the New Testament’s use of the book. Further topics to be discussed include: the bronze snake in the Timnah Temple, Balaam outside the Bible and the biblical definition of murder.

    Reading:

    • Schultz, Samuel: Üzen az Ószövetség, 85-87 (3)
    • Pecsuk Otto: Bibliaismereti kézikönyv, 86-89 (4)
    • Wenham, Gordon J.: Exploring the Old Testament: A Guide to the Pentateuch, 114-122 (9)
    • Arnold, Bill T., Beyer, Bryan E.: Encountering the Old Testament: A Christian Survey, 135-139 (5)
  12. Deuteronomy / Devarim (1): Restoring the Covenant. On the Steps of Moab

    The lecture embarks upon supplying a structural outline of the book, followed by an extensive presentation of the content of the chapters, on the lines of the headings in the structural division: heading (1,1-5), Moses’ first sermon (1,6-4,43), heading (4,44-49) and Moses’ second sermon (5,1-28,69). Further topics to be discussed include: the Ten Commandments and ancient treaties, spin and the spies, the love of God in Deuteronomy/Devarim, use of Deuteronomy/Devarim in Jewish worship, the chosen place of worship, Deuteronomy’s/Devarim’s humanitarianism, war in Deuteronomy/Devarim.

    Reading:

    • Schultz, Samuel: Üzen az Ószövetség, 88-91 (4)
    • Pecsuk Otto: Bibliaismereti kézikönyv, 90-91 (2)
    • Wenham, Gordon J.: Exploring the Old Testament: A Guide to the Pentateuch, 123-140 (18)
    • Arnold, Bill T., Beyer, Bryan E.: Encountering the Old Testament: A Christian Survey, 141-146 (6)
  13. Deuteronomy / Devarim (2): Restoring the Covenant. On the Steps of Moab

    The lecture proffers a pervasive presentation of Moses’ third sermon (29,1-30,20) and the epilogue of the book, which is concerned with Moses’ last days (31,1-34,12).

    Reading:

    • Schultz, Samuel: Üzen az Ószövetség, 88-91 (4)
    • Pecsuk Otto: Bibliaismereti kézikönyv, 91-93 (3)
    • Wenham, Gordon J.: Exploring the Old Testament: A Guide to the Pentateuch, 140-143 (4)
    • Arnold, Bill T., Beyer, Bryan E.: Encountering the Old Testament: A Christian Survey, 146-154 (9)
  14. Recapitulation

    By this stage the students should have read the following biblically related Hungarian novel, namely János Kodolányi’s Az égő csipkebokor [The Burning Bush]. The students are also expected to present their handwritten notes that they have prepared in the process of reading the aforementioned book and the handwritten notes that they have prepared while reading the five books of the Torah/Pentateuch. Furthermore, based on the knowledge accumulated from reading the Torah and the abovementioned novel, the students are expected to present an essay titled: "The passion of Moses for God". The length of the essay ought not to be over one thousand words, excluding footnotes.

Total estimated time

Classroom study

  • 2 hours/week (Course: 2 | Seminar: 0 | Practice: 0)
  • 28 hours/semester (Course: 28 | Seminar: 0 | Practice: 0)

Individual study

  • Time for studying course notes and bibliography: 60 hours/semester.
  • Time for further documentation in libraries, electronic platforms, or on the field: 28 hours/semester.
  • Time for preparing essays, papers, or documentation: 8 hours/semester.
  • Time for personal tutoring: 0 hours/semester.
  • Total individual study: 96 hours/semester.
  • Total estimated time: 124 hours/semester.

Examination

Attendance: The course relies significantly upon the material discussed in class. Therefore attendance is strongly endorsed to one’s success in the course. Reading: The student ought to read all the assigned readings for the class. If a student consistently appears to be unprepared the class participation grade will be adversely affected. The lecturer reserves the right to assign quizzes to those who obnoxiously refuse to prepare for upcoming classes. Cheating, plagiarizing, copying, etc. is not tolerated.

Bibliography

Book

Book article

  • Carson, Don A. (1994): Approaching the Bible In: Wenham, Gordon: New Bible Commentary . Downers Grove: Inter-Varsity Press, 1-10 old.

Collection of studies

Source edition