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REL 2040: Great Books: The Bible and Western Culture

Fall 2013

Dr. Peter Bekins

Class Journal 1. This journal is designed to help you synthesize the content of the class lectures and

also provide me with feedback. The journal is due at the beginning of class on Tuesday, September 17.

Week 1 Introduction

Tue Aug 27. Re-read the story of Cain and Abel (Genesis 4:1-16) and pay attention to the gaps. Identify

one gap that is due to cultural distance (i.e. something you don’t understand, but the ancient readers

probably did). Identify a second gap that is due to modern concerns (i.e. something you would like to

know, but the ancient readers probably did not care about).

Thu Aug 29. Re-read the flood story (Genesis 6-9). Summarize the major differences between the two

doublets. What do you think of this exercise? Has it changed your view of the Bible in any way?

Minute Summary. What one idea did you find most surprising this week?

Week 2 Early Israel

Tue Sep 3. Re-read the Song of the Sea (Exodus 15:1-18). First, discuss at least two reasons why

scholars think that this poem was composed well after the actual exodus event, but that it had been

used by the Israelites in worship well before the book of Exodus itself was written. Second, describe the

function of this song for the Israelite tribes.

Thu Sep 5. Re-read the Song of Deborah in Judges 5. List the six tribes who are recognized for coming

to Deborah’s aid in the battle. List the four tribes who refused to participate. According to the traditional

list of 12 tribes (see p52 in New Oxford Annotated Bible), which tribes are not mentioned at all? Discuss

what all this reveals about the social structure and geography of early Israel?

Minute Summary. What one idea has left you the most confused this week?

Week 3 The National Literature (part 1)

Tue Sep 10. Re-read the story of the Priest and his concubine in Judges 19. Briefly describe your initial

reaction to this story. How did it make you feel? What did you think it means? Next, reflect on our class

discussion. What was the function of this story and why might it have been inserted at the end of the

book of Judges?

Thu Sep 12. Re-read the Covenant Code (Exodus 20:22-23:33) and compare with “Excerpts from

Hammurabi’s Law” (on Pilot). Discuss at least two specific laws that are shared by both law codes. Why

do you think it is significant to understand that biblical law borrows and builds upon the existing cultural

norms of the ancient Near East?

Minute Summary. What is one question that you have after this week?

Name________________________________ Score ______/20

REL 2040: Great Books: The Bible and Western Culture

Fall 2013

Dr. Peter Bekins

Class Journal 1. This journal is designed to help you synthesize the content of the class lectures and

also provide me with feedback. The journal is due at the beginning of class on Tuesday, September 17.

Week 1 Introduction

Tue Aug 27. Re-read the story of Cain and Abel (Genesis 4:1-16) and pay attention to the gaps. Identify

one gap that is due to cultural distance (i.e. something you don’t understand, but the ancient readers

probably did). Identify a second gap that is due to modern concerns (i.e. something you would like to

know, but the ancient readers probably did not care about).

Thu Aug 29. Re-read the flood story (Genesis 6-9). Summarize the major differences between the two

doublets. What do you think of this exercise? Has it changed your view of the Bible in any way?

Minute Summary. What one idea did you find most surprising this week?

Week 2 Early Israel

Tue Sep 3. Re-read the Song of the Sea (Exodus 15:1-18). First, discuss at least two reasons why

scholars think that this poem was composed well after the actual exodus event, but that it had been

used by the Israelites in worship well before the book of Exodus itself was written. Second, describe the

function of this song for the Israelite tribes.

Thu Sep 5. Re-read the Song of Deborah in Judges 5. List the six tribes who are recognized for coming

to Deborah’s aid in the battle. List the four tribes who refused to participate. According to the traditional

list of 12 tribes (see p52 in New Oxford Annotated Bible), which tribes are not mentioned at all? Discuss

what all this reveals about the social structure and geography of early Israel?

Minute Summary. What one idea has left you the most confused this week?

Week 3 The National Literature (part 1)

Tue Sep 10. Re-read the story of the Priest and his concubine in Judges 19. Briefly describe your initial

reaction to this story. How did it make you feel? What did you think it means? Next, reflect on our class

discussion. What was the function of this story and why might it have been inserted at the end of the

book of Judges?

Thu Sep 12. Re-read the Covenant Code (Exodus 20:22-23:33) and compare with “Excerpts from

Hammurabi’s Law” (on Pilot). Discuss at least two specific laws that are shared by both law codes. Why

do you think it is significant to understand that biblical law borrows and builds upon the existing cultural

norms of the ancient Near East?

Minute Summary. What is one question that you have after this week?

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