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Indiana University Bloomington
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Course Description

The Hebrew Bible (3 cr.)
Herb Marks
JSTU-J 303 Arts & Humanities Topics in Jewish Studies #33482 / CMLT-C 345 Literature and Religion #31094
MW 4:00-6:30 pm (BH011)
2nd 8 Weeks

There is arguably no book of world literature that has been more embroidered, distorted, and misread than the Hebrew Bible. As the ultimate source of Jewish law and the foundation of Christian theology, it is held up even today as a moral and metaphysical guide. But there is a significant strain in the Bible that is impatient with piety and suspicious of dogmatic wisdom, particularly the wisdom of those who presume on their knowledge of the uncanny central figure it calls God or Yahweh. Indeed, if one reads against the grain of tradition, the Bible is a book that revels in contradiction, invites questions but frustrates answers, views human and divine morality with skepticism, and treats its characters, legendary or historical, with irreverent license.

In this course we shall be exploring this skeptical strain in biblical literature through close analysis of a range of texts from Genesis to Job. Questions about the epistemology of reading (how we know what we know) will be a constant focus, but we shall be concerned too with issues of authority and originality, metaphor and enigma, interpretative license and the status of the author--issues which biblical criticism raises in their acutest form.  Secondary reading will include ancient Near Eastern parallels, literary retellings, and classic works of biblical interpretation, ancient and modern, religious and secular. Students will be asked to write a series of short exercises and two more formal papers.