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Indiana University Bloomington
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Course Description

VT: Who Wrote the Bible? (3 cr)
Herb Marks
COLL-C 103 Critical Approaches to Arts & Humanities (17936)
MW 3:00-3:50 (Rec Sports 110)
Plus Discussion: F 10:00-10:50 (19880); F 10:00-10:50 (21010); F 11:15-12:05 (19881); F 11:15-12:05 (22392)

More than any other work of literature, sacred or profane, the Bible force us to confront the problem of authorship. Who wrote the Bible? Was it Moses? Was it God? Was it a prophet or a priest in the time of King David, or a college of scribes in exile in Babylonia? Or do readers themselves complete the writing of the texts they read? Traditional religious answers to the question of authorship have attempted to defend the Bible’s unity. Modern critical answers, by contrast, stress the composite nature of even the smallest units (individual psalms, brief narrative episodes, points of law). What does it mean in the age of relativity to entertain multiple, or even conflicting viewpoints?

The course has three principle aims: to explore the diversity of biblical writing, to introduce students to the excitement of literary analysis through exercises in close reading, and to test the role of the reader in the “construction” of literary meaning. Lectures and discussions sections will take up such topics as mythic origins, the relation of history-likeness to history, and the role of women in biblical narrative. Our readings will be drawn from many parts of the Bible—particularly from the narrative sections of the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament)—augmented by brief selections from ancient Near Eastern and Hellenistic literature and from the history of biblical interpretation. Theological questions will be treated from a secular and critical perspective but with respect for individual beliefs and for the diverse traditions of religious instruction.

In addition to midterm and final exams, students will be required to write short weekly response papers (1-2 pages) on set themes.