Bhp 318: Honors Seminar: The Bible as Literature and Philosophy

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BHP 318: Honors Seminar: The Bible as Literature and Philosophy

Dan Garro Vanita Neelakanta

Department of Philosophy Department of English

NAB 113 (609) 896.7774 FA 331 Ext: x5581

Hrs: M 11 :30-12 :30 Hrs: MW 11 : 00-12 :30

Course Description
This course is designed to give you an advanced understanding of the Bible as both a literary and philosophical text. We will examine seminal books and chapters from the Old and New Testaments, and consider a) their construction as literary texts b) their reception in diverse historical and cultural moments through the selected writings of key philosophers, literary adaptations, and critical commentaries. The aim of the course is to help you develop a critical sense of the Bible as the repository of meaning, value, allusion, language, and ideology for western literature and philosophy.
Required Texts:

  1. The New Oxford Annotated Bible (4th edition)

  2. John Riches, The Bible: A Very Short Introduction

  3. Other required texts will be handed out in class or posted online on blackboard. To access these texts as well as an online version of this syllabus go to

Requirements and Grading Criteria:

1- Attendance: Consistent attendance is mandatory, and promptness is expected. No unexcused absence is acceptable, and more than two absences for any reason will be considered grounds for a serious final grade penalty and possible failure. Since this is a 3 hour seminar that meets once a week, you cannot miss class without running the big risk of falling behind.

2- Preparation and Participation: Because this class is a seminar based on discussion in-class and on blackboard, your preparation and full participation is essential. You will be expected to come to each seminar meeting with a set of questions already formulated, and having completed your blackboard discussion posts. There will be occasional graded quizzes to test your recall of Biblical passages. On the first day you will be divided into small groups which will be responsible for both preparing a report and leading discussion based on that report on a topic listed on the syllabus.

Your weekly preparation is critical to your own learning and to the success of the class

3- Formal Writing: You will be asked to submit two formal essays, one of which is a research paper. Late papers will be penalized at the discretion of the instructors. If you anticipate difficulty with handing in a paper on time, see one of the instructors before the due date to arrange for an extension. You will also be divided into groups to write up a brief paper (paper 1), present it and lead discussion on that topic in class. Finally, you will be graded on your blackboard discussion posts for each week, as well as on in-class free-writes (2).

Final grades will be computed as follows:

Research Paper (Paper 2): 25%

Group report (Paper 1): 15%

Group presentation: 15%

In-class Participation: 10%

Blackboard discussion: 15%

In-class quizzes: 10%

In-class Free-writes: 10%

Academic Honesty

From the Academic Policy Manual (06-07): Academic dishonesty includes any unauthorized collaboration or misrepresentation in the submission of academic work. In all written work, whether in class or out of class, the student’s name on the work is considered to be a statement that the work is his or hers alone, except as otherwise indicated. Students are expected to provide proper citations for the statements and ideas of others whether submitted word for word or paraphrased.

Please note that all ideas, phrases, sentences taken from the internet and other sources and incorporated into your own writing must be cited to avoid plagiarism. Disregard for this rule will result not only in failure, but also in a letter being placed in your permanent file.
Please note that incorporating material from class-discussions, lectures and our suggestions for improvement does NOT constitute academic dishonesty in this class.

Week 1: Introduction: what is the Bible; multiple texts, multiple authors, multiple genres;

How do we think of God: From the Pre-Socratics, “Milesians”, “Heraclitus”;

Dostoyevsky, from The Brothers Karamazov, “The Grand Inquisitor”; Riches,

“Bible: AVSI” pp. 9-42; Plato, “Allegory of the Cave”

Week 2: Origins: Creation stories; the pre-lapsarian relationship between God and

humankind: Gen. 1-3

Milton, from Paradise Lost, Bk IX; Itzik, “Eve and the Apple Tree”; Aquinas,

“Morality and Natural Law”; Pratchett and Gaiman, from Good Omens

Week 3: Obedience or the Wrath of God: is obedience a choice: Gen. 3; Gen. 6.6-9.28; Gen. 11.1-9; Gen. 19.1-24; Matthew 10

Steinbeck, from East of Eden; Aquinas, “Morality and Natural Law”; Spinoza,

“The Foundations of the Moral Life”, pp.179-184; Plato, “Gyges’ Ring”
Week 4: Faith and fear/the divine test: Gen. 22. 1-19; Job 1-7; Job 31; Job 38; Job 40-

42; Romans 4; Hebrews 11-12

Kierkegaard, from “Fear and Trembling”; Camus, from “The Myth of


Week 5: Birthright/Covenant: The God of Abraham, Issac and Jacob: Gen. 17; Gen. 25:

19-34, 27:1-40; Exodus 1-20; Judges 13-16; I Sam. 16-18; I Kings 18-19

Brueggemann,“To the land I will show you,” The Land, 15-25.
Week 6: Exile/the dwelling place of God: Ruth 1-4; 1 Kings 5-9; 2 Chronicles 1-7; 2

Kings 24-15; Ezra 1; Ezra 3; Ezekiel: 33

Bueggemann, “You Lacked Nothing,” The Land, 27-33, 38-41
Week 7: The psalms: who is YHWH: 13, 22, 23, 27, 34, 42, 79, 122, 130, 137, 139;

James, “Philosophy,” pp. 542-545, 549


Week 8: Genesis of Satan: Job 1; Isaiah 14: 3-20; Matthew 4: 1-12; Matthew 17: 14-21;

Mark 3:22-30; Mark 9: 17-30; Luke 10: 17-20; Revelation: 4-8; 12-13; 20-22 

The story of Ahriman and Ormazd; Milton, from Paradise Lost, Bk 1;

Augustine, from “The Love of God,” pp.62-65, 70-73

Week 9: The Gospels/who was Jesus: Isaiah: 7.10-12; Isa. 30-33; Isa. 53; Matthew 1-3;

Mark 1:3; Luke 1-3; John 1-3; Luke 9: 18-27; John 18-21;

O’Connor, “A Good Man is Hard to Find”

Week 10: Faith and Miracles: Matthew 17; Luke 9: 41-56; Luke 18: 35-43; Luke 23: 32-

44; John 5-6; John 9; John 11; Acts 9.1-39

Tolstoy, “My Confession,” pp.16-20
Week 11: The teachings of Jesus: Matthew 5-7; Matt. 10; Matt. 20: 1-16; Mark 12: 1-11;

Luke 14: 1-24; Luke 19: 12:26; John 14-17

Aquinas, from the Summa contra Gentiles, pp. 46-56
Week 12: The universal church: Luke 11: 30-37; Luke17: 11-19; John 4; Acts 1-2;

Romans: 1-3; 9-12; 1 Corinthians: 1-3; 9; 12-13; Galatians: 2-3

Week 13: Conclusion: Religion and Philosophy

Craig, “The Absurdity of Life without God”; Quinn, “The Meaning of Life

According to Christianity”; Huxley, “The Creed of a Scientific Humanist”;

Russell, “A Free Man’s Worship”

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