RGB1005HS -- INTRODUCTION TO THE OLD TESTAMENT -- M. Kolarcik  January, 2011  Thursdays  7-9pm

This introductory course explores the thematic unity of the Old Testament under the heading of Covenantal Theology. Significant covenantal moments are studied in their historical manifestations, cultic realizations, and literary expressions (Abram, Sinai, David/Zion, Prophetic, Exile, Deuteronomic, Priestly-Noah/Abraham, Wisdom, New Testamental Period). Literary and  rhetorical analysis, historical and textual criticism are employed as means of exploring the biblical texts. Lectures, readings, six study papers, group collaboration in defining two sets of  some fifty technical terms..

Textbook: COLLINS, John J.  Introduction to the Hebrew Bible (with CDRom). Minneapolis: Fortress, 2004. (Ordered at Crux Book Store, Wycliffe College).

Recommended texts :

ANDERSON, Bernard W., Steven BISHOP, Judith H. NEWMAN. Understanding the Old Testament. 5th edition. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall:  2007
CAMPBELL, Antony, F., Mark A. O’BRIEN. Rethinking the Pentateuch, Prolegomena to the Theology of Ancient Israel. Louisville, KE: Westminster John Knox,  2005.
HAHN, Scott W. Kinship by Covenant: A Canonical Approach to the Fulfillment of God's Saving Promises. The Anchor Yale Bible Reference Library. New Haven: Yale University, 2009.
LEVENSON, Jon.  Sinai and Zion: an Entry into the Jewish Bible. San Fransisco: Harper & Row, 1987.
ANDERSON,  Bernhard W. Contours of Old Testament Theology.
Minneapolis: Fortress, 1999.
BRIGHT, John. A History of
Israel. 4th edition. Philadelphia: Westminster, 2001.

Two general introductions which I regularly use are:

BOADT, Lawrence. Reading the Old Testament, an Introduction. New York: Paulist, 1984.
CERESKO, Anthony. An Introduction to the Old Testament, A Liberation Perspective. Updated and Revised.  First edition, 1992.
New York: Orbis, Maryknoll, 2001.

For reading assignments and tasks for each lecture go to the Materials file under Content, if you are logged in through the portal,or from the webpage to

Lecture Materials

For Guidance on Writing Style and specifically for referencing your work follow

Turabian  (The University of Toronto Writing Manual)

Questions for study based on lecture material (in alphabetical characters) and on reading assignments (in numerical characters).

Answer one question in three pages, double-spaced, timesroman12 point.


First Assignment Due January 27th

a) Explain briefly the narrative arch of call/covenant/test for the Abrahamic covenant in Gen 12,15, 22.
b) What unique perspectives on covenant theology are presented in the narrative of Genesis 15?
c) The story of the call for Abraham to sacrifice Isaac has been understood as the climax of the entire Abrahamic cycle. What explanation would you offer for this high regard the story has had in the history of interpretation?
1) Explain briefly the documentary hypothesis that accounts for the divergent materials in the pentateuchal narratives (Ceresko, pp. 52-60; Collins, pp. 47-65).
2) To what extent do the ancestral narratives in Genesis portray ancient materials as well as betray signs of retrojection? (Bright, pp. 67-103)
3) To what extent must the religion of the ancestors be differentiated from that of the official polytheisms of
Mesopotamia? (Ceresko, pp 27-37; Collins, pp. 25-46)

Second Assignment Due February 10th

d) How does the narration of the birth of Moses prefigure Israel as a nation (Exodus 2)?
e) How does the story of the theophany from the burning bush represent a radical change in the life of Moses?
f) The exodus narrative that reveals God's plan to liberate the Israelites from
Egypt is met by resistance in Moses, the people and in the Pharaoh. What significance does the resistance have for the narrative in each case?
g) Explain the complexity and possible solutions in the notion that God is presented as "hardening the heart" of the Pharaoh in the plague narrative (Exodus 7--11).
h) What are the unique features of the Sinai covenant? How would you differentiate it from the Abrahamic covenant?
i) Explain the major differences between the Sinai covenant and the Vassal-Treaty form.
j) What are the important images and ideas in the Sinai covenant according to the Elohist and the Yahwist traditions?
4) What are the arguments used to support the dating of the Exodus in the 15th and the 13th centuries? (Ceresko, pp. 72-79; Bright, pp. 120-133; )

Third Assignment Due March 3rd

k) In Joshua 2, the spies who are sent to search out the land find a haven in Rahab's house, a prostitute. What purpose lies behind the narrator's presentation of this spy story that says little about the actual spying and a great deal about the family of the prostitute?
l) In Joshua 23-24, we have the leader, Joshua, before his death, calling for the people to renew their covenant with God. What explanation would you offer for the absence of any reference to the Sinai covenant?
m) The Book of Judges presents us continuously with a pattern of
Israel sinning, crying to God, and being delivered. Using Judges 10:6--11:12 as an example, explain the pattern.
5) What are the arguments used to sustain the theories of
Israel's conquest, gradual infiltration, and uprising of Canaan? (Ceresko, pp. 89-112; Collins, pp. 183-202; ABD 3: 545-558)
6) How would you characterize the Israelite religion with the socio-religious terms of monotheism, henotheism and polytheism? (Bright, pp. 144-162)
n) In 1 Samuel 8--12, which narrates Israel's request for a king to Samuel, there are two positions, one positive and the other negative, toward the establishment of a monarchy. What are some profound theological implications behind this rather simple request of
Israel "to be like the other nations" and have a monarchy.
o) David succeeded in establishing the monarchy where Saul had failed. What are some of the reasons the biblical writers offer for Saul's failure on the one hand and David's success on the other?
p) Describe the progression of David's rise to power through his personal relationship to Jonathan in the four episodes of 1 Sam 18:1-5; 19:1-7; 20:1-42;
q) How does the Davidic covenant, which is conveyed through Nathan's oracle and David’s Prayer in 2 Sam 7, represent a cultural shift for the Israelites?

The purpose of this exercise of discussing the terms listed below is for each student to become familiar with basic terminology we come across in reading books and articles on the Old Testament. Below is the first set of  terms to be defined from your reading of  J.J. Collins, A. Ceresko, J. Bright, L. Boadt, and from the lectures: Provide a one sentence definition for each term. Work in groups of three or four; divide up these words and terms; and have a meeting where you discuss each term. As a group, send your file of defined terms to me by email March 10th. Follow the same procedure for the second set of terms for April 6th (see below).

Akhenaton --
allegory --
Amarna Letters --
amphictyony --
analogy --
anthropomorphic --
Apiru (Hapiru) --
apodictic law --
berit --
case law (casuistic law) --
chiastic structure --
Code of  (Laws of) Hammurabi --
concentric structure --
Covenant Code (Book of the Covenant) --
decalogue --
Deuteronomist (D) --
doublet  (literary) --
Elohist (E) --
epic --
eponymous writing --
genealogy --
Hittite --
Hyksos --
juxtaposition --
legend --
LXX --
metaphor --
Midianite --
myth --
parity treaty --
Patriarchal Stories --
pentateuch --
Philistines --
Priestly Writer (P) --
redaction --
saga --
Sea Peoples --
Septuagint --
symbol --
Talmud --
Babylonian Talmud --
Palestinian Talmud --
Tel --
theophany --
Torah --
treaty formulary --
Tribal League --
vassal treaty --
Yahwist (J) --

Fourth Assignment Due March 17th

r) How would you characterize the essential aspects of literary prophecy (the writing prophets) in Israel? Use the vocational experiences of Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel as examples (Isa 6, Jer 1; Ezek 1-3). (Ceresko 165-188, as well as lectures)
7) How do the three major prophets, Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel, use the past Mosaic and Davidic covenant expressions to express hope? (Ceresko 189-214, 221-231, Collins 307-378 and lectures)
8) Why was the Babylonian exile a serious threat to the faith of
Israel? (Ceresko 217-222, Boadt 383-386, Collins 331-377).
9) Explain the historical ramifications and events that led to the Babylonian exile. (Bright, chs. 8-9, pp. 310-372, 4th ed.) 

Fifth Assignment Due March 31st

10) How is the book of Deuteronomy the most complete example of a treaty-formulary in the Bible? (Ceresko, 113- 124; Collins, 150-179).
Explain the concentric structure of Deut 8. How does this single chapter represent the Deuteronomist's strategy to elicit a commitment on the part of the Israelites? (lectures)
t) The sin of Kadesh Barnea which Moses recalls to the people before they are to cross over the Jordan river (
Deut 1), reveals the level of conversion necessary for living faithfully in the Promised Land. Does this Deuteronomonic understanding of sin and conversion throw any new light on God hardening Pharaoh's heart in Exodus, on God forgiving David but not Saul in the books of Samuel, and God telling Isaiah to make the heart of the people dull lest they turn and be healed (Isa 6)? (lectures)

Second set of definition of terms to be submitted April 7th

Second set of terms to be defined from your reading of  J.J. Collins, A. Ceresko, J. Bright, L.Boadt, and from the lectures: From within your group, provide a one sentence definition for each term. Definitions to be sent by email to me  (mf.kolarcik@utoronto.ca) on Monday, April 6th.

Amorites --
apocalyptic --
apocrypha --
Aramean --
ark (of the covenant) --
Canaanites --
cosmology --
Dead Sea (Qumran) Scrolls --
Deutero-Isaiah --
deuterocanonical --
diaspora --
didactic --
divination --
Ebla --
Edomites --
Enuma Elish --
etiological stories --
Exile --
Gilgamesh Epic --
henotheism --
hexateuch --
Hittite Grant --
Jamnia --
Levites --
Mari --
Masoretes, Masoretic Text (MT) --
Melchizedek --
Merneptah Stele --
messianic --
Mishnah --
Moabites --
monotheism --
parenetic (paraenetic)--
Phoenicians --
polytheism --
prophet --
Pseudepigrapha --
rîb --
sapiential (wisdom) writing --
Tanak --
Targum --
tent of meeting (tabernacle) --
tetragrammaton --
tetrateuch --
the Priestly Code --
the Holiness Code (H) --
theodicy --
Trito-Isaiah --
typology --
Ugarit --
Vulgate --
Zadok –

Sixth Assignment Due April 14th (Thursday of Exam week)

u) What are some possible motives as to why Writers would add another story of creation (Genesis 1) to that of the  Yahwist account (Genesis 2:4—3:24)?

11 How is the opening account of creation (Genesis 1) to be understood as critiquing the Babylonian myth of creation, the Enuma Elish? (Ceresko 244-253, Boadt, 114-117, Collins 67-77)

12) How would you account for the relative absence of the covenant image in Wisdom Writings? What theological concern becomes the backdrop for sapiential thought? (Ceresko, 273-282; Collins 487-495, 505-508 lectures)

v) Compare and contrast the Deuteronomistic and Priestly approaches to the crisis of faith occasioned by the Babylonian exile. How does each tradition appeal to covenant images to respond to the crisis of faith? (Mostly lectures)

w) Explain the Priestly emphases in covenant theology through their re-working of the Yahwist story of Noah (Genesis 9) and their reformulation (Genesis 17) of the Yahwistic account of the covenant with Abraham. (lectures)

x) Using the Joseph narrative (Gen 37—50) or the story of Jonah, explain the main features and concerns of Wisdom Literature.

y) Explain the uniqueness of the personification of wisdom evidenced in Prov 8, Sir 24, Wis 9.

z) What is New in the New Covenant of Christ? How is the relationship between the Covenant of Sinai and the New Covenant of Christ conceived and explained in Romans and in the Letter to the Hebrews?



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ADAM, A.K.M. ed Handbook of Postmodern Biblical Interpretation.
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AZELLES, H. "Covenant.” [Sacramentum Mundi, New York: 1975].
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McCARTHY, D.J. Old Testament Covenant: A Survey of Current Opinions.
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ADEYEMI, F. The New Covenant Torah in Jeremiah and the Law of Christ in Paul. New York: Peter Lang, 2006
BALTZER, K.  The Covenant Formulary in the Old Testament. Translated D.E. Green.
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BRIGHT, J. Covenant and Promise: the prophetic understanding of the future in pre-exilic
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BRUEGGEMANN, W. The Land: Place as Gift, Promise, and Challenge in the Biblical Faith.
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BRUEGGEMANN, W. David's Truth in
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BRUEGGEMANN, W. "Amos 4:4-13 and Israel's Covenant Worship.” VT 15 (1965).
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FENSHAM, F.C. "Covenant, Promise and Expectation in the Bible.” TZ 23 (1967).
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Museum of Beirut.” CBQ 20 (1958).
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HELD, M.  "Philological Notes on the Mari Covenant Rituals.” BASOR 200 (1970).
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MAYES, A.D.H.  "The Covenant on Sinai and the Covenant with David.” Hermathena 110 (1970).
MAYES, A.D.H.  "King and Covenant, a study of 1K 22-23.” Hermathena 124 (1978).
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McCARTHY, D.J.  "Notes on the Love of God in Deuteronomy and the Father-Son Relationship between Yahweh and
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SWETNAM, J.  "Why was Jeremiah's new covenant new?.” [Studies on Prophecy, VTSup 26 (1974)].
SWETNAM, J.  "Diatheke in the Septuagint account of Sinai: A Suggestion.” Bib 47 (1966).
TSEVAT, M.  "The House of David in Nathan's Prophecy.” Bib 46 (1965).
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COURSE INFORMATION: My office is #319, Regis College, 100 Wellesley Street West2. My office hours are MONDAYS and THURSDAYS from 2 - 4 pm. But feel free to make an appointment for other times or even drop in if I am free. By telephone you can reach me through Regis College (416) 922-5474. I regularly look at my e-mail messages as well (mf.kolarcik@utoronto.ca).

This information with updates may be accessed on the internet from my web page through Blackboard or at my own site


EVALUATION: Six short essays (three-page, double-spaced, timesroman12 point) on selected questions arising from reading materials and class lectures
                         (due on Jan 27, Feb 10, Mar 3,  Mar 17, Mar 31. Apr 14).

                         Two sets of definitions of terms employed in Old Testament studies (to be done in groups of three or four).
                                 First set is due on March 10th. 
Second set is due on April 7th.

Michael Kolarcik