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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Divinity : Divinity

Undergraduate Course: The Dark Lord: God and Violence in the Hebrew Bible (DIVI10003)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Divinity CollegeCollege of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 10 (Year 3 Undergraduate) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryThere are several texts in the Hebrew Bible that trouble the understandings of God and challenge the modern exegete. This God attacks his chosen ones from behind, he demands child sacrifice and genocide, and he inflicts misery and violence on his people. So, how can we conceive of a God who is macho, cruel, ruthless, and even indulges in ethnic cleansing?
Course description Academic Description:

The Hebrew Bible contains a great number of texts that trouble the conventional Jewish and Christian understandings of God and challenge the reader of the He-brew Bible. This God attacks his chosen ones from behind, he demands child sacrifice and genocide, and he inflicts misery and violence on his people. This course aims to integrate these seemingly incongruous texts in the understanding of the Hebrew Bible, where they are neglected frequently in favour of the idea of a loving and faithful God. A historical critical reading helps to understand the texts as theological expressions in their time and integrates them into an image of God that is not always comprehensive and comfortable.

Due to the topic of the course, there are some (textual) depictions of violence that participants might find upsetting.

Sample Syllabus/Outline Content:

Each week will focus on a set primary text accompanied by two or more secondary readings. The session in week 1 will provide an introductory session, while the last session will consist of a debate that summarises the course content.

Student Learning Experience Information

Students will be taught in weekly 2-hour sessions, which comprise a lecture-style introduction, close readings of the primary texts and group discussions with interactive elements. The engagement with the biblical texts combines literary readings with a solid historical-critical approach, aiming to understand the texts as documents from their own times. Students are expected to prepare the biblical texts and secondary readings for discussion in class, where they may be asked to e.g. present a text, lead a discussion, pair with a partner, reflect on a piece of art, or discuss the implications of the biblical texts for today's society. Students are assessed on a coursework essay and the end-of-term exam, through which they will demonstrate the achievement of the learning outcomes. A one-to-one 'Learning Conversation' in the middle of term offers the students the opportunity to reflect on their learning experience; on this occasion, they will also receive feedback on their essay plan and their overall participation in class.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Information for Visiting Students
Pre-requisitesVisiting students are welcome.
High Demand Course? Yes
Course Delivery Information
Not being delivered
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. To critically analyse texts from the Hebrew Bible and discuss their implications for the conception of the deity.
  2. To reflect on their learning experience, focusing on how the course contributes to their comprehension of divine violence.
  3. To compose a critical essay on the topic of divine violence that analyses the textual evidence and engages with different scholarly understandings.
  4. To positions themselves in the discussion on divine violence by providing short and comprehensive answers on various problems pertaining to the discussion.
  5. To assess the exegetical insights against the background of wider theological discussions and engage in cross-discipline discourse.
Reading List
General Bibliography:

Barton, John/Muddiman, J. The Oxford Bible Commentary. Oxford: OUP, 2007.
Coogan, Michael D. The Old Testament: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford: OUP, 2008.
Crenshaw, James L. A Whirlpool of Torment. Israelite Traditions of God as an Oppressive Presence. Atlanta: SBL 2008 (Fortress 1984).
Gertz, Jan Christian. The T&T Clark Handbook of the Old Testament: An Introduction to the Literature, Religion and History of the Old Testament. London: T&T Clark, 2012.
Römer, Thomas. The Dark God: Cruelty, Sex, and Violence in the Old Testament. New York: Paulist Press, 2013.
Seibert, Eric. Disturbing Divine Behaviour: Troubling Old Testament Images of God. Minneapolis: Fortress, 2009.
Zehnder, M./Hallvard, H. (Ed.). Encountering Violence in the Bible. The Bible in the Modern World 55. Sheffield: Sheffield Phoenix Press, 2013.
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills Curiosity for learning and openness to different perspectives;
Finely-tuned skills in translation, analysis and interpretation of biblical texts;
Ability to communicate effectively with others, both orally and in writing;
KeywordsHebrew Bible,theology,violence,image of God,Old Testament theology
Course organiserDr Peter Atkins
Course secretaryMr Ross Muir
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