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Old Testament MPhil Pathway

Old Testament MPhil Pathway

Michaelmas Term 2016

Pentateuchal Criticism

Course Coordinator: Dr Nathan MacDonald (

The course seeks to equip students with a broad methodological overview of some of the challenges and prospects in contemporary Pentateuchal study.  The course will assume some knowledge of the earlier history of Pentateuchal criticism prior to the 1970s, a good knowledge of the Pentateuch, and some of the basic issues in Pentateuchal research (e.g. distinction between H and P, distinction between Deuteronomic and deuteronomistic).  The classes will discuss issues of method, but will range across various Pentateuchal texts and give detailed attention to some particular texts.

1)    The first class will discuss the crisis in Pentateuchal criticism beginning with Rendtorff’s seminal work on traditional history, the resulting attention to blocks of tradition, the renewed attention to the significance of book divisions and the re-emergence of Tetrateuch, Pentateuch and Hexateuch.

2)    The second class will introduce recent work on scribal culture and inner-biblical interpretation, and the significance this has had on understandings of the composition of the Pentateuch.  The necessity of speaking about redaction, and its attendant problems, will be considered.

3)    The third class will examine biblical law, the relation of biblical law to Near Eastern law, and diachronic change in the law collections.

4)    The fourth class will examine the rise of so-called neo-documentarianism.  Its proponents’ understanding of the history of scholarship and the idea of the redactor will be examined, and the strengths and weaknesses of the theory considered.


A 5,000 word essay is to be written on the composition and redaction of one Pentateuchal text to be agreed upon in discussion with the course coordinator.         

M.Phil. Old Testament Core Subject, Michaelmas 2015

This course is compulsory for those writing a dissertation in the field of Old Testament.  Others may attend on satisfactory demonstration of requisite knowledge.

Lent Term 2017

The Biblical Wisdom Literature: definition, classification, social context and theology

Course Coordinator: Dr Katharine Dell (

4 seminars, Wednesdays 2.30 pm in alternate weeks to the OT seminar

1.    Questions of definition, scope and classification – wider wisdom options.

2.    Proverbs – oral/written; social context; theology of creation/order/retribution and


3.    Job – wisdom?, literary character, theology, relationship with the lament psalms.

4.    Ecclesiastes – Solomonic connections, canonical issues, social context, theology.

This course will examine the question whether there is indeed a wisdom tradition within the Old Testament canon and which books make this up.  Questions of definition, scope and classification will consider the character of each of the three main wisdom books, but also look at other contenders from across the canon and consider criteria for inclusion.  Then each of the main wisdom books will be examined in turn with regard to such questions of classification but also in relation to the social context and theology of each.  Particular issues raised by each book will be looked at, notably the question of whether an oral or written culture led to the production of Proverbs or whether the literary character of Job allows it to be seriously considered a mainstream wisdom book, or how to evaluate the Solomonic connections of Ecclesiastes (and Proverbs) and their canonical implications.  Current scholarship on these books will be evaluated and there will be a look at the history of interpretation and different hermeneutical perspectives.  Familiarity with the text and themes of each of the three books will also be expected.


A 5,000 word essay from one of the following:

How far do debates on literacy and orality affect our understanding of the formation of biblical texts?  Answer with special reference to one of the biblical wisdom books.

What social context (or contexts) are reflected in the Wisdom literature and the Wisdom worldview?

What theology (or theologies) are reflected in any ONE of the biblical wisdom books?

Can Job and/or Ecclesiastes be usefully categorised as ‘Wisdom in Revolt’?