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Old Testament MPhil Pathway

Michaelmas Term 2019

M.Phil. Old Testament Core Subject, Michaelmas 2019

This course is compulsory for those writing a thesis in the field of Old Testament.

Hebrew Bible, Septuagint and beyond

Case Study: The Book of Joshua

Course Coordinator: Dr James Aitken

The course seeks to equip students with advanced exegetical tools and to acquaint them with textual resources that they may not have encountered during their undergraduate education.  The emphasis will be to demonstrate methodological and theoretical issues through hands-on experience and concrete examples.  The specific example for study will be the book of Joshua, which students should aim to read through before the course.  The exegetical tools covered will be redaction criticism and inner-biblical interpretation; the textual resources are the Septuagint and the Dead Sea Scrolls.  A particular concern of the course will be to show that these are not four independent issues, but methods and resources that shed light on a complex, interrelated set of problems.

1.    The first class will introduce students to the discussion of Joshua’s redaction history.  The focus will be on the conquest narratives in Joshua 2-12, a text usually thought to contain the oldest core of the book of Joshua.  Through specific examples students will learn how later redactional material is identified.

2.    The second class will explore the inter-textual relationship that the book of Joshua has with surrounding texts.  The focus will be on Joshua chapters 1, 13-19, 22-24 and their relationship to the books of Numbers, Deuteronomy and Judges.  Students will consider contemporary debates about whether it is helpful to consider Joshua to be part of a Hexateuch or a Deuteronomistic History.

3.    The third class will examine the texts of Joshua in the Dead Sea Scrolls (4QJosha-b), which throws, light on the early history of the text.  A careful examination of the editions will be undertaken but also other ‘para-biblical’ Joshua material at Qumran will be considered.  Students will thus see a possibly earlier form of the text in the Scrolls that will shed light on the redaction history, but also be introduced to ways in which traditions can develop.

4.    The fourth class will focus on the Septuagint, seeing how it relates to the Dead Sea Scrolls and the MT, a topic that has attracted some attention in recent scholarly discussions.  Other methods of examining the Septuagint will also be introduced.


Choose one of the following questions:

1)    Discuss the redactional relationship of the book of Joshua to either Numbers, Deuteronomy, or Judges.

2)    Using one or more passages from Joshua, discuss the relationship between the book’s redaction history and its textual history.

3)    What picture does the Qumran evidence provide of the textual and interpretative history of Joshua?

4)    Does the LXX attest to a proto-MT of Joshua?

Lent Term 2020

The Significance of the Septuagint

Course Coordinator: Dr James Aitken

The study of the Septuagint is a diverse field today.  The Septuagint remains an important witness to the text and interpretation of the Hebrew Bible in antiquity.  Questions continue to be raised regarding the social status of the translators, their competence and their theological intent, all dependent upon one’s understanding of the translation technique.  The course will introduce and examine the evidence and methods traditions in the so-called “Recensions”.  The course will introduce students to the issues and methods in Septuagint study, including the diverse textual history as well as the analysis of the language and vocabulary as a means for evaluating the Septuagint text and context.

Prerequisites: A reading knowledge of Greek.  Hebrew knowledge is preferable but not essential.  Anyone interested in participating should consult the course coordinator, who will determine whether you have sufficient language experience.

Lent Term Seminars

1.    Theories of the Septuagint

       What is the Septuagint?  The first class will introduce classical and recent theories of the Septuagint, and seek to understand better the nature of the text as a document.  Ancient accounts will be examined (Aristeas, Sirach Preface), and recent theories based on the likely locations, styles, and language of the Septuagint as well as understanding the Jewish community in Egypt will be evaluated.

2.    Ancient Translation and Septuagint Translation Technique

       The bedrock of the Septuagint is the translation technique.  This class will introduce ways of examining the translation technique and demonstrate the differences between individual translations.  It will also how the translation technique has been viewed in the wider context of ancient translation and modern translation theory.

3.    The Language of the Septuagint

       The third seminar will examine the debates regarding the language of the Septuagint.  It will show how a linguistic approach can inform the interpretation of the Septuagint and its purpose.  It will also demonstrate how recent research drawing upon documentary evidence and the history of Greek provides a surer ground from which to develop one’s theories.

4.    Revisions and Recensions

       The complex array of revision layers in the Septuagint text history will be explained.  These will be related to the later revisers known from tradition.  The revision process will be put into the context of biblical text history, including the evidence from the Qumran scrolls.  It will also be examined in the light of debates regarding grammatical history, sanctity of Hebrew, and the scurrility of a written text.

5.    Texts, Tools and Editions

       The final seminar will examine various tools to be used in Septuagint research as well as provide practical experience in research using database.


An essay according to the length specified in the regulations on one of the following subjects.  The focus is to be agreed upon in discussion with the course coordinator.

How far are internal features to the Septuagint relevant for explaining the origins of the translation?

How does the translation technique reveal an exegetical approach by any one translator?

Can linguistic evidence be best explained in the context of the history of the Greek language?

How far can any one of the revisions be said to have an ideological agenda behind it?


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 should we define 'wisdom' and related terms 'wisdom literature'
and 'wisdom tradition'?  Discuss with reference to recent scholarly debate on the issue.

What social context, or contexts, are reflected in the wisdom

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


A detailed study of a particular passage, section of chapters, or theme within any of Proverbs, Job or Ecclesiastes.