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Old Testamen/Hebrew Bible MPhil Pathway

The pathway has a compulsory module in the Michaelmas Term and a choice of two modules in the Lent Term.

Module 1. Michaelmas Term 2023. The Formation of the Hebrew Bible: The Book of Joshua

Module Coordinator: Professor Nathan MacDonald

The module seeks to equip students with advanced tools for the study of the Hebrew Bible and to acquaint them with scholarly approaches and textual resources that they may not have encountered during their undergraduate education. The emphasis will be on demonstrating methodological and theoretical issues through hands-on experience and concrete examples. How the Bible came about and how it is represented in our ancient evidence are highly debated fields of study. We will trace the Bible from the earliest moments of its being written down to the copying and transmission of texts. Students will be equipped to understand better the textual diversity of the ancient witnesses and to appreciate each witness on its own terms. The implications for exegesis and biblical interpretation will then be addressed.

Prerequisites: A reading knowledge of Hebrew is expected. Anyone interested in participating should consult the module coordinator, who will determine whether you have sufficient language experience.


  1. Writing in Ancient Israel

The first seminar will begin with some introductory issues on the Masoretic text before examining the discussion of scribalism and the origins of writing in connection with biblical Israel. The vital contribution of inscriptions for the history of the Bible will be examined. Recent debates regarding scribes and scribal practice will then be considered in light of discussion over editorial layers of the text.

  1. Redaction History of Joshua:

The 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. Specific examples will be used to show how later redactional material is identified.

  1. Joshua and its Surrounding Books:

The 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. Contemporary debates about whether it is helpful to consider Joshua to be part of a Hexateuch or a Deuteronomistic History will be considered.

  1. Joshua at Qumran and in the Septuagint

The final class will examine how the texts of Joshua in the Dead Sea Scrolls (4QJosha-b), and the Septuagint throw light on the early history of the text.

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

    • Is scribalism a helpful concept for understanding the formation of the biblical text?
    • What evidence is there of textual growth in the book of Joshua?
    • How does Qumran or the Septuagint illuminate our understanding of the book of Joshua?

Supervisions. Two supervisions of one hour each will be given. Supervisions will be arranged by the module coordinator.

Select Reading

Seminar 1

    • Carr, David M., The Formation of the Hebrew Bible: A New Reconstruction (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011).
    • Carr, David M., Writing on the Tablet of the Heart (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005).
    • Toorn, Karel van der, Scribal Culture and the Making of the Hebrew Bible (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2007).
    • Rollston, C., Writing and Literacy in the World of Ancient Israel: Epigraphic Evidence from the Iron Age, Archaeology and Biblical Studies (Altanta, GA: SBL, 2010).
    • Richelle, Matthieu, “Elusive Scrolls: Could Any Hebrew Literature Have Been Written Prior to the Eighth Century BCE?” Vetus Testamentum 66.4 (2016): 556–94.

Seminar 2

    • Kratz, Reinhard Gregor. The Composition of the Narrative Books of the Old Testament (London: T&T Clark, 2005), 186–209.
    • Briend, Jacques. “The Sources of the Deuteronomistic History: Research on Joshua 1-12,” in Israel Constructs Its History: Deuteronomistic Historiography in Recent Research (ed. Albert de Pury, Thomas Römer, and Jean-Daniel Macchi; Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 2000), 360–386.

Seminar 3

    • Albertz, Rainer, “The Canonical Alignment of the Book of Joshua”, in Judah and the Judeans in the Fourth Century BCE (ed. O. Lipschitz, G.N. Knoppers and R. Albertz; Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 2007), 287–303.
    • Smend, Rudolf, “The Law and the Nations: A Contribution to Deuteronomistic Tradition History,” in Reconsidering Israel and Judah: Recent Studies on the Deuteronomistic History (ed. Gary N. Knoppers and

J. Gordon McConville; Sources for Biblical and Theological Study 8. Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 2000), 95–110.

    • Nihan, Christophe, “The Literary Relationship between Deuteronomy and Joshua: A Reassessment,” in Deuteronomy in the Pentateuch, Hexateuch, and the Deuteronomistic History (ed. Konrad Schmid and Raymond F. Person; Forschungen zum Alten Testament II/56. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2012), 79–114.

Seminar 4

    • Fernández Marcos, Natalio, The Septuagint in Context: Introduction to the Greek Versions of the Bible (Leiden: Brill, 2000), chapter 3, pages 67-83.
    • García Martínez, Florentino, “The Dead Sea Scrolls and the Book of Joshua,” in Nóra Dávid and Armin Lange (eds.), Qumran and the Bible. Studying the Jewish and Christian scriptures in light of the Dead Sea Scrolls (Leuven: Peeters, 2010), 97–109.
    • Hendel, R. S., “Assessing the Text-Critical Theories of the Hebrew Bible after Qumran,” in The Oxford Handbook of the Dead Sea Scrolls (ed. T. H. Lim, and J. J. Collins; Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010), 281-302.
    • Meer, van der Michaël N., “Provenance, Profile, and Purpose of the Greek Joshua,” in XII Congress of the International Organization for Septuagint and Cognate Studies, Leiden, 2004 (ed. Melvin K.H. Peters. Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2006), 55–80.

Module     2.    Lent    Term.     The     Biblical    Wisdom     Literature:    definition, classification, social context and theology

Module Coordinator: Professor Katharine Dell (

This module 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.

Seminars. Four seminars will be held on the following topics:

    1. Questions of definition, scope and classification – wider wisdom options.
    2. Proverbs     –     oral/written;    social     context;    theology    of creation/order/retribution and reward.
    3. Job – wisdom?, literary character, theology, relationship with the lament psalms.
    4. Ecclesiastes – Solomonic connections, canonical issues, social context, theology.

Assessment. 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 worldview?
    • 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.


Module 3. Lent Term. The Significance of the Septuagint

Module Coordinator: Dr Marieke Dhont (

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 module will introduce students to the issues and methods in Septuagint study, including the diverse textual history of the Old Greek and later revisions and recensions, as well as the analysis of the language (vocabulary, syntax, and style) 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 module coordinator, who will determine whether you have sufficient language experience.


  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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. Literary Translations

While there is a development with some translations to move closer in translation style to the Hebrew, there is a discovery of literary transition methods at the same time. We will examine some of these literary transitions (Job, Proverbs, Isaiah, Sirach), considering the category of what makes them literary and asking what this means for understanding Jewish awareness of Greek literary composition."

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

Coursework. 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 module 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?