Christianity and Judaism are often called "Biblical religions" because they are believed to be founded upon the Bible. But the truth of the matter is that it was less the Bible itself than the particular ways in which the Bible was read and interpreted by Christians and Jews that shaped the development of these two religions and that also marked the difference between them. So, too, ancient Biblical interpretation --Jewish and Christian-- laid the groundwork for and developed virtually all the techniques and methods that have dominated literary criticism and hermeneutics (the science of interpretation) since then. The purpose of this course is to study some of the more important ways in which the Bible was read and interpreted by Jews and Christians before the modern period, and particularly in the first six centuries in the common era. We will make a concerted effort to view these interpretive approaches not only historically but also through the lens of contemporary critical and hermeneutical theory in order to examine their contemporary relevance to literary interpretation and the use that some modern literary theorists (e.g. Bloom, Kermode, Derrida, Todorov) have made of these ancient exegetes and their methods. All readings are in English translation, and will include selections from Philo of Alexandria, the Dead Sea Scrolls, Rabbinic midrash, the New Testament and early Church Fathers, Gnostic writings, Origen, and Augustine. No previous familiarity with Biblical scholarship is required although some familiarity with the Bible itself would be helpful.
Section 401 - SEM

TR 1030AM-1200PM



Jewish Studies Program
711 Williams Hall, 255 S. 36th Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104-6305
215-898-6654 / 215-573-6026 fax / jsp-info@sas.upenn.edu