REL 333I: Biblical Topics – Old Testament Women, spring 2008.  SYLLABUS.                          RJDKnauth
Class: T/Th 1:00-2:50pm, D-302. Office hours MW 2:00-4:00 pm, T/Th 3:00-3:40 pm, in D-320.
Telephone: (570) 321-4298 (xGAYT); home: (570) 326-3822 (dan-dubb).  Email:

An in-depth study of some of the stories and writings about women in the Old Testament within a variety of different literary genres and from a variety of different viewpoints, in the context of other ancient Near Eastern texts, employing a variety of different academic methodologies.  Readings will include selections from Genesis, Ruth, Esther, Song of Solomon, Proverbs (especially ch. 31), the Songs of Deborah and Miriam, portions of Hosea and Ezekiel, and others.

As an upper-level seminar participating in the Women’s Studies Program, the primary purpose of this course is for you to develop deeper thinking with regard to some major biblical issues, in this case the various roles of women in the text and what we can learn from them.  Emphasis will be on informed participation and analysis, with full awareness of the sociological gender-biases that have molded both the text and its traditional interpretations.  As a “writing-intensive” course, it will seek to help you develop your writing skills.  Issues of writing will regularly be taken up in class, and a variety of written assignments are designed to stress various aspects of the writing process.

TextsTikva Frymer-Kensky, Reading the Women of the Bible: A New Interpretation... (2003)
            Alice Bach (ed), Women in the Hebrew Bible: A Reader (1998)
            Alice Ogden Bellis, Helpmates, Harlots and Heroes: Women’s Stories in the Hebrew Bible, 2nd ed. (2007)
            Phyllis Trible, Texts of Terror (1984)  

            Phyllis Trible, God and the Rhetoric of Sexuality (1978)
            Susan Ackerman, Warrior, Dancer, Seductress, Queen: Women in Judges and Biblical Israel (1998)*
            Cullen Murphy, The Word According to Eve: Women
& the Bible in Ancient Times (1998)*
            Semeia 42, Reasoning with the Foxes: Female Wit in a World of Male Power (1988)*
            Susanne Scholz, Biblical Studies Alternatively (2003)* 
            Carol Meyers, Discovering Eve: Ancient Israelite Women in Context (1991)
                     *(a couple readings from these are required, but available on Moodle and on reserve in the library)

The use of a complete Bible (any version) will be required in class.

Other useful reference books which you may find in the library (reference or reserve):
            Old Testament Survey, Hill & Walton
            Who Wrote the Bible?, Richard Friedman
           Understanding the Old Testament, Bernard Anderson
            Introduction to the Old Testament as Scripture, Brevard Childs
            Old Testament Parallels, Matthews & Benjamin (OTP in syllabus, on reserve)
            Ancient Near Eastern Texts, James Pritchard (ANET)
            Canaanite Myth and Hebrew Epic, Frank Moore Cross (CMHE)
            From Epic to Canon, Frank Moore Cross (E-C)
            The Anchor Bible Dictionary (ABD)
            New Interpreter's Dictionary of the Bible  (IDB)
            Encyclopedia Judaica (EJ)
        The Anchor Bible Commentary series, or other commentaries
These will point the reader to further useful bibliography.  

For your research, plan also to use the ATLA Religion Index:
ATLAReligion (

REL337I Course Requirements:

1.      Attendance and informed participation (readings having been completed and reflected upon in writing in an informal journal) at all class sessions will be expected, worth 20% of the final grade.   Included in this participation grade will be some short in-class exercises, occasional short presentations, an informal journal (double-entry format, spot-checked each session), and regular discussion.  The attendance policy for this course is that there are no excused absences without a written note from a doctor or parent/guardian regarding a serious family or medical emergency (e.g. requiring hospitalization).  Each set of 2 absences (or 4 partial absences) lowers your final grade by 1%.

2.      There will be 5 short assignments, a paper proposal and annotated bibliography, worth a total of 20% of the final grade.  Assignments should be 1-2 pgs each, typed, due in class as noted in the syllabus, and will be the basis for class discussion on that day.  Late assignments will be accepted, but penalized, as preparedness will be crucial to our discussion time.

3.      There will be two take-home exams (each worth 10% of the final grade).  They will be open-book, limited-time (2 hours) essay exams (thematic, issue-oriented), taken on the honor system.  Review sheets will be handed out in advance.  Exams should be typed and handed in ON TIME as instructed in the syllabus.

4.      Two short (3 pg) Character Exegesis Essays (analyzing biblical texts about an assigned female character in the Old Testament chosen from 30 highlighted below).  This will be the basis for a short oral presentation and class discussion.  Each is worth 10% of the final grade.  Bring a hard copy to class to turn in on day of presentation, in addition to submitting it electronically at (class ID 1775897, enrollment password “otw07”).

5.       One Biblical Research Paper (6-8 pg) on a topic of your choice (with annotated bibliography), to be proposed, written, revised on the basis of peer reviews, and presented in class.  Proposals for these papers will be submitted in advance (see appended form); self-evaluation, 2 peer reviews, and a visit to the writing center are required.  These papers will be submitted in hard copy to D-320 as well as electronically at (class ID 1775897, enrollment password “otw07”).  Worth 20% of the final grade.

Note on Plagiarism:  Plagiarism (copying material from books, articles, web sites, or other students’ work without citing your source) will not be tolerated in the formal papers, in the exams, or in the short assignments.  Just use proper citation.  The difference between plagiarism and good research is only proper citation!


Instructions for Electronic Reserves: Supplemental course readings have been placed on electronic reserve through Moodle, at Your username is your Novell login, with your regular Novell password.


Disability Accommodation: If you have a specific disability and wish to request academic accommodations to meet your needs, please consult with Mr. Dan Hartsock, Coordinator of Services for Students with Disabilities.  You may reach him by telephone at 321-4294, or stop by his office on the third floor of Snowden Library in the Academic Resource Center.

Schedule of Classes:   

Week 1:  Introduction to Methodological Background
Tues. (Jan. 8)- Introduction to the "Historical Critical Method," and the usefulness of historical background and comparative study of ancient Near Eastern literature.  Create awareness of how point of view, biases, purposes can affect a text.  All writing is selective, written with a purpose.  The Bible as a composite text: multiple authorship, editing process, inclusion of older documents, ANE imagery (different implications, literary uses). 
What is Biblical Criticism? See REL113 handout!
In-class exercise 1 (writing sample):  Write a “character sketch” of a woman from your life.
Self-assessment survey of writing skills; content pre-test.
Th (Jan. 10)- Feminist Methodology in Biblical Studies. Please read and be prepared to discuss the following:
Bellis ch. 1, Bach (Intro xiii-xxv, 3-14, 21-27, 159-175), Scholz (pp. 22-30, 67-79), Murphy (pp. xi-xx, 1-18),
Bach pp. 127-138 (Fuchs "The Literary Characterization of Mothers and Sexual Politics in the Hebrew Bible").
Methodology issues:  Evaluating your sources for bias and usefulness.  Which of the above was most useful?


Week 2:  Eve – “mother of all living, bringer of death.”  
Read Genesis 1-3, 4:1-2,25, 5:1-2;  Bellis ch. 2; Trible res. ch. 4; Scholz pp. 80-106; Bach pp. 53-70, 241-269.
Tues. (Jan. 15)
- Woman in Creation.  Compare Tiamat in Enuma Elish.  
Compare creation accounts in Gen 1 & 2, and the Egyptian and Mesopotamian creation stories (on reserve).  Writing: Choosing a focus and formulating a good thesis ("topic" is different from "thesis"!).
In-class exercise 2 (small groups): getting from topic to thesis. Discuss as a class: what makes a good thesis? 
Th (Jan. 17)- Woman as temptress: Eve in the fall.  Compare Ninhursag and Enkidu stories.
Compare fall account in Genesis 3 with Enkidu in OTP, Ninhursag & Nin-ti in Kramer ch. 19.
Methodology - read Murphy pp. 38-61 ("By the Hand of a Woman" re Phyllis Trible & Biblical Criticism).


Week 3:  Matriarchs – Sarah, Hagar, and Rebecca.  
T  (Jan. 22)- Sarah and Hagar.  Read Gen 12, 16-18:15, 20:1-23:20; Bellis ch. 3 ("The Women of Genesis").
   Sarah - read Tikva (Frymer-Kensky) pp. 93-98 ("The Disposable Wife")
                and Bach pp. 271-290 (Trible "Genesis 22 - The Sacrifice of Sarah")
   Hagar - read Trible pp. 1-35 ("On Telling Sad Stories" and "Hagar: The Desolation of Rejection")
                and Tikva pp. 225-237 ("Hagar, My Other, My Self")
Th (Jan. 24)- Rebecca and Methodology Concerning Mothers. 
  Rebecca - read Gen 24:1-28:9, Tikva pp. 5-23 ("The Hand That Rocks the Cradle: The Rivka Stories"),
           Bach pp. 45-50 (Fuchs "Structure and Patriarchal Functions in the Biblical Betrothal Type-Scene"),
           and Bach pp. 141-154 (Exum "Who's Afraid of 'The Endangered Ancestress'?").
  Methodology – read Murphy 62-85 ("The Mothers of Israel" - re Carol Meyers) and
          Bach pp. 33-43 (Meyers "Women and the Domestic Economy of Early Israel").


Week 4:  Barren Women, Sibling Rivalry, Trickery and Seduction
T  (Jan. 29)- Leah & Rachel - compare barren mothers Manoah's Wife (Samson) & Hannah (Samuel/Saul?). 
Read Gen 29-33, 35; Judges 13; 1Sam 1-2; Bellis p. 108-9, 123-4; Ackerman ch. 4
(Manoah's Wife / Barren Women);
  Tikva 301-309 (Hannah); Semeia 68
(Fuchs "For I Have the Way of Women - Deception, Gender and Ideology").
  Methodology: the usefulness of standard literary analysis in terms of plot structure, character development.
  Writing:  Organization.  Using outlines and subheadings.  Creating coherent paragraphs.
             Application follows analysis - must develop understanding first before seeking to apply.
Th (Jan. 31)- Dinah & Shechem, Tamar & Judah, Joseph & Potiphar’s wife. Read Gen. 34, 38-39;
    Bach pp. 99-111 (Bird "Harlot as Heroine"), pp. 119-125 (Furman "Male Genealogy / Female Strategy");
    Tikva pp. 179-198 ("The Dinah Affair"), 264-277 (Tamar). 

   Writing Asst. 1 (due Th): Compose an outline for a three-point sermon on some aspect of this week’s reading.

Week 5
:  Women in the life of Moses  
T  (Feb. 5)- Women in Moses’ upbringing: Midwives, Mother, Sister, Pharaoh’s daughter;
                      Moses' wife Zipporah the Priestess and the "Midianite Hypothesis."  
  Read Exod 1-4, 15; Num 12, 20:1,28-29; Sargon birth legend in OTP p. 85; Bellis ch. 4; Tikva pp. 24-33.
  Methodology: Form Criticism and the importance of Genre.  Source Criticism, w/ theological flavor.
  Writing: Create awareness of how genre/style/structure can affect content, effectiveness.  Writing as "art."  
    Compare prose and poetry versions of the crossing of the Red Sea.  Discuss poetic structure.
Th (Feb. 7)- Miriam the Prophetess, Miriam the Leper.  Read Bach pp. 419-426.
    Writing Asst. 2 (due Th): Re-write the Moses intro as a brief acrostic and/or chiastic poem with parallelism.
        Reflect on how the mode of expression influences the content and message of the story.


Week 6:  Faithful Foreigners, Judge / Hero                                                                   **Review handout.
T  (Feb. 12)- Ruth
& Naomi (in the line of David).  Methodology: Genealogy, Propaganda, and Law.
Read Ruth 1-4; Bellis p. 183-189; Tikva 238-256, 257-263, 278-282; Bach pp. 211-223, 233-239.
  Writing: Discuss "Character Development" in Ruth. 
Writing Asst. 3 (due Tu): List 5 aspects of Ruth's character intentionally brought out by the author, and discuss how the author goes about creating these aspects of characterization.   
Th (Feb. 14)- Rahab, Deborah and Jael.  Read Joshua 2, 6:25; Judges 4-5, cp Judges 9:52-54.
Rahab read Bellis p. 98-101 and Tikva pp. 34-44.
Deborah/Jael read Bellis p. 101-108; Tikva p. 45-57, 297-300; Bach p. 305-313 (Niditch: Eroticism/Death in Jael). Also recommended and available on Moodle: Ackerman ch. 1 – 3.
  Writing: Recognizing tone, purpose/slant; influence of poetic form (as in Judges 4-5).


Week 7:  David’s Wives and Library Tour*               
T  (Feb. 19)- Michal the bitter and Abigail the wise.  Bathsheba as seductress, victim, and Queen Mother. 
  Michal - read 1Sam 18-19; 2Sam 3:13-16, 6:16-23 (compare Rizpah in 2Sam 3:7-11); Bellis pp. 127-129;
  Abigail - read 1Sam 25, 30; Bellis p. 129-130; Tikva pp. 315-323;
  Bathsheba - 2Sam 11-16; 1Kings 1-2; Bellis p. 130-133, 140-141; Tikva p. 143-156;
    Bach pp. 335-347
(Schwartz "Adultery in the House of David"), pp. 351-362 (Bach re characterization in the Bible)
Review for exam on first half of course* (*hand out take-home exams, due in class Thurs. Feb 21 w/ paper topic*).
Th (Feb. 21)-  Library Tour and Research Session.    *Come to the library on Thursday with your research topic!!
    Tour of library resources, useful tools, research strategies on doing effective research ("Queen Mother").
        ABD, Concordances, key words - getting back to original languages.  Finding and evaluating sources.
        Shorter and more focused is better.  Following the bibliography trail - the value of refereed journals.
        Pitfalls of internet research (2 recent examples re Sabbath and Idolatry). Determining viewpoint and
        evaluating sources for bias, reliability and relevance.  Intro to ATLA Religion Index, Annotated Bibliography.
   Writing: Begin developing your individual research bibliography for your research topic.
         Be sure to request your interlibrary loan articles before you leave for spring break!
**Take-home Midterm Exam due along with research paper topic!!**


Spring Break!  Gather bibliography and begin research, work on Preliminary Proposal, due Tues after break!


Week 8: Victims of Rape and Sacrifice
T  (Mar. 4)- Tamar (Absalom's sister), Bathsheba, Dinah and David's Concubines (bearing David's punishment).
  Tamar - read 2Sam 12-13, 2Sam 16:15-22
(David's Concubines); Bellis pp. 133-134; Trible ch. 2; Tikva p. 157-169.
  Dinah - review Gen 34 and Tikva pp. 179-198 ("The Dinah Affair").  Compare Bathsheba (2Sam 11).
*Preliminary Research Paper Proposal due Tues in class, incl. proposed Thesis and Preliminary Bibliography.*
Writing: Developing a Revision / Editing Process (or the End of the "Single Draft Paper" Myth):
    A good professional photographer throws out 80-90% of his pictures, keeping only the best;
    A good writer likewise throws out 80-90% of his words, keeping only the best.  Writing is an art!  
In-class writing exercise 3 on revision (revising Trible).  Choose her most awkward paragraph for revision.

Th (Mar. 6)- Jephthah’s daughter (vs. Isaac) & Rizpah. Lot’s daughters & Levite’s concubine & genocide.
   Read Judges 11, 19-21; Gen 19:5-8; 2Sam 3:7-11, 21:1-14; Bellis p. 113-122, 126-127; Trible ch. 3-4;
  Tikva pp. 102-117
(Jephthah’s daughter), pp. 118-138 (Concubine/Chaos); Bach 389-400 (Bach "Women/Violence in Jud21);
  Bach 317-332
(Bal "Daughters in ... Judges").  Also recommended and available on Moodle: Ackerman ch. 5-6.
Writing Asst. 4 (due Thu): Write a short eulogy for one of the victims, in poetic form. 


Week 9:  Women under the Law                     
T  (Mar. 11)- Zelophehad’s daughters and other laws about women. Read Num 5:11-31, 25, 27, 36;
Deut 21:10-17; Exod 21-23
; compare Middle Assyrian laws; Bellis 93-95; Tikva 199-208; Bach 293-303. 
Methodology:  What is the Law? Types, origins, reflections on the nature of God. Continuity/Distinctiveness.
Th (Mar. 13)-  Bach’s “case history.”  Small Group presentations on Bach pp. 461-522 (assign groups on Tues).
*Revised Research Paper Proposal due in class Thursday
   (topic, biblical text, revised thesis, plus 1-page substantive outline of proposed argument).


Week 10:  Solomon’s Wives and the Song of Solomon, Proverbial Women and Wise Women
Mon (Mar. 17) 7:00 pm Symposium event: “A Climate of Fear” (extra credit opportunity).
T  (Mar. 18)- Lady Wisdom (Sophia) / Lady Folly (cp Job’s wife) and “The Wife of Noble Character,”  
and Solomon's “Beloved” in the “Song of Songs.” Read Proverbs 7-9, 31; Job 2:9-10; 1Kings 11; Deut 17;
Song of Solomon;
Bellis ch. 9; Tikva 333-338; Bach 85; Bach 179, and Semeia p. 14 ("Wise and Strange").
Methodology:  Archaeological finds elucidating biblical narrative: maps and seals.
Methodology:  What is literary/rhetorical criticism?  How is it helpful in analyzing Proverbs?
Writing:  Discuss effective use of evidence to make a good argument and the value of a “substantive outline.”
Th (Mar. 20)-  The “Wise Women” of Endor, Tekoah, Abel, Zaraphath & Shunem (Elijah cycle), plus Hulda.
Read 1Sam 28; 2Sam 14, 20:15-22; 1Kings 17; 2Kings 4, 8:1-6, 22:12-20; Bellis p. 123-126, 134-138, 148-154;
  Tikva pp. 58-63, 64-73, 324-330; Bach pp. 195-204.
Methodology: What is "Textual Criticism" and how did the Dead Sea Scrolls revolutionize it?
Writing: Debate format and counter-argument (assignment and prepared class debate re Jezebel).
*Annotated Bibliography for Research Paper (12 items as specified on form) due Thursday in class.


Week 11:  “Treason! Treason!” – Jezebel, Athaliah, and the problem of foreign wives/alliances
                      plus Prophetic Women (or Women as Prophetic Object Lessons)
T  (Mar. 25)- Jezebel (Baal, Naboth) - Debate. Read 1Kings 16:29-33, 18-19, 21; 2Kings 9-10;
   Bellis pp. 143-147; Bach pp. 179-188; Tikva pp. 209-214.
Writing Asst. 5: Choose a side of the debate, compile your best evidence and counter-arguments.
Make an argument using specific evidence from the text; use debate format.
Be prepared to debate the issues in class.
 Th (Mar. 27)- Athaliah’s coup.  Read 2Kings 11-12; Bellis 147-148; Tikva 74-88.
Adulterous Gomer as God’s unconditional love; cp Ezekiel’s adulterous sisters as alliance politics.
  Read Amos 4:1, 5:2, Hosea, and Ezekiel 16, 23;  Bellis ch. 8. 
*Preliminary Draft of Research Paper due at Writing Center (ARC) by Sunday March 30th - 6 pgs max.*   


Week 12:  Delilah the Foreign Temptress, Sabotaging the Covenant (cp Cozbi and Balaam's Peor Affair)
T  (April 1)- Delilah and Cozbi. Read Judges 13-16; compare Num 22-24, 25, 31:1-18  plus
    Josh 13:22, 22:16-18, 24:9-10; Deut 4:3-4, 23:3-6; Psalm 106:28-31; Rev 2:14.
    Bellis pp. 109-113; Tikva pp. 74-88, 215-224; Ackerman ch. 5.
    Methodology: Comparative Greek Literature as clue for Philistine provenance.
Th (April 3)- Judith as Temptress Hero.  Debate position of Delilah vs. Judith.
    Read Judith; Bellis pp. 198-201; Tikva pp. 339-349; Bach pp. 367-374, 377-385.
    Methodology:  Importance of historical-political context to understanding perspective. 
    Writing: Creating coherence and logical flow.  Revise, Revise and Revise again!  Word choice and mood.


Week 13:  Brave Queen Esther and Peer Reviews       *Friday Night Movie? (Apr. 11 at 7:30 pm - "Esther")*  
T  (April 8)- Discuss process of paper revision, peer review.  Bring research paper draft for peer review!**
    Writing: Critical Analysis / Evaluation / Peer Review.  
        Guidelines: thesis, evidence, argument.  Clear?  Organized?  Convincing?
        Making Peer Review valuable (and not just a pat on the back).  Presentation by Jane Keller of ARC.
**Revised Draft of Research Paper due in class Tuesday for in-class peer review.
Th (April 10)- Honor & Shame. Vashti & beauty contests. Brave Queen Esther and the Providence of God.
Read Esther; Bellis pp. 190-195; Bach pp. 77-84 (Fuchs "Status and Role of Female Heroines" re Ruth, Esther).
***3rd Draft of Research Paper due in class on
Thursday - hard copy to instructor plus electronic submission at (class ID 1963834, enrollment password “David07”).*


Week 14:  **Student Oral Presentations and Discussion (20 minutes each).**

            T  (April 15)-  1.





               *Exam Review Sheets handed out.*

            Th (April 17)- 6.






            *Exam Review: Questions?  Take-home Exam handed out.*


             **Final Research Paper Revisions, 8 pgs max., due along with Take-home Exam
                  at the end of the appointed exam time during exam week: Monday April 21, 4:00 pm.

**Each student must choose two papers for peer evaluation, and also solicit two peer reviews for their own paper.  Turn in two copies of the written review (one copy to the author of the paper, and one copy to the instructor), and be prepared to discuss the paper in class at the time of the oral presentation.  These reviews will be counted as part of your assignment grade.