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The Bible as Literature

Mary Adams, Instructor
Office phone: x3929 (but email works better)
Office is 418

Use this email address to contact me: madams [at] wcu [dot] edu


TR 3:15-5 in Coulter 303

Course Objectives

Students will learn to :

  1. Read, discuss, and understand the bible from a non-sectarian literary perspective
  2. Identify, analyze, and interpret the literary devices used
  3. Identify, analyze, and interpret major themes in specific books of the Bible
  4. Recognize the Bible's rich contribution to other major literary works and integrate this knowledge with that for other course work in the humanities
  5. understand important historical and cultural influences on the Bible
  6. Produce thoughtful written work demonstrating the abilities learned in 1-5 above

Class Policies and Assumptions

Attendance and Lateness

  • Absences: After your fourth absence, I will deduct a whole letter grade for each additional absence. These absences include excused or unexcused absences, family tragedies, medical emergencies, or other unforseeable circumstances. Beginning with the third absence, I will lower your grade a letter for each additional absence. After five absences, you will receive an F for the course.
    • The only exceptions to this policy: school activities, such as musical performances or athleticsPlease budget carefully.
    • Notes from doctors will not help. I assume you will only skip class because of real illness.
  • Tardiness: Once I close the door, you are tardy. After three tardies, I will mark you down for one absence. If you arrive 15 or more minutes late, or leave early, I will mark you absent. Please arrange your schedule accordingly.
  • This policy is consistent with the university attendance policy.

Electronic Devices in Class

Unless you have a documented disability which requires you to have a laptop or tablet in class, you may not use one during class time. Unfortunately, too many students have abused laptops in class for me to permit their use. The same is true for cell phones, ipods, gameboys, or any device that requires headphones. If you must keep your cell phone on, please turn off the ringer and put it away. First-time abuses of this policy will result in the student being warned. Subsequent abuses will result in an absence.

If you are using an e-reader or kindle, you agree to let me look at your screen to verify. If you text or email during class, you forfeit your right to use electronic texts on an e-reader.

The policy above also covers text messaging. I consider text or instant messaging or any other activity that distracts your classmates and keeps you from learning to be unforgivable.

My assumptions in this course about religion and the bible

For the purposes of this course, we will discuss the bible as a human document. This means we will discuss different theories of authorship and chronology, investigate different translations, and discuss the cultural context of its composition. We will read and discuss some biblical and archeological scholarship. You do not have to agree with this scholarship, but you will be responsible for reading it.

Even devout Christians differ about how to interpret the Bible. I expect disagreement as long as it is respectful, I will not tolerate rudeness or disrespect to others—or to me!

For more about this class, please read this statement.

Conventions and Abbreviations

  • To refer to periods before the year 0, we use "BCE" which means "before the comman era," rather than BC ("before Christ.") "CE" is used, of course, to refer to events after the year 0.
  • To discuss the first half of the bible, we use the tern Hebrew Bible rather than Old Testament, which implies that there is a newer testament, a contention that not everyone accepts.


  • Rental: Harris, Stephen. Understanding the Bible. 8th Edition. McGraw-Hill Humanities, ISBN: 0072965487,
  • Purchase: Coogan, Michael, et al. eds. New Oxford Annotated Bible With the Apocrypha: New Revised Standard Version College Edition--Oxford UP. Fourth Edition. (Buy used on Amazon) Note: This edition of the bible is required, although you can buy an earlier edition. Why?? (source: Wikipedia. But see a more complicated discussion in our textbook)
  • The Red Tent
  • Useful but not required: Friedman, Richard Elliott. The Bible with Sources Revealed. ISBN: 978-0060730659. HarperOne; Reprint edition (August 16, 2005). Buy on Amazon.


  • Daily Quizzes and Participation 25%
  • Papers (Four-- 15% each) 60% Please turn these in on Blackboard
  • Final Exam -- In Class (15%) Please turn in on Blackboard


I will give 5-minutes quizzes at the beginning of most classes. Quizzes are multiple choice or short answer questions based on the reading due that day, but each also includes an essay response based on the content of either the bible or the Harris text. They may cover the Bible Reading, the Harris background reading, films I showed the class before, and/ or the Oxford Bible's Introduction to the bible reading. They may also include vocabulary or terms covered for that class. You may use your notes for the quizzes, but you cannot use the textbook. So take notes!


I will assign 4 papers (15% each). See the schedule for details. These papers will involve primary sources (the bible itself in various translations). One will also require the use of a book on reserve in the library or available on Blackboard.



The final in this class (15%) will be written. You may only take it on the assigned final exam date unless you arrange with me for a different date. It will combine short answer and essay questions, and may cover reading, lecture and discussion, assigned web sites, and films we watched in class. Before the final exam, I will give you a study guide that contains a list of short answer questions and essay questions, and I will pick the exam questions from that list.

Other Required Information

You are responsible for all the information linked with a * at the top-left of the syllabus.






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