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The Bible as Literature

Mary Adams, Instructor
Office phone: x3929 (but email works better)
Office is 418
Office Hours: M, T, W, R at 1 pm

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


TR 2-3:15 PM Coulter 303 (note room change)

Learning Outcomes for P4 course

  • P4 Critical thinking outcomes: Students will be able to evaluate evidence, context, and multiple perspectives as a means of analyzing complex issues. They should also
    • Read, discuss, and understand the bible from a non-sectarian literary perspective
    • Identify, analyze, and interpret major themes in specific books of the Bible
    • Understand important historical context and cultural influences on the Bible
    • Understand the impact of authorship, translation, transmission, and revision on the bible
    • Understand how critical approach (feminist, Marxist, rhetorical, etc.) and identity (including but not limited to racial identification, gender identification, sexual orientation, and religion) can impact understanding
    • Produce thoughtful written work demonstrating the abilities learned 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

You will need a laptop to take quizzes and to do several online activities we have scheduled. If yours is broken, you can check one out at the Digital Commons in the library. Please do not look at texts on your phones. If you use e-texts, I ask that you bring a tablet or laptop, not a phone. 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 and Jews differ about how to interpret the Bible. I expect disagreement as long as it is respectful, but 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.

Texts (Note: get these through Amazon or another non-campus book store)

  • Rental: Coogan, Micahel, Cynthia Chapman. The Old Testament: A Historical and Literary Introduction to the Hebrew Scriptures. 4th Edition.Oxford UP 2018. 978-9-19-060856-1.
  • Purchase:
    • Bible (suggested: 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 Amazo) Note: The NRSV of the bible is required, although you can buy an earlier edition or use an online edition--but not on a tiny cell phone. Why?? (source: Wikipedia. But see a more wacomplicated discussion in our textbook)
    • Friedman, Richard Elliott. The Bible with Sources Revealed. ISBN: 978-0060730659. HarperOne; Reprint edition (August 16, 2005). Buy on Amazon.


  • Reading Quizzes 13%
  • Lecture Quizzes 12%
    • Lecture Guide Wikis can be used to help you and your classmates prepare for lecture quizzes. If you make them, I will consult them before I create the quiz.
  • Themes Wiki: 10%. These are theme-based wikis designed to help you prepare for the final exam. I will ask you to contribute to these Wikis on scheduled occasions.
  • Papers (Three primary source (60% total) Please turn these in on Blackboard
    • paper 1: translation 15%
    • paper 2: documentary hypothesis 15%
    • paper 3: midrash 15%
  • paper 4 (Final Exam): 20% including first draft: 2% (Themes)


  • Reading Quizzes: I will give 15-minutes open-note quizzes at the beginning of most classes. These are online and will become available during our class time only, so bring a laptop. Quizzes are multiple choice or short answer questions based on the reading due that day. Many quizzes also include an essay response based on the content of either the bible or the rental text. They may cover the Bible Reading, the rental background reading, films I showed the class before, and/ or the Oxford Bible's Introduction to the bible reading. You may use your notes for the quizzes, but you cannot use the textbook. So take notes both while reading and during class discussion.

    NOTE: you will need a laptop to take the quizzes.

    One day before class, a quiz guide will be loaded that you should find the answers to (see the schedule on our syllabus; the quiz guide will be linked to the web page, not Blackboard). I will load all quiz guides within two hours of the previous class ending.

    Sometimes I will give you 2-page discussion questions instead of quizzes. You should bring those writings to class and be prepared to discuss them.

  • Lecture Quizzes: I will give quizzes based on the lecture for the current day (or the previous class day). I may give these at the end of the same class or at the beginning of the following class. These quizzes are listed on the syllabus, but there will be no study guides for them. You may use your notes.

I will assign 3 papers (15% each). See the schedule for details:

  • September 26: Translation
  • October 30: Source examination
  • November 21: Midrash

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.

Midterm Exam (10%) Due October 21

This exam will cover facts and dates. You must get at least an 85% of this grade to take the final exam. You can retake it once.

Final Exam (20%) due on December 3 at midnight (draft 1) and December 11 at 2:30 PM

The final in this class (20%) will be written in two drafts. You will get 2% credit for the first draft, and 18% for the second draft. If you don't do the first draft, you cannot do the second draft. Moreover, if you don't substantially revise the second draft according to my instructions, you can't get above a C for the final exam.

How I use Blackboard

I will load additional class readings on Blackboard. I will provide links to films I ask you to watch. I load your grades on Blackboard. And if I assign an online class discussion, it will be there.

Other Required Information

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






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