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BIBS112 Interpreting the Old Testament

The interpretation of the Old Testament in its historical context, including an introduction to methods of study, the interpretation of the Pentateuch (Genesis-Deuteronomy) and the historical Books (Joshua-2 Kings), and an in-depth discussion of selected texts.

This paper is an introduction to the books of the Old Testament. We will study the biblical texts in the context of the ancient Near East, look at how ancient and modern interpreters have explained the biblical texts, and focus in detail on several key examples from the books of Genesis to Kings. This paper not only provides an insight into the foundational texts of two major world religions and western culture in general, but also encourages students to develop skills in reading closely and thinking critically, skills that will serve them well not only in their university career, but in the rest of their lives.

Paper title Interpreting the Old Testament
Paper code BIBS112
Subject Biblical Studies
EFTS 0.1500
Points 18 points
Teaching period(s) Second Semester, Second Semester
Domestic Tuition Fees (NZD) $810.90
International Tuition Fees (NZD) $3,390.00

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BIBX 112
Schedule C
Arts and Music, Theology
Teaching staff
Reverend Dr James Harding
Paper Structure
The paper is structured around the content of the Law and Former Prophets of the Bible, the books from Genesis to Kings. Following two introductory lectures, we will work through the historical and cultural background of these books, their content and major themes, and their history of interpretation, with reference to specific, short blocks of text such as Genesis 34, and major themes, such as the historicity of the book of Joshua. There are three forms of assessment: - summaries of 4 readings (20%) - exegesis of 1 text from the Old Testament (20%) - 3-hour final examination (60%)
Required: The Holy Bible: New Revised Standard Version with Apocryphal/Deuterocanonical BooksJames Kugel, How to Read the Bible (New York: Free Press, 2007)
A Coursebook has also been developed for this course.
Teaching Arrangements
On-campus students: 39 1-hour lectures and 5 1-hour tutorials
Distance students: 6 2-hour audioconferences
Graduate Attributes Emphasised
Critical thinking, in-depth knowledge, interdisciplinary perspective, scholarship. View more information about Otago's graduate attributes.
Learning Outcomes
By the end of this paper, students will be able to: - summarise the contents, major themes, and key interpretive problems in the books from Genesis to Kings - place these biblical texts in the historical context of the ancient Near East, up to and including the sixth century BCE - explain the differences between ancient and modern approaches to biblical interpretation - understand and explain selected texts from the Old Testament
Any student can study Theology whether they are of the Christian faith, another faith, or of no religious faith at all. Theology is an examination of the scriptures, history, content and relevance of the Christian faith, but it presupposes or requires no Christian commitment from students. All it requires is an inquiring mind and an interest in those skills that can be gained through the study of any subject in the Humanities.
More information link
View more information on the Department of Theology and Religion's websites: or
Reverend Dr James Harding

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Second Semester

Teaching method
This paper is taught through Distance Learning
Learning management system

Second Semester

Teaching method
This paper is taught On Campus
Learning management system


Weeks: 28-34,36-41 Mon, Tues, Thurs : 11:00-11:50


Weeks: 29,31,33,36,38 Mon : 15:00-15:50
or Thurs : 15:00-15:50