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BIBS224 Special Topic

This is a Distance paper taught as a one week intensive course in Dunedin, June 29- July 3, 2015, with assessment during the semester.
The Ten Commandments is one of the best known texts of the Hebrew Bible but what do they really command and how do these laws relate to the narrative of Moses and to the other stories and legal texts of the Torah?

Paper title Special Topic
Paper code BIBS224
Subject Biblical Studies
EFTS 0.1500
Points 18 points
Teaching period Second Semester (29 June 2015 - 7 November 2015)
Domestic Tuition Fees (NZD) $810.90
International Tuition Fees (NZD) $3,390.00

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36 100-level points
BIBX 224
Schedule C
Arts and Music, Theology
Teaching staff
Course Co-ordinator: Professor Paul Trebilco
Lecturer: Dr Johanna Stiebert
Paper Structure
This paper examines closely the Ten Commandments and their literary and social setting. We will look at the social values and structures that are likely to have given rise to this text. Narrow focus on a significant text will be used as a lens to understand Torah more generally. The following topics will be covered:
  1. Torah: What is Torah? How apt are the translations ‘Instruction', ‘Law' and ‘Pentateuch'? What is the role and significance of Torah in Jewish and Christian traditions? How might Torah have been formed and compiled?
  2. Moses: How is Moses depicted in Torah?
  3. What are the features and purposes of legal writing
  4. The Problem with Genesis. How is Genesis related to the remainder of Torah?
  5. The First Commandment: What does Torah reflect concerning monotheism? The Second Commandment: What does it mean to say God is jealous?
  6. The Third Commandment: What is significant about the Name of God?
  7. The Fourth Commandment: Why is Sabbath so significant?
  8. The Fifth Commandment: Family relations as reflected in Torah
  9. The Sixth Commandment: The distinction between ‘to kill' and ‘to murder'
  10. The Seventh Commandment: Adultery in the Torah
  11. The Eighth Commandment: Stealing or Kidnapping?
  12. The Ninth Commandment: False testimony and the law court
  13. The Tenth Commandment: Coveting - property and social stability
  14. The Social World of the Ten Commandments
  15. The Ten Commandments Today
  16. Summary and Conclusions
Assessment: One 1,200 word essay worth 20%, and two 2,500 word essays worth 40% each
A Coursebook has been developed for this course.
Teaching Arrangements
This is a Distance paper taught as a one week intensive course in Dunedin, June 29- July 3, 2015, with assessment during the semester.
Graduate Attributes Emphasised
Lifelong learning; critical thinking; cultural understanding; ethics. View more information about Otago's graduate attributes.
Learning Outcomes
On completing this paper, students will be able to:
  • Identify and describe distinctive features of Torah
  • Understand the reasons for the internal literary diversity of Torah
  • Probe the social values and structures in the background of narrative and legal Torah texts
  • Evaluate the impact of the Ten Commandments in terms of Torah more widely, as well as their resonance in contemporary settings
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
Professor Paul Trebilco
Course outline
View BIBS224 intensive course outline

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Second Semester (29 June 2015 - 7 November 2015)

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


Weeks: 27 Mon : 13:00-15:50
Tues, Wed, Thurs : 09:00-15:50
Fri : 09:00-12:50