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BIBS112 Interpreting the Old Testament

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

An introduction to the books of the Old Testament against the background of history and cultures of the ancient Near East. We will focus in detail on some key texts from the books of Genesis to Kings, learning the major methods of biblical scholarship as well as gaining an overview of the biblical story as a whole. This paper offers an insight into the foundational texts of two major world religions (Judaism and Christianity) and Western culture in general, and encourages students to develop skills in close reading and critical thinking, 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 0.15
Points 18 points
Teaching period(s) Semester 2 (Distance learning)
Semester 2 (On campus)
Domestic Tuition Fees (NZD) $929.55
International Tuition Fees Tuition Fees for international students are elsewhere on this website.

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BIBX 112
Schedule C
Arts and Music, Theology
All students are welcome to study the Bible regardless of whether they have a particular faith commitment or not. All that is required is an inquiring mind and an interest in acquiring the critical skills common to all subjects in the Humanities.

Reverend Dr James Harding:

Teaching staff

Dr Jonathan Robinson - email

Paper Structure

The paper is structured around the content of the biblical books from Genesis to Kings. We will work through the historical and cultural background of these books, their content and major themes, with reference to specific texts and to major issues in recent scholarship.

There are three forms of assessment:

  • Review essay (20%)
  • Exegesis of one text from the Old Testament (20%)
  • Essay (60%)
Teaching Arrangements

On-campus students: 39 1-hour lectures and five 1-hour tutorials

Distance students: seven 2-hour videoconferences spaced throughout the semester


Required: Adele Berlin and Marc Zvi Brettler (eds.), The Jewish Study Bible (2d ed.; Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014).

Course outline

View the course outline

Graduate Attributes Emphasised
Lifelong learning, Scholarship, Critical thinking, Cultural understanding, Ethics.
View more information about Otago's graduate attributes.
Learning Outcomes

By the end of this paper, students will:

  • have a good knowledge and understanding of the narrative of the Hebrew Bible, from the creation of the world (Genesis 1:1-2:3) to the Babylonian Exile (2 Kings 24:1-25:30)
  • be able to use The Jewish Study Bible intelligently to understand the Hebrew Bible in its geographical, historical, and cultural contexts
  • summarize scholarly arguments about the meaning of particular biblical texts, and to offer their own interpretation
  • write a brief exegesis of a biblical text, taking account of its literary genre, historical context, and meaning in the context of the Hebrew Bible as a whole, with reference to available scholarly resources
  • and will have shown the knowledge and understanding gained in this paper in a final three-hour written examination.

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    Semester 2

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

    Semester 2

    Teaching method
    This paper is taught On Campus
    Learning management system


    Stream Days Times Weeks
    A1 Tuesday 10:00-10:50 28-34, 36-41
    Thursday 10:00-10:50 28-34, 36-41
    Friday 10:00-10:50 28-34, 36-41