Biblical Interpretation in Context: Ancient and Modern Case Studies

2019-2020

Course Objective

In this course, students will:
- Have in-depth insight into the interrelationship between the
production and reception of canonical texts and the contexts in which
these processes take place.
- Be enabled to analyze such processes of text production and reception
independently and make a contribution to contextual biblical
interpretation as a discipline.
- Be placed in a position to evaluate the production and reception of
text and to pinpoint continuities and discontinuities in processes of
meaning making and to understand the socio-economic, religious and
political implications of them.
- Work towards a personal research output for both an academic and a
general audience.
- Develop the ability to independently develop research questions and
research designs for future research in the field of contextual biblical
interpretation.

Course Content

This course pursues the trajectory of key texts from what are now the
canons of the Old and New Testaments (First and Second Testaments;
Hebrew and Christian Bibles), tracing them from their original
production through a trajectory of later contexts in which they ware
reinterpreted and appropriated. Particular attention will be given to
the (a) religious; (b) political; (c) socio-economic; (d) literary and
historical aspects of such processes of textual production and
reception.

Teaching Methods

The course begins with an introductory class session by both lecturers
on contextuality, textual production and reception in past and present
and concludes with a session with presentations of student research
projects. In between, two series of five classes address Old and New
Testament texts, with one session per week dedicated to each of these
two corpora. Classes will be organized such that half is dedicated to a
lecture and the other to a student presentation and discussion. In this
manner, the course engages in the cocreation of content and seeks to
make students active participants in the learning and researching
process.
N.B. in the first session also the definitive course schedule will be
presented.

Secondary and primary sources will have to be studied in preparation of
all classes and one presentation and a final, publishable paper are
required from each student.
In preparation of each class, the texts indicated will have to be
studies in the original languages in preparation.

Method of Assessment

Students in the one- or three-year MA programmes write a paper of
3000-4000 words, in line with the guidelines of the Amsterdamse Cahiers
voor de Bijbel en zijn Tradities: a paper of ca. 4000 words (max.
4500), aimed at professional theologians (pastors) and those seriously
interested in biblical studies. Use of biblical languages (keywords, key
passages) is allowed. The focus is not on technicalities, rather on
‘reaping the fruits of reading the Bible’. However, the paper should be
based on sound exegetical work, with reference to sources and important
secondary literature.
Students in the two-year MA program (Research MA) write a publishable
5000 word paper on a chosen topic (English).
The papers will be evaluated in analogy to the evaluation of MA theses,
bearing in mind their more limited scope. The classroom presentation is
graded on a pass/fail basis.

Entry Requirements

BA degree including Greek and Hebrew.

Literature

Bibliographical data and several articles will be put on Canvas.

Class 1: Introduction
Literature: Peter-Ben Smit, Wat de Bijbel echt betekent?
http://dare.ubvu.vu.nl/handle/1871/54801 (English translation available
from the author)
Class 2: New Testament 1 – Contextual Reception and the History of
Israel in Matthew 1
Literature:
Peter-Ben Smit, ‘Something about Mary? Remarks about the Five Women in
the Matthean Genealogy,’ New Testament Studies 56 (2010), 191-207.
Jeremy Punt, ‘Politics of Genealogies in the New Testament’,
Neotestamentica 47.2 (2013), 373-398
Class 3: Old Testament 1 – Reception and History: the Evaluation of the
Desert Story (Ex.-Num.) in Neh. 9:9-36
Literature
Harm van Grol, “‘Indeed, Servants We Are’: Ezra 9, Nehemia 9 and 2
Chronicles 12 Compared”, in: Becking, Bob, en Marjo C.A. Korpel (eds.),
The Crisis of Israelite Religion. Transformation of Religious Tradition
in Exilic and Post-Exilic Times (Oudtestamentische Studiën XLII). Leiden
enz. (Brill) 1999, 209-227
Oeming, Manfred, “’See, We Are Serving Today’ (Nehemiah 9:36): Nehemiah
9 as a Theological Interpretation of the Persian Period”, in: Oded
Lipschits, Manfred Oeming, Judah and the Judeans in the Persian Period.
Winona Lake (Eisenbrauns) 2006, 571-588
Class 4: New Testament 2 – Reception, Re-reception and Contextuality:
Divorce in Mark 10:1-12 / Matthew 19:1-11
Literature:
William Loader, Sexuality and the Jesus Tradition (Grand Rapids:
Eerdmans, 2005), 77-81, 127-135.
A. E. Harvey, ‘Genesis versus Deuteronomy? Jesus on marriage and
divorce,’ in: The Gospels and the scriptures of Israel (Sheffield:
Sheffield Academic Press, 1994), 55-65
The appertaining discussion in the commentary of Ulrich Luz (in English
or German) or alternatively in the commentary of Davies and Allison
(English).
Class 5: Old Testament 2 – Imperial Politics and Ideology: the
Re-Building of the Temple and the Persians (Ezr. 4-5)
Literature
Sara Japhet, “People and Land in the Restoration Period”, in: Georg
Strecker (ed), Das Land Israel in biblischer Zeit: Jerusalem-Symposium
1981 der Hebräischen Universität und der Georg-August-Universität.
Göttingen (Vandenhoeck und Ruprecht) 1983, 103-125
Class 6: New Testament 3 – Reception and Contextual Innovation: The Word
of Jesus in 1 Corinthians 11:17-34
Literature:
Peter-Ben Smit, ‘Ritual Failure, Ritual Negotiation, and Paul's Argument
in 1 Corinthians 11:17–34,’ Journal for the Study of Paul and His
Letters 3.2 (2013), 165-195.
Andrew McGowan, ‘The myth of the 'Lord's Supper': Paul's Eucharistic
meal terminology and Its ancient reception,’ Catholic Biblical Quarterly
77 (2015), 503-521
Class 7: Old Testament 3 – ‘It’s the Economy, stupid!’: A Suspicious
Reading of Nehemiah’s Reform Measures (Neh.5), A Materialist Approach?
t.b.a.
Class 8: New Testament 4 – Contextuality, Translation and Identity: The
Eunuch in Acts 8 and Queer Studies
Literature: t.b.a.
Brittany E. Wilson, ‘Neither male nor female': the Ethiopian eunuch in
Acts 8.26-40’, New Testament Studies 60 (2014), 403-422.
Sean D. Burke, ‘Queering early Christian discourse: the Ethiopian
eunuch,’ in: Bible trouble: queer reading at the boundaries of biblical
scholarship, Atlanta : Society of Biblical Literature, 2011), 175-189.
Optional: Peter-Ben Smit,

https://www.debijbel.nl/blog/bijbellezen-in-context-van-eunuch-tot-kamer
Class 9: Old Testament 4 – Exclusion, Identity and Gender: Foreign Women
and the Mixed Marriage Crisis (Ezr. 9-10, Neh. 13:23-29)
Literature
Tamara C. Eskenazi,/ Eleanore P. Judd, “Marriage to a Stranger in Ezra
9-10”, in: T.C. Eskenazi and K.H. Richards (eds.), Second Temple
Studies: 2. Temple and Community in the Persian Period (JSOT Suppl.
Series 175) Sheffield (Sheffield Academic Press) 1994, 266-285
Katherine E. Southwood, Ethnicity and the Mixed Marriage Crisis in Ezra
9-10. An Anthropological Approach. (Oxford Theological Monograph Series)
Oxford (Oxford University Press) 2012, 48-56, 203-209.
Class 10: New Testament 5 – Contextual Reception and Politics: The
Magnificat as a Subversive Text
Literature:
Aída Besançon Spencer, ‘Position reversal and hope for the oppressed’,
Latino/a biblical hermeneutics: problematics, objectives, strategies
(Atlanta: SBL Press, 2014, 95-106.
Mark I. Wegener, ‘The Arrival ofJesus as a Politically Subversive Event
According to Luke 1-2,’ Currents in Theology and Mission 44 (2017),
15-23
Class 11: Old Testament 5 – Communities Produce Texts – Texts Shape
Communities: Nehemiah 8, An Unexpected Appearance and the Emergence of
Torah Judaism
Reinmuth, Titus, ‘Nehemiah 8 and the Authority of Torah in
Ezra-Nehemiah’, in: Boda, Mark J., Paul L. Redditt (eds.), Unity and
disunity in Ezra-Nehemiah : redaction, rhetoric, and reader (Hebrew
Bible monographs 17). Sheffield : Sheffield Phoenix Press, 2008, p.
240-262
Class 12: Presentation of research projects, conclusion of the course

Literature, general
Fishbane, Michael, Biblical Interpretation in Ancient Israel. Oxford
(Clarendon Press) 1985 (parts)
Smith-Christopher, Daniel L., A biblical theology of exile (Overtures to
biblical theology). Minneapolis (Fortress Press) 2002. ch. 6, ‘”Purity”
as Nonconformity’, 137-162.

General Information

Course Code G_RMBS04
Credits 6 EC
Period P1
Course Level 500
Language of Tuition English
Faculty Faculty of Religion and Theology
Course Coordinator prof. dr. P.B.A. Smit
Examiner prof. dr. P.B.A. Smit
Teaching Staff prof. dr. P.B.A. Smit
prof. dr. J. Dubbink

Practical Information

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Last-minute registration is available for this course.

Teaching Methods Seminar
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