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2021/22 Undergraduate Module Catalogue

THEO3040 Ideologies of Hebrew Bible Texts and Readers

20 creditsClass Size: 15

Module manager: Prof. Johanna Stiebert

Taught: Semester 1 (Sep to Jan) View Timetable

Year running 2021/22

Pre-requisite qualifications

A Biblical Studies course

This module is not approved as a discovery module

Module summary

The Hebrew Bible is an ancient and often mystifying collection of texts from a world very different to our own. It is also a canonical body of literature and frequently consulted for guidance or cited to lend authority to an argument. In addition, it is infused with polemics and agendas which, when read analytically, can be clearly discerned. Hence, certain passages reveal attitudes to foreigners and women abhorrent to modern sensibilities, while others disclose very different masculine ideals than those more usual in contemporary western contexts. Ideological criticism is one method that highlights such features and adds rich though sometimes troubling layers to the experience of reading the Hebrew Bible. Alongside probing the ideologies of those who wrote, produced and first circulated the texts of the Hebrew Bible, we will also look at how these texts continue to appear in contemporary debates. Our focus here will be the contemporary US and the usage of Hebrew Bible texts in debates concerning homosexuality and creationism.


This module will:
- define ideological criticism;
- critically examine key Hebrew Bible texts in order to probe their possible ideological agendas;
- identify and critically examine the ideological use of Hebrew Bible texts in contemporary writing, with particular reference to the US media and its various contributions to debates concerning creationism/intelligent design/evolution and homosexuality/ordination of gay clergy/blessing of same sex unions.

Learning outcomes
At the end of this module students will be expected to be able:
- to apply an ideological-critical lens to ancient and contemporary texts;
- to demonstrate thorough knowledge of several Hebrew Bible texts, both in terms of their provenance and range of meanings and in terms of their afterlives in contemporary settings;
- to be able to assess the variety of (and sometimes controversial) ways Hebrew Bible texts have been and are read and used.

Skills outcomes
- acquisition of critical and analytical skills
- evaluations of different positions and arguments
- acquisition of sensitivity to cultural and religious differences


1. The Hebrew Bible: What is it and why is it the way it is?
2. Ideological Criticism: What is it? The Hebrew Bible has agendas. Questions to ask the text: what does it say? What does it not say? What can be inferred from it? Whom does it benefit?
3. Case Studies: e.g. a) Ideologies of the Exile: 'Good' and 'bad' foreigners and the myth of the empty land; b) ideologies of masculinity - what can we say about David's masculinity?; c) ideologies of women - how 'feminist' is the Song of Songs really?; d) ideologies of poverty and wealth. - how protected are widow and orphan?
4. The Hebrew Bible in the US Media and popular culture: e.g. a) The Bible Bats Both Ways: The Hebrew Bible and Homosexuality - From Condemnation to Affirmation; b) The Hebrew Bible in the Classroom: Creationism, Intelligent Design and Evolution; c) The Bible and rape culture.
5. Reflections: Then and Now - Why is the Hebrew Bible so powerful, so elusive and so versatile?

Teaching methods

Due to COVID-19, teaching and assessment activities are being kept under review - see module enrolment pages for information

Delivery typeNumberLength hoursStudent hours
Private study hours179.00
Total Contact hours20.00
Total hours (100hr per 10 credits)199.00

Private study

Readings for seminars: 30 hours
Lecture preparation: 30 hours
Essay preparation: 119 hours
In addition to compulsory tutorials, optional weekly non-assessed Hebrew tutorials: 1 hour per week.

Opportunities for Formative Feedback

Up to one-hour of tutorial time will assist students one-on-one with the preparation of the essay. Students will be asked to attend the tutorial, bringing an essay outline and preliminary bibliography.
Regular email communication and focused discussion during office hours will be strongly encouraged.

The first assessed essay will also serve as formative for the second essay.

Methods of assessment

Due to COVID-19, teaching and assessment activities are being kept under review - see module enrolment pages for information

Assessment typeNotes% of formal assessment
Essay2,000 words (mid-module)50.00
Essay2,000 words (end of module)50.00
Total percentage (Assessment Coursework)100.00

Normally resits will be assessed by the same methodology as the first attempt, unless otherwise stated.

Reading list

The reading list is available from the Library website

Last updated: 13/07/2021 16:09:57


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