Unit I: The Hebrew Tradition
Week 3: The development of Hebrew poetics and thought
1200 B.C. and after
A fragment of the Greek translation (called the Septuagint) of the Hebrew scriptures, which was the version most widely circulated in the time of Christ, and is still a source for Biblical scholars attempting to reconstruct the original texts. The letter forms in the text above (from a modern printed text) are not the forms that were used in the first century B.C., but the language is generally a form of the koiné dialect made popular by the programmatic expansion of Alexander the Great (d. 323 B. C.)
Please have read by class this week:
- Introductory notes on the Psalms, Proverbs, and Job
- From any good modern translation of the Bible:
- Psalms: 1, 8, 22, 23, 51, 121, 148, 150
- Job. Job is rather long, and if you don't have time to read all of it, I will understand: you may skim the middle section of speeches (Ch. 3-27). But do pay attention to the beginning and the end, and try to cover at least one cycle of speeches with some care.
Consider and be ready to discuss these questions. We may or may not get to all of them, and we will probably discuss other things too, but thinking about these will help direct your ideas about the works in general:
Specifically about the Psalms:
- How do you envision these being performed as poetry? Does your religious tradition use them in worship? If so, how is it done there? Can you imagine some other ways of doing so?
- Do you have a favorite Psalm? What is it? Why do you like it?
Specifically with regard to Proverbs:
- Identify at least half a dozen that seem particularly important to you, and commit them to memory — be ready to discuss them in class. Don't pick everything from the first chapter — it will undermine your credibility.
- Try to identify some of the chief themes of the Proverbs. Are there any ideas that return again and again? What are they? Are there issues that you would expect to see addressed that are omitted? If so, what are these?
- How is wisdom literature different from the law?
Specifically with regard to Job:
- What is the point of testing Job in this way?
- What do you think of the three friends? Are they right? Does Job answer them?
- What is the import of God's answer to Job? Should Job not be asking these questions?
- Look at the image of the Leviathan (which takes up most of chapter 41). Why is it included here? What does it mean?
In a brief message in the class forum:
Analyze one of the Psalms or a part of a Psalm (at least six verses), specifically identifying the parallelism of the parts of the verse. What are the corresponding parts? Can you classify these? (Hint: some seem to be re-phrasings of the first part; others seem to be inversions; and there are other ways in which the two kinds of meaning are related to each other.)
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