Western Literature to Dante

Bruce A. McMenomy, Ph.D. for Scholars Online
2019-20: Mondays, 1:00 p.m.- 2:30 p.m. Eastern Time


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Unit I: The Hebrew Tradition

Week 2: The Foundation of the Jewish People
ca. 1200 B.C. and after

Hebrew text of Genesis
A fragment of a modern Hebrew text of the book of Genesis, Ch. 14. Hebrew is read from right to left. The original manuscripts usually omitted the pointing (that is, the dots underneath the letters), which indicate the vowel sounds in modern printed Hebrew. For this reason, it is sometimes difficult to distinguish certain words in the ancient Hebrew texts from others that differ only in vowel placement.

Please have read by your classtime this week:

You may of course read the rest of either of these books as well, but we are here concentrating on the core narratives of Abraham and Moses.

Consider and be ready to discuss the following.

Pick one of these and post something to the class forum with your thoughts. You may of course address more than one, but one should serve to get the ball rolling.

    General questions about the Biblical narratives

  1. Do the people in these narratives appear as complete characters, mostly as moral agents, or as pieces of a puzzle, included to further a particular goal? How are the characters drawn? What is shown, and what is hidden?

    Specifically with regard to Genesis

  2. Do you feel as though you know Abraham, or does he seem like a distant mythical character? Are his motivations always clear?
  3. Write a brief outline of the story of Joseph. How do its pieces fit together? Consider it for the moment as story-telling (rather than as revelation). Is it good story-telling? Why? What keeps your interest? What makes the characters act as they do?
  4. What would you identify as the turning-point in the Joseph story? What do you mean by this? Why?

    Specifically with regard to Exodus

  5. How does Moses compare with the rest of the characters we have met so far? He clearly has great human flaws; what are they? From a literary point of view, does it make him more or less interesting or believable?
  6. What is meant by the Lord hardening the heart of Pharaoh? What is the purpose of this narrative turn of events? Where does the responsibility lie?