THEO3040 Ideologies of Hebrew Bible Texts and Readers

Reading List
  • Taught: Semester 2
  • Credits: 20
  • Class Size: 30
  • Module Manager: ProfessorJohanna Stiebert
  • Email:
  • Pre-Requisite Qualifications: A Biblical Studies course
  • This Module is approved as a Discovery Module

Discovery module overview

Module Summary

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.


  • 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: 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 - how protected are widow and orphan?
  • 4. The Hebrew Bible in the US Media: 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
  • 5. Reflections: Then and Now - Why is the Hebrew Bible so powerful, so elusive and so versatile?

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

Assessment and teaching

Assessment and teaching


Assesment type Notes % of formal assesment
Essay 3,000 words 50
Total percentages (Assessment Coursework) 50


Exam type Exam duration % of formal assessment
Exam with advance information on questions 2 hr 0 mins 50
Total Percentage (Assesment Exams) 50

Private Study

Readings for seminars: 30 hours
Lecture preparation: 30 hours
Essay preparation: 60 hours
Revision for exam: 57 hours
In addition to compulsory tutorials, optional weekly non-assessed Hebrew tutorials: 1 hour per week.

Progress Monitoring

Lectures provide the outline for the course. Here key terms, texts and critical theories are introduced and expounded. Attendance is important and will be monitored. Seminars, which will focus on readings of primary and secondary texts, will include exegesis, discussion and debate. Active participation in seminars is expected.
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.

Teaching methods

Delivery type Number Length hours Student hours
Class tests, exams and assessment 1 2 2
Lecture 10 1 10
Seminar 10 1 10
Tutorial 1 1 1
Private Study Hours 177
Total Contact Hours 23
Total hours (100hr per 10 credits) 200

Reading List

Reading List
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