REL 337I: Biblical Topics – Old Testament Women, spring 2006.  SYLLABUS.                          RJDKnauth
Class: T/Th 1:00-2:50pm, C-300. Office hours MWF 2:00-4:00pm, T/Th 3:00-3:40pm, D-320.
Telephone: (570) 321-4298 (xGAYT); home: (570) 326-3822 (dan-dubb).  Email:

An in-depth study of some of the stories and writings about women in the Old Testament within a variety of different literary genres and from a variety of different viewpoints, in the context of other ancient Near Eastern texts, employing a variety of different academic methodologies.  Readings will include selections from Genesis, Ruth, Esther, Song of Solomon, Proverbs (especially ch. 31), the Songs of Deborah and Miriam, portions of Hosea and Ezekiel, and others.

As an upper-level seminar participating in the Women’s Studies Program, the primary purpose of this course is for you to develop deeper thinking with regard to some major biblical issues, in this case the various roles of women in the text and what we can learn from them.  Emphasis will be on informed participation and analysis, with full awareness of the sociological gender-biases that have molded both the text and its traditional interpretations.  As a “writing-intensive” course, it will seek to help you develop your writing skills.  Issues of writing will regularly be taken up in class, and a variety of written assignments are designed to stress various aspects of the writing process.


TextsTikva Frymer-Kensky, Reading the Women of the Bible: A New Interpretation... (2003)
            Alice Bach (ed), Women in the Hebrew Bible: A Reader (1998)* *currently out of stock, check reserve!
            Alice Ogden Bellis, Helpmates, Harlots and Heroes: Women’s Stories in the Hebrew Bible (1994)
            Phyllis Trible, Texts of Terror (1984)  


            Susan Ackerman, Warrior, Dancer, Seductress, Queen: Women in Judges and Biblical Israel (1998)*
            Cullen Murphy, The Word According to Eve: Women
& the Bible in Ancient Times (1998)*
            Semeia 42, Reasoning with the Foxes: Female Wit in a World of Male Power (1988)*
            Susanne Scholz, Biblical Studies Alternatively (2003)* 
            Carol Meyers, Discovering Eve: Ancient Israelite Women in Context (1991)
            Tammi Schneider, Sarah: Mother of Nations (2004)
                                 *(a couple readings from the first three of these are required, but on reserve in the library)


The use of a complete Bible (any version) will be required in class.


Other useful reference books which you may find in the library (reference or reserve):
            Who Wrote the Bible?, Richard Friedman
           Understanding the Old Testament, Bernard Anderson
            Introduction to the Old Testament as Scripture, Brevard Childs
            Old Testament Survey, Hill & Walton
            Old Testament Parallels, Matthews & Benjamin (OTP in syllabus, on reserve)
            Ancient Near Eastern Texts, James Pritchard
            Canaanite Myth and Hebrew Epic, Frank Moore Cross (CMHE)
            From Epic to Canon, Frank Moore Cross (E-C)
            The Anchor Bible Dictionary (ABD)
            Interpreter's Dictionary of the Bible  (IDB)
        The Anchor Bible Commentary series, or other commentaries

These will point the reader to further useful bibliography.  


For your research, plan also to use the ATLA Religion Index:

ATLAReligion (through EBSCO)



REL337I Course Requirements:


1.      Attendance and informed participation (readings having been completed and reflected upon in writing in an informal journal) at all class sessions will be expected, worth 20% of the final grade.   Included in this participation grade will be some short in-class exercises, occasional short presentations, an informal journal, and regular discussion.  The attendance policy for this course is that there are no excused absences without a written note from a doctor or parent/guardian regarding a serious family or medical emergency (e.g. requiring hospitalization).  Each set of 2 absences (or 4 partial absences) lowers your final grade by 1%.


2.      There will be 6 short assignments, a paper proposal and annotated bibliography, worth a total of 20% of the final grade.  Assignments should be approx. 2 pgs each, typed, due in class on Thursdays, and will be the basis for class discussion on that day.  Late assignments will be accepted, but penalized, as preparedness will be crucial to our discussion time.


3.      There will be two take-home exams (each worth 10% of the final grade).  They will be open-book, limited-time (2 hours) essay exams (thematic, issue-oriented), taken on the honor system.  Review sheets will be handed out in advance.  Exams should be typed and handed in ON TIME as instructed in the syllabus.


4.      Two short (3 pg) Character Exegesis Essays (analyzing biblical texts about an assigned female character in the Old Testament chosen from 30 highlighted below).  This will be the basis for a short oral presentation and class discussion.  Each is worth 10% of the final grade.  Bring a hard copy to class to turn in on day of presentation, in addition to submitting it electronically at (class ID 20608, enrollment password “btotw02”).


5.       One Biblical Research Paper (6 pg) on a topic of your choice (with annotated bibliography), to be proposed, written, revised on the basis of peer reviews, and presented in class.  Proposals for these papers will be submitted in advance (see appended form); self-evaluation, 2 peer reviews, and a visit to the writing center are required.  These papers will be submitted in hard copy to D-320 as well as electronically at (class ID 20608, enrollment password “btotw02”).  Worth 20% of the final grade.



Note on Plagiarism:  Plagiarism (copying material from books, articles, web sites, or other students’ work without citing your source) will not be tolerated in the formal papers, in the exams, or in the short assignments.  Just use proper citation.  The difference between plagiarism and good research is only proper citation!


Instructions for Electronic Reserves: Supplemental course readings have been placed on electronic reserve through WebCT at
Your username is your Novell login. The password is initially set to the last six digits of your Social Security number. Contact Martha Ashenfelder (x4150) or Diana Cleveland (x4160) in ITS about forgotten passwords.  Full instructions are available on the library Web site at  For other problems or questions, contact Gail Spencer (x4053) in the library or use the help form at


Disability Accommodation: If you have a specific disability and wish to request academic accommodations to meet your needs, please consult with Mr. Dan Hartsock, Coordinator of Services for Students with Disabilities.  You may reach him by telephone at 321-4294, or stop by his office on the third floor of Snowden Library in the Academic Resource Center.


Schedule of Classes:   

Week 1:  Introduction to Methodological Background; Eve – “mother of all living, bringer of death.”  
 Eve - read Genesis 1-3, 4:1-2,25, 5:1-2Scholz pp. 80-106; Bellis ch. 2; Bach pp. 53-70, 241-269.
Tues. (Jan. 10)- Introduction.  Woman in Creation.  Compare Tiamat in Enuma Elish.  
  Compare creation accounts in Gen 1 & 2, and the Egyptian and Mesopotamian creation stories (on reserve).
  Methodology - read Murphy pp. 38-61 ("By the Hand of a Woman" re Phyllis Trible & Biblical Criticism).  Introduction to the "Historical Critical Method," and the usefulness of historical background and comparative study of ancient Near Eastern literature.  Create awareness of how point of view, biases, purposes can affect a text.  All writing is selective, written with a purpose.  The Bible as a composite text: multiple authorship, editing process, inclusion of older documents, ANE imagery (different implications, literary uses). 
What is Biblical Criticism? See REL113 handout!
  Writing: Self-assessment survey of writing skills.
In-class exercise 1 (writing sample):  Write a “character sketch” of a woman from your life.
Th (Jan. 12)- Woman as temptress: Eve in the fall.  Compare Ninhursag and Enkidu stories.
 Compare fall account in Genesis 3 with Enkidu in OTP, Ninhursag & Nin-ti in Kramer ch. 19.
 Writing: Choosing a focus and formulating a good thesis ("topic" is different from "thesis"!).
In-class exercise 2 (small groups): getting from topic to thesis. Discuss as a class: what makes a good thesis? 
  For next Thursday, small group reports on Scholz, Murphy, Bach (be prepared to report to the class on Method): AScholz (pp. 22-30, 67-79), BMurphy (pp. xi-xx, 1-18), Bach (CIntro xiii-xxv + 3-14, D21-27 + 159-175).


Week 2:  Matriarchs – Sarah, Hagar, and Rebecca.  
Read Bellis ch. 3 ("The Women of Genesis"); Murphy 62-85 ("The Mothers of Israel" - re Carol Meyers);
ABBach pp. 127-138 (Fuchs "The Literary Characterization of Mothers and Sexual Politics in the Hebrew Bible"),
CDBach pp. 141-154 (Exum "Who's Afraid of 'The Endangered Ancestress'?");
Bach pp. 33-43 (Meyers "Women and the Domestic Economy of Early Israel").
T  (Jan. 17)- Sarah and Hagar.  Read Gen 12, 16-18:15, 20:1-23:20.
   Sarah - read Tikva (Frymer-Kensky) pp. 93-98 ("The Disposable Wife")
                and Bach pp. 271-290 (Trible "Genesis 22 - The Sacrifice of Sarah")
   Hagar - read Trible pp. 1-35 ("On Telling Sad Stories" and "Hagar: The Desolation of Rejection")
                and Tikva pp. 225-237 ("Hagar, My Other, My Self")
Th (Jan. 19)- Rebecca.  Read Gen 24:1-28:9.  Methodology essay reports.
  Rebecca - read Tikva pp. 5-23 ("The Hand That Rocks the Cradle: The Rivka Stories")
           and Bach pp. 45-50 (Fuchs "Structure and Patriarchal Functions in the Biblical Betrothal Type-Scene")
  Methodology issues:  Evaluating your sources for bias and usefulness.
  Writing Asst 1 (due Th):  Turn in 1-pg, 10 point outline-summary + assessment (typed) for methodology reading.


Week 3:  Barren Women, Sibling Rivalry, Trickery and Seduction
T  (Jan. 24)- Leah & Rachel - compare barren mothers Manoah's Wife (Samson) & Hannah (Saul)
Read Gen 29-33, 35; Judges 13; 1Sam 1-2; ABAckerman ch. 4
(Manoah's Wife / Barren Women); Bellis p. 140-142;
  Tikva 301-309 (Hannah); CDSemeia 68
(Fuchs "For I Have the Way of Women - Deception, Gender and Ideology").
  Methodology: the usefulness of standard literary analysis in terms of plot structure, character development.
  Writing:  Organization.  Using outlines and subheadings.  Creating coherent paragraphs.
             Application follows analysis - must develop understanding first before seeking to apply.
W (Jan. 25)- 7:00 Clarke Chapel Symposium: Woodrow Wilson Fellow David Shipler (EC opp)
Th (Jan. 26)- Dinah & Shechem, Tamar & Judah, Joseph & Potiphar’s wife. Read Gen. 34, 38-39;
    Bach ABpp. 99-111 (Bird "Harlot as Heroine"), CDpp. 119-125 (Furman "Male Genealogy / Female Strategy");
    Tikva pp. 179-198 ("The Dinah Affair"), 264-277 (Tamar). 

   Writing Asst. 2 (due Th): Compose an outline for a three-point sermon on some aspect of this week’s reading.

Week 4:  Women in the life of Moses  
T  (Jan. 31)- Women in Moses’ upbringing: Midwives, Mother, Sister, Pharaoh’s daughter;
                      Moses' wife Zipporah the Priestess and the "Midianite Hypothesis."  
  Read Exod 1-4, 15; Num 12, 20:1,28-29; Sargon birth legend in OTP p. 85; Bellis ch. 4; Tikva pp. 24-33.
  Methodology: Form Criticism and the importance of Genre.  Source Criticism, w/ theological flavor.
  Writing: Create awareness of how genre/style/structure can affect content, effectiveness.  Writing as "art."  
    Compare prose and poetry versions of the crossing of the Red Sea.  Discuss poetic structure.
Th (Feb. 2)- Miriam the Prophetess, Miriam the Leper.  Read Bach pp. 419-426.
    Writing Asst. 3 (due Th): Re-write the Moses intro as a brief acrostic and/or chiastic poem with parallelism.
        Reflect on how the mode of expression influences the content and message of the story.


Week 5:  Faithful Foreigners, Judge / Hero. 
T  (Feb. 7)- Rahab, Ruth
& Naomi (in the line of David).  Read Joshua 2, 6:25; Ruth 1-4; Tikva pp. 34-44 (Rahab), 238-256 (Ruth), 257-263 (Moabite), 278-282 (Royal Line); Bellis p. 112-115 (Rahab), 206-211 (Ruth);
AScholz pp. 266-276; BBach pp. 77-84 (Fuchs "Status and Role of Female Heroines"), C211-223, D233-239 (Ruth).
  Writing: Discuss "Character Development" in Ruth.  Methodology: Genealogy, Propaganda, and Law.
Th (Feb. 9)- Deborah and Jael.  Read Judges 4-5, cp Judges 9:52-54; Ackerman AIntro + ch. B1, C2, D3;
Tikva p. 45-57, 297-300; Bellis p. 115-123; Bach p. 305-313 (Niditch "Eroticism and Death in the Tale of Jael"). 
Writing Asst. 4 (due Th): List 5 aspects of Ruth's character intentionally brought out by the author, and discuss how the author goes about creating these aspects of characterization.   
  Writing: Recognizing tone, purpose/slant; influence of poetic form (as in Judges 4-5).


Week 6:  Victims - Rape and Sacrifice                                                                                **Review handout.
T  (Feb. 14)- Jephthah’s daughter (vs. Isaac) & Rizpah. Lot’s daughters & Levite’s concubine & genocide.
   Read Judges 11, 19-21; Gen 19:5-8; 2Sam 3:7-11, 21:1-14; Trible ch. 3-4; Bellis p. 127-135, 144-145;
  Ackerman ch. A5, B6; Bach C317-332 (
Bal "Daughters in ... Judges"), D389-400 (Bach "Women/Violence in Jud21);
  Tikva pp. 102-117 (Jephthah and Daughter), pp. 118-138 (Concubine and Chaos).   
Th (Feb. 16)- Dinah, Bathsheba, Tamar (Absalom's sister) and David's Concubines (bearing David's punishment).
  Dinah - review Gen 34; Tikva pp. 179-198 ("The Dinah Affair").  Compare Bathsheba (2Sam 11).
  Tamar - read 2Sam 12-13, cp 2Sam 16:15-22 (David's Concubines); Trible ch. 2 (Tamar); Bellis pp. 149-153;
 Bach p. 335-347 (Schwartz "Adultery in the House of David"); Tikva p. 143-156 (Bathsheba), 157-169 (Tamar).  
Writing Asst. 5 (due Th): Write a short eulogy for one of the victims, in poetic form. 
Writing: Developing a Revision / Editing Process (or the End of the "Single Draft Paper" Myth):
    A good professional photographer throws out 80-90% of his pictures, keeping only the best;
    A good writer likewise throws out 80-90% of his words, keeping only the best.  Writing is an art!
  In-class writing exercise 3 on revision (revising Trible).  Choose her most awkward paragraph for revision.


Week 7:  David’s Wives and "Wise Women"
T  (Feb. 21)- Michal the bitter and Abigail the wise.  Bathsheba revisited as "Queen Mother." 
  Michal - read 1Sam 18-19; 2Sam 3:13-16, 6:16-23 (compare Rizpah in 2Sam 3:7-11); Bellis pp. 144-147;
  Abigail - read 1Sam 25, 30; Bellis p. 148; Tikva pp. 315-323;
  Bathsheba - 2Sam 11-16; 1Kings 1-2; Tikva p. 143-156; Bellis p. 149-151, 160-164; Bach A179, B335, C351. 
    Review for exam on first half of course* (*hand out take-home exams, due in class Thurs. Feb 23*).
Th (Feb. 23)- The “Wise Women” of Endor, Tekoah, Abel, Zaraphath & Shunem (Elijah cycle), plus Hulda.
Read 1Sam 28; 2Sam 14, 20:15-22; 1Kings 17; 2Kings 4, 8:1-6, 22:12-20; Bellis p. 142-144, 153-157, 170-175;
  Tikva pp. 58-63, 64-73, 324-330; Bach pp. D195-204 . 
Discuss Revision Exercise Results.
**Take-home Exam due!!**


Spring Break!  Think about your research topic – due Thursday March 9 following spring break!


Week 8: Solomon’s Wives and the Song of Solomon; Library Research (come with topics on Thursday!)
T  (Mar. 7)- Solomon's “Beloved” in the “Song of Songs.” 
  Read 1Kings 11; Deut 17; Song of Solomon; Bellis pp. 161-162, 199-203; Ackerman ch. 3; Bach 179.
  Methodology:  How can archaeological finds elucidate biblical narrative?
Th (Mar. 9)- Library Research Session on the office of "Queen Mother" (Bathsheba, Maacah, Athaliah).
    Tour of library resources, useful tools, research strategies on doing effective research ("Queen Mother")
        (ABD, Concordances, key words - getting back to original languages).
        Shorter and more focused is better.  Following the bibliography trail - the value of refereed journals.
        Pitfalls of internet research (2 recent examples re Sabbath and Idolatry). Determining viewpoint and
        evaluating sources for reliability and relevance.  Intro to ATLA Religion Index and Anchor Bible Dict.  

Writing: Develop individual research bibliographies, begin "Annotated Bibliography" for a research topic.  


Week 9:  Women under the Law                     
T  (Mar. 14)-   Zelophehad’s daughters and other laws about women.  Compare Middle Assyrian.
  Read Num 5:11-31, 25, 27, 36; Deut 21:10-17; Exod 21-23; Middle Assyrian laws; Bach 293; Tikva 199.  
  Method: What is the Law? Types and origins. Reflections on the nature of God. Continuity/Distinctiveness.
 Th (Mar. 16)-  Bach’s “case history.”  Small Group presentations on Bach pp. 461-522 (assign groups on Tues).
Writing: *Preliminary Paper Proposal due Thursday, including proposed Thesis and preliminary Bibliography.*


Week 10:  Proverbial and Prophetic Women (or Women as Prophetic Object Lessons)
T  (Mar. 21)- Lady Wisdom (Sophia) / Lady Folly (cp Job’s wife) and “The Wife of Noble Character.”  
Read Proverbs 7-9, 31; Job 2:9-10; Bellis ch. 9; ABBach 85; Tikva 333-338; CDSemeia p. 14 ("Wise and Strange").
Writing:  Discuss effective use of evidence to make a good argument and the value of a “substantive outline.”
Th (Mar. 23)-  Adulterous Gomer as God’s unconditional love; cp Ezekiel’s adulterous sisters as alliance politics.
  Read Amos 4:1, 5:2, Hosea, and Ezekiel 16, 23;  Bellis ch. 8.
Methodology:  What is literary/rhetorical criticism?  How is it helpful in analyzing Proverbs?
Writing:  **Revised Paper Proposal due Thursday in class, including revised thesis and annotated bibliography plus your 1-pg substantive outline of your proposed argument!** This counts as 2 of your short assignments!


Week 11:  “Treason! Treason!” – Jezebel, Athaliah, and the problem of foreign wives/alliances
T  (Mar. 28)- Jezebel (Baal, Naboth). Read 1Kings 16:29-33, 18-19, 21; 2Kings 9-10;
   Bellis pp. 164-167; Bach pp. 179-188; Tikva pp. 209-214.
W (Mar. 29)- 7:30 Heim G-11 Ewing Lecture: John Contreni on the Crusades (EC opp) 
Th (Mar. 30)- Jezebel Debate.  Athaliah’s coup.  Read 2Kings 11-12; Bellis 168-169; Tikva 74-88.
    Methodology: What is "Textual Criticism" and how did the Dead Sea Scrolls revolutionize it?
    Writing: Debate format and counter-argument (assignment and prepared class debate re Jezebel).
    Writing Asst. 6: Choose a side of the debate, compile your best evidence and counter-arguments.
    Make an argument using specific evidence from the text.  Use debate format.
    Be prepared to debate the issues in class on Thursday.


Week 12:  Delilah the Foreign Temptress, Sabotaging the Covenant (cp Cozbi and Balaam's Peor Affair)
T  (April 4)- Delilah and Cozbi. Read Judges 13-16; compare Num 22-24, 25, 31:1-18  plus
    Josh 13:22, 22:16-18, 24:9-10; Deut 4:3-4, 23:3-6; Psalm 106:28-31; Rev 2:14;
   ABAckerman ch. 5; Tikva pp. 74-88, 215-224; Bellis pp. 124-127; CDMurphy pp. 109-123 ("Wandering Rock") 
    Methodology: Comparative Greek Literature as clue for Philistine provenance.
Th (April 6)- Judith as Temptress Hero.  Debate position of Delilah vs. Judith.
    Read Judith; Bach AB367, CD377; Tikva pp. 339-349; Bellis pp. 217-223.
    Methodology:  Importance of historical-political context to understanding perspective. 
    Writing: Creating coherence and logical flow.  Revise, Revise and Revise again!  Word choice and mood.
    **Formal Research Paper (1st draft) due by Friday at the Writing Center - 6 pgs max.**


Week 13:  Brave Queen Esther and Peer Reviews       *Monday Night Movie? (Apr. 10 at 8 pm - "Esther")*  
T  (April 11)- Honor & Shame. Vashti & beauty contests. Brave Queen Esther and the Providence of God.
    Read Esther; Bellis pp. 211-217; Bach 77.
Th (April 13)- Discuss process of paper revision, peer review.  Bring research paper draft for peer review!**
    Writing: Critical Analysis / Evaluation / Peer Review.  
        Guidelines: thesis, evidence, argument.  Clear?  Organized?  Convincing?
        Making Peer Review valuable (and not just a pat on the back).  Presentation by Jane Keller of ARC.  
    **Research Paper (2nd draft) due Thursday in class; 3rd draft due to Professor by Friday 3:00 pm.**


Week 14:  **Student Oral Presentations and Discussion (20 minutes each).**

            T  (April 18)-  1.






               *Exam Review Sheets handed out.*


            Th (April 20)- 7.






            *Exam Review: Questions?  Take-home Exam handed out.*


            **Final Research Paper Revisions, 8 pgs max., due along with Take-home Exam
                  at the end of the appointed exam time during exam week.


**Each student must choose two papers for peer evaluation, and also solicit two peer reviews for their own paper.  Turn in two copies of the written review (one copy to the author of the paper, and one copy to the instructor), and be prepared to discuss the paper in class at the time of the oral presentation.  These reviews will be counted as part of your assignment grade.