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REL 130 Syllabus

Dr. Darrell Pursiful Sect 005: TR12:15–1:30 pm
757-0564 x250 (office)
djpursiful [at] gmail [dot] com https://pursiful.com/classroom/

REL 130 is a course designed to explore the literature of the Old Testament with emphasis on the history, literature, and faith associated with ancient Israel.


Students who have successfully completed REL 130 should demonstrate the following competencies:

  1. An understanding of the various writings of the Old Testament in terms of their respective literary genres, historical contexts and theological themes.
  2. Familiarity with biblical scholarship dealing with the literary and historical study of the Old Testament.
  3. Familiarity with the major periods in Israel’s ancient history.
  4. Familiarity with the major Old Testament characters.
  5. An understanding of the development of Israel’s faith.
  6. An understanding of the development of the canon of the Old Testament.
  7. An appreciation for the role of the Old Testament in the development of the Judeo-Christian tradition and its impact on western civilization.


The Holy Bible: New Revised Standard Version with Apocrypha (Oxford University Press, 1991).

Watson E. Mills, et al., Mercer Dictionary of the Bible (Mercer University Press, 1990).


Course grades will be assessed based on the following assignments:

Quizzes (100 points). At least thirteen quizzes will be given during the semester. They will not be announced in advance. Quizzes will be drawn from the assigned readings for the day and/or the previous day’s lecture and discussion. The student’s ten highest scores will be computed in the final grade. No make-up quizzes will be administered under any circumstances.

Group Activity (200 points). Students will participate in one of three group activities. Students will sign up for one of the following activities in the first two weeks of class:

(1) Fishbowl 1. Students will take part in an unscripted conversation on the topic of Women in the Patriarchal Narratives, which the rest of the class can “overhear.” This will require participants to read the assigned biblical text as well as all assigned MDOB articles and to come prepared with their questions and observations.

(2) Fishbowl 2. Students will take part in an unscripted conversation on the topic of the Prophet Elijah, which the rest of the class can “overhear.” Format and expectations are the same as for the first fishbowl.

(3) Purim Play. Students will write and perform a Purim play during the first 20–30 minutes of class. This will involve research into the history of Purim plays and the book of Esther. The professor will point students to some examples from which to draw inspiration.

Optional Paper (200 points). Students may choose to write a paper instead of participating in a group activity. For most students, it is recommended that this paper be an introduction to a character from the Old Testament, such as Ruth or Ezekiel. Other topics may be permitted with prior approval. Topics should be negotiated with the professor in person or via email on or before October 4. Papers should be five to seven pages long, double spaced, and employ at least three additional sources besides MDOB. Papers are due on the date of the Purim Play (see schedule). (See Better Writing Requires FOCUS for help with writing better papers for this and every other class at Mercer University!)

Exams (2 x 200 points). Two exams will be administered on the dates listed in the course schedule. The professor is under no obligation to arrange a make-up exam for any student who misses a scheduled exam, although a make-up exam (a type and format decided by the professor) may be possible in cases of dire family emergency or other catastrophic events. Exams will be drawn from readings, lectures, and fishbowl discussions and will consist of both objective (multiple-choice) and essay type questions. Essays are to be written on paper provided by the student.

Final Exam (300 points). The Final Exam will be a comprehensive exam in the same general format of the two periodic exams. It will be administered on the date scheduled by the Registrar. Graduating Seniors may opt to waive the final if they are satisfied with their class average to that point. They will not be penalized for skipping the final after informing the professor of their decision. There will be no provision for a make-up exam.

The grading scale for this course is:

A 910-1000
B+ 860-909
B 810-859
C+ 760-809
C 710-759
D 660-709
F 0-659

Any student who receives failing grades during the course is urged to arrange to meet with the professor to discuss such work.


The College’s academic misconduct policy (Honor Code) will be followed.


Each student is required and expected to be present for each scheduled class session. Since class lectures and discussions are the foundation for quizzes and examinations, attendance is crucial. Students absent from 25% or more of the scheduled class sessions will not receive credit for the course.


Out of courtesy for all those participating in the learning experience, all cell phones and pagers must be turned off before entering the classroom. Students who have legitimate reasons to have phones or pagers activated during class should set them to silent or vibrate settings. If a necessary call or page is received, students should quietly exit the class and not return for the remainder of the class period.


Students requiring accommodations for a disability should inform the instructor at the close of the first class meeting or as soon as possible. The instructor will refer you to the ACCESS and Accommodation Office to document your disability, determine eligibility for accommodations under the ADAAA/Section 504 and to request a Faculty Accommodation Form. Disability accommodations or status will not be indicated on academic transcripts. In order to receive accommodations in a class, students with sensory, learning, psychological, physical or medical disabilities must provide their instructor with a Faculty Accommodation Form to sign. Students must return the signed form to the ACCESS Coordinator. A new form must be requested each semester. Students with a history of a disability, perceived as having a disability or with a current disability who do not wish to use academic accommodations are also strongly encouraged to register with the ACCESS and Accommodation Office and request a Faculty Accommodation Form each semester. For further information, please contact Carole Burrowbridge, Director and ADA/504 Coordinator, at 301-2778 or visit the ACCESS and Accommodation Office website at http://www.mercer.edu/disabilityservices.


Each class session will have a particular focus. In preparation for lectures and discussions students should read the assigned biblical texts and articles from the MDOB.

Aug 23   A Bird’s-Eye View of the Old Testament

Aug 25   The Creation Narratives
Primary Sources: Genesis 1–2; Enuma Elish, Tablets I–II, IV
MDOB: Cosmology; Creation; Sources of the Pentateuch
Video: James McGrath, “Authorship of the Pentateuch

Aug 30   Creation, Fall, and Grace
Primary Sources: Genesis 1–11; The Epic of Gilgamesh, Tablet XI
MDOB: Flood; Genesis, Book of

Sep 1   Patriarchal Narratives: Abraham, Part 1
Primary Sources: Genesis 12–16
MDOB: Abraham; Covenant; Hebrew/Habiru/Apiru

Sep 6   Patriarchal Narratives: Abraham, Part 2
Primary Sources: Genesis 17–25
MDOB: Circumcision; Patriarch

Primary Sources: Genesis 16–18; 21
MDOB: Feminist Hermeneutics; Hagar; Sarah; Women in the Old Testament

Sep 13   The Exodus
Primary Sources: Exodus 1–4; 11–15
MDOB: Exodus; Exodus, Book of; Moses; Passover

Sep 15   The Giving of the Law
Primary Sources: Exodus 19–23; Leviticus 11; 17-19; 25–26
MDOB: Law in the Old Testament; Sinai; Torah

Sep 20   The Wilderness Generation
Primary Sources: Numbers 13–17; 20–24; 33
MDOB: Balaam; Desert; Numbers, Book of; Spies

Sep 22   FIRST EXAM (Covering the Torah)

Sep 27   Saul and the Rise of David
Primary Sources: 1 Samuel 9–12; 15–18; 24; 26–27; 31
MDOB: Samuel; Samuel, Books of First and Second; Saul

Sep 29   David’s Reign
Primary Sources: 2 Samuel 1–3; 5–7; 11–12; 24
MDOB: David; Jerusalem; United Monarchy

Oct 4   Solomon and the Divided Kingdom
Primary Sources: 1 Kings 1:1–3; 6; 10–12
MDOB: Israel, Kingdom of; Judah, Kingdom of; Kings, Books of First and Second; Solomon


Primary Sources: 1 Kings 16:29–17:7; 18:1-2, 17-46; 19:1-18
MDOB: Ahab; Baal; Elijah; Idolatry; Jezebel

Oct 13   Eighth-Century Prophets: Amos (and Hosea)
Primary Sources: Amos 1–5; 7–8; Hosea 1–3
MDOB: Amos; Amos, Book of; Hosea; Hosea, Book of; Prophet

Oct 18   Eighth-Century Prophets: Isaiah (and Micah)
Primary Sources: Isaiah 1:1–2:5; 5–11; 35; Micah 1; 6–7
MDOB: Isaiah; Isaiah, Book of; Micah; Micah, Book of

Oct 20   The Fall of Samaria
Primary Sources: 2 Kings 10; 17–21
MDOB: Hoshea; Jehu; Samaria

Oct 25   The Book of Jeremiah
Primary Sources: Jeremiah 1–2; 6–7; 18; 20; 26–29; 31
MDOB: Jeremiah; Jeremiah, Book of

Oct 27   The Exile
Primary Sources: 2 Kings 22–25; Lamentations 1; Psalm 137; Ezekiel 36–37; Isaiah 40; 52:13–53:12
MDOB: Babylonian Empire; Exile

October 28 is the Last Day for Class Withdrawal

Nov 1   Post-Exilic Prophets: Haggai and Zechariah
Primary Sources: Haggai 1–2; Zechariah 1; 3-4; 6; 9
MDOB: Haggai; Book of; Zechariah; Book of

Nov 3   SECOND EXAM (Covering the Prophets)

Nov 8   The Psalms
Primary Sources: Psalms 1–3; 19; 23–24; 29; 51; 63; 70; 100; 104; 148; 150
MDOB: Poetry; Psalms, Book of; Worship in the Old Testament

Nov 10   Wisdom Literature: Proverbs
Primary Sources: Proverbs 1; 8–10; 22–25
MDOB: Proverb; Proverbs, Book of; Wisdom Literature

Nov 15   Wisdom Literature: Job
Primary Sources: Job 1–3; 9–10; 19; 28; 32–33; 38–39; 42
MDOB: Job; Job, Book of

Nov 17   Wisdom Literature: Ecclesiastes and Song of Songs
Primary Sources: Ecclesiastes 1; 3–4; 7; 9; 11; Song of Songs 1–3; 6
MDOB: Ecclesiastes, Book of; Song of Songs

Nov 22   NO CLASS


Nov 29   The Book of Esther
Primary Sources: Esther 1–10
MDOB: Esther, Book of; Genre, Concept of


Dec 1   The Book of Daniel
Primary Sources: Daniel 1–3; 5–7; 9–12; Additions to Daniel (i.e., Prayer of Azariah and the Song of the Three Jews; Susanna; Bel and the Dragon
MDOB: Apocalyptic Literature; Daniel, Book of; Hellenistic World

Dec 6   The Apocrypha: The Rest of the Story
Primary Sources: 1 Maccabees 1–2; 4:36–61; 2 Maccabees 7
MDOB: Maccabees; Maccabees, First; Septuagint

Dec 8   The Apocrypha: Later Wisdom Literature
Primary Sources: Sirach 1, 32-33; 38; 44-46
MDOB: Apocryphal Literature (stop at the heading “The Pseudepigrapha”); Sirach

Dec 16   FINAL EXAM 2:00–5:00 (Comprehensive)



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