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REL 130 Syllabus

Dr. Darrell PursifulSect 009: TR 10:50–12:05 pm
757-0564 x250 (office)Sect 010: TR 12:15–1:30 pm
djpursiful [at] gmail [dot] comhttps://pursiful.com/classroom/

In REL 130, we’ll explore the literature of the Old Testament. In particular, we’ll try to get a handle on the history, literature, and faith of ancient Israel and see how those things are relevant today.


Here are some things the REL department hopes you gain from this class:

  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, 5th ed. (Oxford University Press, 2018). This will be our main text.

Watson E. Mills, et al., Mercer Dictionary of the Bible (Mercer University Press, 1990). This text will fill in some of the details and give an overview of the themes we’ll be covering.


Quizzes (100 points). There will be at least thirteen daily quizzes, which won’t be announced in advance. All the questions will come from the day’s assigned readings and the previous day’s discussion.

The good news is that only your top ten scores will count. The bad news is that there will be no make-up quizzes. At all. Period.

Group Activity (200 points). You’ll need to pick one of the following group activities. A sign-up sheet will go around the first couple weeks of class.

(1) Fishbowl 1. A Fishbowl is an unscripted conversation with some of your classmates, with a little bit of guidance from the professor as needed. The point is for the class to “overhear” your discussion and learn from it. The first Fishbowl will be on the topic of Women in the Patriarchal Narratives. Be sure to read the assigned readings very carefully and come prepared to share your questions and observations.

(2) Fishbowl 2. Same as above, but the topic will be the Prophet Elijah.

(3) Purim Play. The third option is a Purim play. Unlike Fishbowls, with this project you’ll need to work on this with other group members outside of class. I’m happy to come help, and I’ll even give you some samples you can build on.

Optional Paper (200 points). Terrified of speaking in front of the class? No problem! You can choose to write a paper instead. Most students should plan to write a character study of some Old Testament character such as Ruth or King David. If you’d like to do something more creative, just let me know.

Papers should be 5–7 pages long, double spaced, and cite 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). There will be two exams. The dates are on the syllabus. If you miss an exam, you’re probably in deep trouble, but I might be persuaded to give you a make-up in cases of dire family emergency or other catastrophic events.

Final Exam (300 points). There will be a comprehensive final exam at the end of the course. If you’re a graduating senior and you’re satisfied with your class average to that point, I’ll let you waive the final. Just please let me know that this is what you’re planning to do at least a week in advance!

There will be no provision for a make-up final exam.

Using higher math (which we always do at Mercer University), that gives you a possible 1000 points for the course. Your grade will be determined accordingly:

A910-1000  < This is awesome!
B810-859   < This is good
C710-759   < This is okay
F0-659       < Try to avoid this range

If you’re concerned about your grade and would like some guidance on how best to proceed, please come see me.


The College’s academic misconduct policy (Honor Code) will be followed. All suspected violations of the University Honor Code will be forwarded to the Honor Council.


You’re an adult. You can decide for yourself whether come to class or kiss it off. Be advised, however, that quizzes and exams are largely based on class discussions. Poor attendance is usually its own reward. In any event, if you miss eight or more class sessions (>25%), you’ll be awarded a grade of F for the course.


Please turn off your phone or at least set it to vibrate. This is just common courtesy for your classmates and your teacher. If you must take a call during class, quietly collect your things and exit the classroom. We’ll see you next time.


If you have any sort of disability that may hinder your success in this course, please visit Ms. Johnson at Disability Services and come talk with me privately about what sort of accommodation you’ll need.

You may find further guidance in the Mercer University ADA Statement:

Students in need of accommodation due to a disability should contact the Access and Accommodation Office to complete the verification process to become approved for services. In order to receive accommodations, each term, students will request accommodation and faculty notification forms through the Access Office online system Accommodate. Students are strongly encouraged to schedule a meeting with each professor in a timely manner to discuss arrangements. Accommodations are not retroactive in nature. Note – Disability accommodations or status are not reflected on academic transcripts. 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 complete the verification process with the Access Office.

Students must request accommodations in a timely manner to receive accommodations in a timely manner. 

The Access Coordinator for Macon Campus is
Katie Johnson, Director and ADA/504 Coordinator.
Phone: (478) 301-2778; email: johnson_kc@mercer.edu
Website: http://access.mercer.edu


If a mental health issue is holding you back in class or out, please let me help you to better navigate this course. Or talk to your academic advisor. Or visit the CAPS office. Your well-being matters!

Mercer University faculty and staff recognize that mental health concerns can impact academic performance and interfere with daily life activities. Please notify your faculty member or academic advisor for academic assistance, as needed. The office of Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) can also provide support if you are feeling stressed, overwhelmed, anxious, depressed, lost, or are struggling with personal issues. Please call (478) 301-2862 or visit the CAPS website for more information. These services are free and confidential, and support non-traditional, graduate, and undergraduate students. The CAPS office on the Macon campus is located in Linden House (attached to the MEP Residence Hall).


Read the assigned passages before you come to class that day.

Aug 20A Bird’s-Eye View of the Old Testament
Aug 22The Creation Narratives
Primary Sources: Genesis 1–2; Enuma Elish, Tablets I–II, IV
MDOB: Cosmology; Creation; Sources of the Pentateuch
Video: Dan Clanton, “PRE 120: Documentary Hypothesis

August 23 is the last day for Late Registration and Drop/Add

Aug 27Stories of Crime and Punishment
Primary Sources: Genesis 3–11; The Epic of Gilgamesh, Tablet XI
MDOB: Flood; Genesis, Book of
Aug 29Patriarchal Narratives: Abraham, Part 1
Primary Sources: Genesis 12–16
MDOB: Abraham; Covenant; Hebrew/Habiru/Apiru
Sep 3Patriarchal 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 10The Patriarchal Narratives: Jacob (and Joseph)
Primary Sources: Genesis 25:19-34; 27–35; 46
MDOB: Birthright; Esau; Jacob; Joseph
Sep 12The Exodus
Primary Sources: Exodus 1–4; 11–12; 14–15; 32; 34
MDOB: Exodus; Exodus, Book of; Moses; Passover
Sep 17The Giving of the Law
Primary Sources: Exodus 19–23; Leviticus 11; 17-19; 25–26
MDOB:  Law in the Old Testament; Sinai; Torah
Sep 19The Wilderness Generation
Primary Sources: Numbers 6:22-27; 13–17; 20–24; 33
MDOB: Balaam; Desert; Numbers, Book of; Spies
Sep 24The Book of Deuteronomy
Primary Sources: Deuteronomy 1; 5–6; 12; 17; 27–32
MDOB: Deuteronomy, Book of; Shema
Sep 26FIRST EXAM (Covering the Torah)
Oct 1Saul and the Rise of David
Primary Sources: 1 Samuel 9–12; 15–18; 24; 26–27
MDOB: Samuel; Samuel, Books of First and Second; Saul
Oct 3David’s Reign
Primary Sources: 1 Samuel 31; 2 Samuel 1–3; 5–7; 11–12; 24
MDOB: David; Jerusalem; United Monarchy
Oct 8Solomon and the Divided Kingdom
Primary Sources: 1 Kings 1:1–3; 6; 10–12; 2 Kings 10
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 17Eighth-Century Prophets: Amos (and Hosea)
Primary Sources: Amos 1–5; 7–8; Hosea 1–3, 11
MDOB: Amos; Amos, Book of; Hosea; Hosea, Book of; Prophet
Oct 22Eighth-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 24The Book of Jeremiah
Primary Sources: Jeremiah 1–2; 6–7; 18–20; 26–29; 31
MDOB: Jeremiah; Jeremiah, Book of 

October 25 is the last day for Class Withdrawal

Oct 29The Exile
Primary Sources: 2 Kings 22–25; Lamentations 1; Psalm 137; Ezekiel 36–37; Isaiah 40; 52:13–53:12
MDOB: Babylonian Empire; Exile
Oct 31SECOND EXAM (Covering the Prophets)
Nov 5After the Exile: Ezra and Nehemiah
Primary Sources: Ezra 1; 3–5; 10:1-14; Nehemiah 1–2; 4; 7:1-4; 7:73–9:38
MDOB: Ezra, Book of; Nehemiah, Book of; Persian Empire
Nov 7The 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 12Wisdom Literature: Proverbs
Primary Sources: Proverbs 1; 8–10; 22–25
MDOB: Proverb; Proverbs, Book of; Wisdom Literature
Nov 14Wisdom Literature: Job
Primary Sources: Job 1–3; 9–10; 19; 28; 32–33; 38–39; 42
MDOB: Job; Job, Book of
Nov 19Wisdom Literature: Ecclesiastes and Song of Songs
Primary Sources: Ecclesiastes 1; 3–4; 7; 9; 11; Song of Songs 1–3; 5–6
MDOB: Ecclesiastes, Book of; Song of Songs
Nov 21The Book of Esther
Primary Sources: Esther 1–10
MDOB: Esther, Book of; Genre, Concept of


Dec 3The 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 5The Apocrypha
Primary Sources: 1 Maccabees 1–2; 4:36–61; Sirach 1; 32–33; 38; 44–46
MDOB: Canon; Hellenistic World; Maccabees; Maccabees, First; Septuagint, Sirach
Dec 9Section 001: FINAL EXAM 9:00–12:00 (Comprehensive)
Dec 13Section 008: FINAL EXAM 2:00–5:00 (Comprehensive)


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