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Biblical Knowledge & Interpretation

Course Descriptions

SEBK610 Introduction to Hebrew Bible

The goal of this required introductory course is to provide the historical, cultural, and religious contexts behind the Hebrew Bible (the Torah, Prophets, and Writings)—a text whose creation, interpretation and transmission takes place over many generations and represents a multiplicity of voices. It explores how these living and Sacred texts continue to shape communities of faith today within many social locations. Students will be introduced to critical tools and interpretive approaches (including gender, sexuality, ethnicity, race, economics, ability, age, agrarian) that will strengthen their skills for preaching, community ministry, counseling, and further academics and teaching in a diverse and multicultural world.
3 credits

SEBK620 Introduction to New Testament

The class introduces students to processes of and approaches to New Testament interpretation with a view toward vocational application. It provides a broad familiarity with contents and central themes of early Christian texts and explores the roles of scripture among various Christian groups.
3 credits

SEBK720 Psalms in Community

The Book of Psalms continues to serve as a center for faith communities as they worship and care for each other. Psalms embodies the hopes, dreams, fears, pain, and, most of all, faith of the people of Israel throughout the generations. Today this collection serves as a book of hymns for both Judaism and Christianity. In fact, the very tenants of Christology are rooted in the faith expressed through many of these songs. This course will examine the Book of Psalms, focusing on its messages, rhetoric, and relevance for both its ancient audiences and today’s multicultural world. How to incorporate Psalms in several different pastoral care and worship settings will be the course’s major focus.
3 credits

  • Prereq: SEBK610.

SEBK721 Isaiah: The Fifth Gospel

Isaiah’s words have touched people for centuries and were particularly important to the Jesus of the Gospels, leading some to label it the 5th Gospel. This course examines the entire book of Isaiah focusing on its message(s), rhetoric, and relevance for both ancient audiences and today’s faith communities. Attention will be given to the historical situations, the literary forms, and the canonical shape of Isaiah as well as to the voices of those marginalized who have turned to this text for hope. Additionally, discussions will include how early Christians applied Isaiah’s messages to the church and how Isaiah continues to shape our understandings of Messiah, justice, righteousness, Zion, and Shalom, among other concepts.
3 credits

  • Prereq: SEBK610.

SEBK722 Wise Women: Gender, Sexuality & Spirituality in the Wisdom Books

Within biblical wisdom literature resides three representative wise and beautiful women—Chavah/Eve of Genesis, the Shulamite of Song of Songs, and Wise Woman of Proverbs—whose strong biblical presence, curiosity, and independence invite us to explore ancient and current dialogues on gender, sexuality, and spirituality. Such conversations are particularly relevant in faith traditions grappling with women’s roles in society, ordination, and the construction of gender in our churches, synagogues, and mosques (God language and other symbols). This course will apply current gender theory, including womanist and feminist discourse, to these ancient texts. In addition, it will survey the many ways that these texts have served as a center for feminist spirituality.
3 credits

SEBK723 Speaking Truth to Power: Former Prophets-Jeremiah

The Hebrew prophets teach us much about God’s justice and love for Israel as well as God’s anger when God’s people, especially those in power, marginalize those less powerful in the community. This course will examine the pre-exilic prophets (the Former prophets found in Samuel and Kings through Jeremiah), focusing on their messages, rhetoric, and relevance for their ancient audiences and for today’s faith communities. Attention will be given to the historical situations, the literary form, and their canonical shape. In addition prophetic precepts (including justice, righteousness, shalom, chesed), issues of social justice and how these texts are relevant to today’s social and political issues will be explored.
3 credits

  • Prereq: SEBK610.

SEBK724 Proclaiming Justice Across Cultures: Ezekiel-Malachi

After Jerusalem’s destruction in 587 BCE, the leaders of Judah are taken by force to Babylon while others flee to Egypt and other parts of the world. Those in exile struggle to maintain their Judahite identity while trying to navigate the precarious and often dangerous new environment. Under Cyrus of Persia’s mandate in 540 BCE, God’s people are allowed to return to their ancestral land and rebuild the Temple and Jerusalem. This course focuses on the Exilic and post-Exilic prophets, examining their messages, rhetoric, and relevance for their ancient audiences and for today’s faith communities. Attention will be given to the historical situations, the literary forms, and the canonical shape of each prophet as well as their relevance to today’s social issues.
3 credits

  • Prereq: SEBK610.

SEBK725 Real World: Reading the Book of Judges with Teens

The book of Judges recalls a society plagued with war, idolatry, sexual abuse, violence, and other societal struggles. Teens today find themselves living in a similar culture where some families and political organizations lack structure and security. The Book of Judges can be used to open the dialogue with teens on these very issues while simultaneously providing hope for the present and future. Students will read Judges while focusing on matters facing today’s teens in the context of pastoral care and ministry. Those working with teens and those who hope to in the future will have opportunities to craft resources for their specific contexts.
3 credits

SEBK726 Exegesis Seminar: The Book of Ruth

The goal of this course is to provide the historical and cultural contexts for examining the book of Ruth. We will examine the possibilities for various historical contexts for the material and how those contexts impact its ideological and narrative aims along with its ideological and theological import. Students will be asked to employ a variety of critical tools and interpretive approaches (including gender, sexuality, ethnicity, race, economics) as a evaluative lens for how the text lives in contemporary society.
3 credits

SEBK740 Where is God When it Hurts? Old Testament Theodicy

It is difficult to witness pain and suffering that is often inflicted on the innocent. The resulting carnage from natural disasters or unrestrained physical and other forms of violence (emotional, economic) make us want to shake our fist at God and question why God seems not to intervene. This course focuses on God’s Justice (Theodicy) particularly as articulated in the books of Job, Qoheleth, and Psalms. It explores why innocent people suffer while the unrighteous often prosper and how the Hebrew Bible provides resources for those struggling with such universal questions. Students will read biblical theodicies in the context of contemporary suffering communities and individuals.
3 credits

SEBK743 "Real World" Applying the Book of Judges to the Lives of Today's Youth

The book of Judges recalls a society plagued with war, idolatry, sexual abuse, violence, and other societal struggles. Sadly, our teens today find themselves living in a similar culture where both family and political organizations often lack structure and security. The Book of Judges opens the dialogue with youth on these very issues while simultaneously providing hope for the present and future. We will read Judges with a focus on today's youth and pastoral care.
3 credits

SEBK750 Pilgrimage & the Hebrew Bible

Students will explore the transformative role of pilgrimage in the lives and religious practices of the ancient Hebrews using the lens of the Psalms of Ascent and other texts. Examination of Victor Turner’s seminal text on pilgrimage and communitas as well as various medieval and contemporary texts will focus on the classic elements of pilgrimage and ways in which today’s burgeoning interest in pilgrimage mirrors Hebrew pilgrimage practice. Students will use their learnings to plan, participate in, and process a multi-day pilgrimage.
3 credits

SEBK760 God's Gift of Creation: Sustainability, Economic & Food Justice in the Hebrew Bible

Ancient Israel as an agrarian culture has an intimate connection to the land. The biblical writers understand that the land and all that goes with it (vines, trees, water sources—the commons) are gifts from God and belong to God alone. Creation is not to be sold or hoarded but is to be shared with all of God’s people whose responsibility it is to be good stewards of God’s world. Yet, too few of us have the time or resources to recover our intimacy with the land through planting and listening to what the earth can teach us. This course will explore the environmental and sustainability issues in the Hebrew Bible, colonial Moravian Bethlehem, and present day culture as we collaborate on the final assignment—the creation of a community garden that recreates those in colonial Moravian Bethlehem. Activities and assignments will include researching Bethlehem’s plants, gardening, and making the biblical connections as we participate together in this exciting initiative.
3 credits

SEBK761 Understanding Social Justice and Diversity through the Lens of the Hebrew Bible

We live in an increasingly diverse and global world filled with many complexities that at times prevent us from getting to know the “other” such that we lose the richness of community that is possible. To break down these barriers, this course will investigate the historical, philosophical, and religious dimensions of oppression as well as resistance to the concept of “loving thy neighbor as thyself” (Lev 19:18). Since biblical texts have been used to both oppress and liberate certain groups, we will read modern discourses on multiculturalism, social justice and diversity in the 21st Century in tandem with the Hebrew Bible. Areas of focus will include racism, classism, religious oppression, sexism, heterosexism, transgender oppression, ableism, ageism, and other areas of marginalization.
3 credits

SEBK762 Does God Choose Sides? The Bible & American Politics

Students will read, discuss, write about and experience how politics and religious/biblical rhetoric intersect in today’s US society and consider its global impact. They will explore community organizing, grants for public ministries, and agency partnering to evoke positive change. Students will log 15 hours participating in the community political system.
3 credits

SEBK770 African Readings of the Hebrew Bible

The Global Church is blessed by a strong presence on the continent of Africa that comes with a rich history of indigenous biblical interpretation. The West is just beginning to tap into the wealth that these resources bring to the field of biblical studies, especially as the paradigms shift to bring “ordinary readers” to the forefront. The emerging African hermeneutic invites both biblical scholars and “non-academically trained” Africans to the table to co-create readings that make sense in its indigenous contexts. The focus of this class is to unpack the many ways scholars and lay people from Africa read the Hebrew texts, to explore how these readings can translate into other social locations, and to build cultural competency. This class may be taught with a intercultural immersion component to Tanzania.
3 credits

  • Prereq: SEBK610

SEBK780 Feminist & Womanist Interpretation of the Hebrew Bible

This course will explore the cognate disciplines of feminist and womanist theological and ethical inquiry and its impact on biblical studies. We will examine theory and literature—both biblical and contemporary—as a means to cultivate a dialogical analysis of the relationship between women and the Hebrew Bible. We will use a variety of cultural mediums to critically explore the ways in which women articulate their social and religious journey. We will scrutinize normative gazes and their impact on identity construction and relationships. These social, political, and cultural constructions will help us, individually and collectively, construct hermeneutical lenses for examining stories of the Hebrew Bible and how they treat various women.
3 credits

SEBK820 Jesus & the Gospels in Global Context

The class examines literary themes and techniques in the Gospels and Acts as studied through modern critical approaches, explores the ways in which the genres of biblical literature depicting Jesus (in particular, narrative) are translated into various types of theological discourse and lifestyle, and reflects on how biblical images of Jesus might intersect with or inspire contemporary ministerial roles and practices.
3 credits

  • Prereq: SEBK620

SEBK822 Paul & the Global Spread of the Gospel

This class develops familiarity with the contents, literary techniques, and other distinctive features of Paul’s letters, examines the legacies of Paul within the history and theologies of the Church, and explores the range of issues and methods involved in modern critical and theological analysis of Paul.
3 credits

  • Prereq: SEBK620

SEBK840 Sex, Sexuality & the New Testament

Students examine the contents, literary techniques, and other distinctive features of major NT texts dealing with sex. The course focuses on contextualizing early Christian discourse on sex within first-century notions and assumptions and explores the range of issues and methods involved in modern critical and theological analysis of sexuality with a view toward continuing discussions in vocational contexts.
3 credits

  • Prereq: SEBK620

SEBK841 Crucifixion and Salvation in Scriptural Perspective

This class helps students gain familiarity with the contents, literary techniques, and other distinctive features of earliest Christian depictions of and discourse about Christ’s crucifixion, contextualizes Christ’s crucifixion within broader ancient notions of crucifixion, punishment, torture, and oppression, and explores the range of issues and methods involved in modern critical and theological analysis of the Crucifixion (i.e., soteriological constructs, including but not limited to atonement, redemptive suffering, affective exemplar, as well as critiques of traditional theologies of the Cross).
3 credits

  • Prereq: SEBK620

SEBK860 Itinerancy and Intercultural Witness Earliest Christianity

Students explore the role of travel in the spread of earliest Christianity within the context of the role of travel in biblical narratives and the social history of travel in the ancient world. We will also investigate how New Testament texts inform modern theologies of itinerancy with regard to the call to ministry. We will examine the performative/communicative role of itinerancy in the earliest gospel message, discuss the role of performativity in Christian theology and vocation, and incorporate discussions of scriptural texts and historical contexts with analysis of contemporary issues such as vocation and economic security, itinerant call and the relationship to family, and how global migration and instability affect survival and identity. Finally, as communication across distance has gone hand-in-hand with itinerancy both in the ancient world and in our contemporary society, the class will emphasize attention to and use of emerging communicative technologies.
3 credits

  • Prereq: SEBK620

SEBK910 Biblical Hebrew

This course focuses primarily on the grammar and syntax of biblical Hebrew. Jewish music and liturgy will be interjected throughout the semester to achieve a better understanding of how the Hebrew texts might have functioned in ancient Israel. (Before the end of the drop/add period, students may elect to take this course Pass/No Pass by notifying the instructor in writing.)
3 credits

SEBK911 Hebrew Exegesis

This course provides an introduction to textual criticism and exegetical method while studying selected portions of the Hebrew Bible (in Hebrew). We will build on the grammar learned in SEBK910. (Before the end of the drop/add period, students may elect to take this course Pass/No Pass by notifying the instructor in writing.)
1 credit

  • Prereq: SEBK910

SEBK920 Introduction to New Testament Greek

A foundation will be laid for working with the New Testament in its original language. Emphasis lies on the mastering of grammatical forms, fundamental syntax, and basic vocabulary, aiming toward deeper understanding of these writings. (Before the end of the drop/add period, students may elect to take this course Pass/No Pass by notifying the instructor in writing.)
3 credits

SEBK921 Advanced Greek Readings and Exegesis

Students explore and develop an in-depth exegetical method that applies to the Greek New Testament. A significant amount of reading of the Greek New Testament (especially selected Pauline and Johannine literature) is taken up in the course. (Before the end of the drop/add period, students may elect to take this course Pass/No Pass by notifying the instructor in writing.)
1 credit

  • Prereq: SEBK920 or equivalent

SEBK931 Bible in Performance

The purpose of this course is to enable the student to reflect on the Bible as “script” or “performance document” and to examine the role of oral tradition and performance in the development of the scriptural tradition itself; to evaluate dramatic and other artistic expositions of scriptural texts in terms of the theology, aesthetics, explicit messages, and “subtexts” that they convey and evoke; to employ improvisation and bibliodrama techniques in the liturgical and educational life of the church; and to explore the role of the arts, including dramatic art, in church/ community building and transformation.
3 credits

SEBK940 Archaeology of Ancient Israel in Action, Exploring the Holy Land On-Site

Students will spend 2 weeks and not only excavate tel Jezreel, the Omride stronghold in the 9th century BCE, but also live on a kibbutz among the kibbutzniks, sharing meals and conversations. In addition, students will explore Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Tiberias, and other major sites connected to the three monotheistic religions. We will also explore the Israeli and Palestinian conflict with representatives from each side. Class participants will meet before and after the overseas experience in order to prepare and process. On site in Jezreel two weeks (May 27- June 13).
3 credits

SEBK941 Archaeology & the Bible

Does archaeology shed any light on the Hebrew Bible? Is there any archaeological evidence for the events depicted in the text? What more can we learn about the history of ancient Israel from other texts and discoveries? This course will seek to address these and other questions as we focus on the history and archaeology of the eastern Mediterranean region from the Neolithic period (8500 BCE) through the Roman period (100CE), with special attention to the periods generally associated with ancient Israel, early Judaism, and early Christianity. In addition, archaeological technique and history will be explored.
3 credits

  • Prereq: SEBK610

SEBK942 Exploring the Holy Lands with Biblical Scholars

This 2 credit Bible travel seminar to Israel and Palestine will be led by three Bible scholars, Dr. Deborah Appler from MTS and Drs. Bruce Birch, and Carla Works from Wesley Theological Seminary. We will explore this land, its history, and connections to biblical texts with on-site lectures and intercultural interactions. Those who would like to participate without taking the class for credit are welcome. Students may add an additional independent study credit to fulfill the 3 credit Bible elective. Additional expense for airfare and travel/housing in country, please contact Dr. Appler applerd@moravian.edu.
2 credits