TH424 “God, Power, and Politics in the Bible”
 Prof. David Vanderhooft
Fall 2003, Mon 12:00-2:00, Gasson 207

Panel: striding lion, 604–562 B.C.E.; Neo-Babylonian period, reign of Nebuchadnezzar II
Mesopotamia, excavated at Wall of Processional Way, Babylon
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Maria Antoinette Evans Fund, 1931


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TH424 “God, Power, and Politics in the Bible”

David Vanderhooft
354 Lower Campus Administration Building
Office Hours:  Mon. 10:00-11:30, Wed. 1:15-2:30
Phone: 552-4240 (Office)

Note:  Students must bring a Bible to every class meeting.

Purpose and Goals

The course will analyze the close, perhaps inseparable, relationship between
biblical ideas about God and ideas about the institutions of local and
international government (mainly in the Hebrew Bible or Old Testament). 
A basic assumption is that the spheres of politics and theology were inextricably
linked in ancient Israel, as they were in other cultures of the ancient Near East. 
The focus in the course will be on the biblical communities during the eras of
the great empires of the first millennium B.C.E.:  Assyria, Babylon, Persia, and
Greece.  We will ask, for example, what  relationship existed between God and
King, between rulers and subjects, between power and justice, and between
imperialism and religion.  In each case, answers or hypotheses will emerge
from close reading of select biblical and non-biblical texts.

Topics to be covered will include:

I.  Kingship in Israel and Judah—politics and religion
II.  Israelite Religion and Politics in an Imperial World:  Assyria
III. Israelite Religion and Politics in an Imperial World:  Babylonia
IV.  Israelite Religion and Politics in an Imperial World:  Persia
V.  Judaism in an Imperial World:  Greece

The aim of the course is twofold:  to acquire thorough familiarity with biblical concepts
of political organization and their inherent theological idiom; and to develop a
theoretically sophisticated approach to biblical study which will permit students
independently to pursue further inquiry.


I. The primary text is the Bible.  The recommended version, available in the
BC bookstore, is The Harper Collins Study Bible (New Revised Standard Version)
With The Apocryphal/ Deuterocanonical Books.  Other editions or versions,
however, may be used, such as the Jerusalem Bible (a Roman Catholic sponsored
translation), the New American Bible , or the Jewish Publication Society’s
Tanakh (only the Hebrew Scriptures).  Students must have the Apocryphal/
Deuterocanonical books.  For the purposes of this course students should not
use a translation that paraphrases the biblical text, such as The Living Bible
The King James Version (and the New King James Version) should also not be
used for course work.

II.  One other source of primary texts is required:  The Complete Dead Sea
Scrolls in English
, by Geza Vermes.

III.  Students are also required to purchase The Oxford History of the Biblical
, ed. Michael D. Coogan.

IV. Other readings will be made available in class or will be placed on reserve
in the O’Neill library or will be uploaded to the course web page.


I.  Students are expected to read assigned materials and be prepared to discuss
them in class.  Short written assignments or oral reports may be required from
time to time in connection with particular readings.  Active participation in class
is crucial, and will be factored at 10% of the course grade.  If a student must miss
a class session for any reason, it is expected that the student will notify Prof.
Vanderhooft in advance, preferably by email. Unexplained or unexcused absences
will result in lowering of the participation grade.
II.  A paper that analyzes a specific biblical text in conjunction with secondary
sources will be due at the beginning of class, Mon., Sept. 29 (15%).
III.  A take-home midterm examination will be distributed on Mon., Oct. 6 and will
be due at the beginning of class on Mon., Oct. 20 (25%).
IV.  A test designed to show mastery of historical data and important concepts
on Mon. Nov. 10 (20%).
V.  A term paper on a topic relevant to each student’s particular interests, due
at the beginning of class on Mon., Dec. 8 (30%).  An outline with provisional thesis
and bibliography will be due not later than 4 pm on Mon., Nov. 24 .

Reading Lists
Required and optional readings will be placed on the course web page.

Academic Integrity and Plagiarism
For the complete University statement on academic integrity, click here .

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Last Modified: Aug. 27, 2003
© 2001 David Vanderhooft