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Unit information: Torah through the Ages in 2015/16

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Unit name Torah through the Ages
Unit code THRS20198
Credit points 20
Level of study I/5
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Dr. Campbell
Open unit status Open




School/department Department of Religion and Theology
Faculty Faculty of Arts

Description including Unit Aims

A key feature of Judaism, and arguably what makes it distinct from Christianity and Islam, is its notion of the Torah. This unit looks at the meaning and development of that idea over the centuries, including exegesis of the Bible in all its diversity. It aims both to provide an overview of this fascinating topic and to examine concrete examples from various times and places. These include traditional Jewish interpretations of assorted narrative, poetic, and legal portions of the Bible in Second Temple times (515BCE-70CE) and in the Rabbinic (70-900CE) and medieval periods (900-1750CE). The unit also entails examining the challenge of understanding the Torah for Jews in the modern era (1750 onwards) in the light of academic study of the Bible and Judaism, the emergence of competing Jewish 'denominations' since the 19th century, the rise of Zionism, the Holocaust, and increasing secularisation.


To introduce students to the notion of the Torah in Judaism.

To provide an introduction to specific instances of Jewish Bible interpretation in particular historical, cultural, and religious contexts.

To provide a framework for analysing and evaluating competing scholarly emphases regarding specific aspects of Torah and Jewish Bible interpretation.

To develop critical interaction with primary and secondary materials.

To develop written presentation skills through the course assessment.

Intended Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of this unit students will have

(1) developed a critical understanding of the notion of the Torah in Judaism;

(2) gained an in-depth understanding of specific instances of Jewish Bible interpretation in particular historical, cultural, and religious contexts;

(3) demonstrated the ability to analyse competing scholarly emphases regarding specific aspects of (1) and (2);

(4) shown an ability to identify and evaluate pertinent evidence/data in order to illustrate/demonstrate a cogent argument.

In addition 2nd year students will have

4. developed analytical skills suitable for level I as demonstrated in their formal assessments.

Teaching Information

1 lecture and 1 seminar per week

Assessment Information

One summative coursework essay of 2500 words and one unseen examination of two hours comprising 2 questions out of 6 (50%). Both elements will assess ILOs (1) (2) (3). The coursework essay in particular will offer students the opportunity to demonstrate ILOs (4) and (5).

Reading and References

A. Berlin & M.Z. Brettler (eds), The Jewish Study Bible (2004);

J.H. Hayes, Dictionary of Biblical Interpretation (1999);

J. Neusner, Torah through the Ages (1991);

K.H. Zetterholm, Jewish Interpretation of the Bible (2012)