The Bible: Texts and Contexts
Spring Semester, 2013
Dr. Gail Streete
Religious Studies 102 continues the work begun in Religious Studies 101 and introduces scholars to theology: reflections on some of the central themes contained in the Bible. One of the Bible’s “paradigm narratives” that has influenced a host of theological reflections in the major “Western” traditions is that of the Exodus. Jewish reflection on the Exodus has produced themes of the Promised Land and its loss, including chosenness, covenant, exile, Diaspora (scattering) and return. Christian reflection on the Exodus has produced themes of pilgrimage, the idea of a Holy Land, seeking solitude in the desert (or in the cloister) for spiritual cleansing and unity with God, covenantal communities, and liberation from oppression (economic, political and social). Islam has also reflected on similar themes of divine commandment and providence, pilgrimage, and reenactment of sacred story. Hence, the unifying theme of the readings, lectures, and discussion for this semester is that of “Exodus, Exile, Pilgrimage and Return.”
We will begin, naturally, with the Exodus narrative in the Bible and its retelling within the Bible, using Psalm 114 and various prophetic and New Testament interpretations. Further retelling and interpretation of this story is continued through the Passover Haggadah, with commentary by Holocaust survivor and Jewish theologian Elie Wiesel. We will also look at early Christian reflections on the Exodus and wandering through the wilderness through the journal of a 4th-century Christian pilgrim, Egeria, through the lives and sayings of the “fathers and mothers” who deliberately chose self-imposed exile in the desert, and through the writings of one of the great teachers of the Christian church, Augustine, whose Confessions reflect a wandering in the spiritual wilderness in search of God. We will then examine another great spiritual classic of the West, Benedict’s Rule, which sought to bring the exercises of desert spirituality into monastic communal life.
With the Protestant Reformation, we will see a “return” to the centrality of biblical texts, including that of the Exodus, with its themes of liberation and covenant, in Martin Luther’s writings on the Bible and his statement of Christian freedom, On Christian Liberty, as well as in John Calvin’s writings that reflect his idea of a covenant community informed by his understanding of the biblical commandments. With John of the Cross’ Ascent of Mt. Carmel, we will explore the mystic’s interior journey to an encounter with God (and the sense of exile from God’s presence).
The connection between biblical and political liberation will be explored by readings in Latin American and African-American liberation theology, especially James Cone’s landmark God of the Oppressed. The intersection of revolutionary theology with political and religious conversion will be explored through reading the section on his pilgrimage to Mecca from The Autobiography of Malcom X. Finally, we will explore Jewish and Christian feminist liberation theology from the perspective of Jewish scholar Judith Plaskow and Catholic theologian Rosemary R. Ruether.
Schedule of reading assignments for RELS 102, Section 15:
Thurs. 10: “Big Questions,” reflective reading and meaningful writing
) per": Development paper due (5th x, 1-14material and Bk. I I (Moodle) ty, vii-x; 1-35
34; Mt. 1:12=13;Tues. 15: Exodus as “Paradigm Narrative” Reading: Exod. 1-15; 16-23; 32-34 Thurs.17: Biblical reflections on Exodus: Psalm 114; Amos 1-5; Hosea 1-4; Jeremiah 31:31-34; Mt. 2; Mk. 1:12-13; 1 Cor. 11:23-26; Heb. 9
Tu. 22: Passover Haggadah; “Issue” paper due. (Ist paper) Th. 24: “From Jesus to Christ” (film; discussion) (7 p.m. Batey Lecture)
Tu.29: Pilgrimage: Egeria’s travels (Moodle) Th. 31: Wisdom of the Desert