Bible: Wisdom, Poetry and Apocalyptic

University of Minnesota

Rabbi Dr. Tzvee Zahavy, Professor
Course Syllabus • Spring, 1995

ANEJ 1003/3003, RelS 3203, The Bible: Wisdom, Poetry and Apocalyptic

The Writings or Hagiographa, the third division of the Tanakh [Hebrew Bible, Old Testament], include books of the wisdom movement in Ancient Israel, philosophical, poetic and aphoristic works, historical reviews, and a classic apocalyptic book: This course covers these books in translation, focusing on the substance, style and background of each. Students are expected to read the primary texts and assigned supplementary readings prior to the lecture. Supplementary readings will be on reserve in Wilson Library.

Requirements for both 1003 and 3003/3203 include a take-home mid-quarter exam and a take-home final essay exam. Students in 3003/3203 will be expected to read the supplementary materials and will write a short research paper [5 pp.]. Grading is either ABCDF or S/NC. No incompletes.


The Tanakh, Jewish Publication Society edition

Robert Alter, The Art of Biblical Poetry, Basic, pb

Reserve Readings [subject to change] Wilson Library.

James Kugel, The Idea of Biblical Poetry, Yale

James Crenshaw, Old Testament Wisdom, Atlanta, 1981

John J. Collins, The Apocalyptic Imagination, N.Y., 1984

Kates & Twersky, Reading Ruth..., N.Y., 1994

Schedule of Subjects

Introduction to Tanakh literature

•The problem of biblical poetry: Introduction to the Psalms

R. Alter, The Art of Biblical Poetry, chapters 1-3

J. Kugel, excerpt from The Idea of Biblical Poetry (reserve)

Psalms e.g., 1, 23, 29, 145

Psalms as liturgy, Alter, chapter 5

Psalms as literature, Alter, chapters 6-7

•The Poetry of Suffering: Job 1, 2, Alter, chapter 4

Job 42; Job 3, the theological and philosophical problems

•Definition of Wisdom literature: Proverbs

Wisdom personified, Proverbs chapter 8; pre-existence of wisdom

Proverbs 31: the valorous woman; women in Tanakh

Proverbs--types and forms (Scott, Crenshaw, on wisdom); metaphor of the temptress

Qoheleth/Ecclesiastes. Relation to apocrypha, pseudepigrapha

Overview of Qoheleth

Qoheleth: control of sacred literature. The open publication of the canon

Qoheleth and his world

•Introduction to Apocalyptic: (Collins, Hanson, readings)




•Women: Ruth; Esther

•Romance: Song of Songs, Alter, chapter 8

•Tragedy: Lamentations

•History: Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah

Review and the big picture; parting comments.