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Interpreting the Old Testament
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recently discovered Jehoash inscription – is it really a fake?
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Take a look at a range of high quality maps relating to the Old Testament, including the journey of Abraham, the route of the Exodus, and the ktingdoms of David and Solomon.
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“The most profound use that can be made of the Bible is not to treat it as a law book, but to seek to hear and act in accordance with its prophetic voice, a prophetic voice that is disturbing and unconventional, and which can never be content with the world as it is.” (John W. Rogerson in An Introduction to the Bible, Penguin, 1999 )
Methods, Text and Interpretation
This section explores some of the techniques scholars use to study the Old Testament and looks at the various ways in which people have chosen to interpret this great text.
Cut & Paste

(Source Criticism & the Old Testament)

  • Source criticism analyses the structure, vocabulary and style of a text to identify separate sources and attempt to date them.
  • Detailed examination of the first five books of the Old Testament using source criticism seems to indicate the presence of at least four separate sources J, E, D and P. The identification of the characteristics of these sources, and of their dates, has revolutionized biblical scholarship.
View a picture of Julius Wellhausen
Word of Mouth

(Form Criticism & the Old Testament)

  • Form criticism analyses the structural forms of a text and attempts to relate them to their oral origins and transmission within a community.
  • Detailed examination of the Old Testament using form criticism has illuminated understanding of the ancient oral forms that may lie behind the Old Testament texts. For example, stories of characters such as Abraham and Jacob seem to indicate the presence of individual anecdotes about regional heroes, which were only later collected into cycles of stories about the ancestors of all Israel; detailed examination of the Psalms seems to reveal forms of early Israelite liturgy.

‘Have you heard the one about the women who turned into a pillar of salt?’
by JM Wilson

 ancient oral stories

This illustration highlights one idea of how ancient oral stories were transmitted.

MORE ABOUT THE WORK OF THIS ARTIST
Edit & Format

(Redaction Criticism & the Old Testament)

  • Redaction criticism analyses identifiable sources within a text and attempts to discover what creative or theological motives prompted the final author to present the material in a particular way.
  • Examination of biblical texts with redaction criticism has illuminated understanding of the biblical texts as they appear in their final form. It reveals that the redactor (editor or final author), by ordering material in a particular way and by adding material, had great power to influence the way a text is understood and interpreted.
A Good Read?

(Literary Criticism & the Old Testament)

  • Literary criticism focuses on reading a text in its final form and exploring what it means to a particular reader or community of readers. It has attempted to reverse the trend of deconstructing the biblical texts and has illuminated understanding of how people in different ages can read and interpret the biblical texts as a unity.
  • Examination of the final form of biblical texts reveals literary devices and characteristics common to much great literature. This type of analysis encourages people to respond to the text in the context of their own experiences and interests, and has meant that the Old Testament has been used as a rich source of material for those interested in, for example, the role of women and the liberation of the oppressed.
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NEWMAN
MA IN CONTEMPORARY THEOLOGY

This degree is offered in part-time mode by the Theology Department at Newman College Birmingham. To gain the award a student takes 6 taught modules and writes a Dissertation.There are also Certificate and Diploma options within this M level degree.The focus of the programme is an analysis of contemporary perspectives on Christian thought, with modules based on Biblical Studies, on contextual theology and ethical theory.
For more information or for a leaflet please contact Dr Mary Mills at Newman College (
m.e.mills@newman.ac.uk)

© J.Barton & J.Bowden 2004The book is also available to order from Darton Longman and Todd (trade dept.): 1 Spencer Court, 140-142 Wandsworth High Street, London SW18 4JJ [Tel:020 8875 0134 Fax: 020 8875

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