Religion & Philosophy at Lyon College

Throughout the semester the syllabus will be subject to periodic revision. Students should check the syllabus on-line at least once a week.

Old Testament
MWF 10:00-10:50 a.m.
Lyon 206
Paul Custodio Bube, Ph.D.
Fall, 2014


Office Hours: Lyon 321
MWF 9-9:50 a.m.; 1-2:00 p.m.
TR 1:15-2:30 p.m.
or by appointment
Phone: 870-307-7351

E-mail: Click on Mailbox to e-mail professor HH01580A.gif (1311 bytes)



Required Texts (there are three texts):
Laffey, Alice -- An Introduction to the Old Testament: A Feminist Perspective
The HarperCollins Study Bible
Barry Bandstra -- Reading the Old Testament (fourth edition)  
[Accessing the companion website: The web site is Follow the directions for registering and when it asks for an access code, you need to use the one that came with your book. Professor Bandstra has also made available free podcasts that read the first 13 chapters of the book at

Nature and Purpose of the Course:

Is it important to study the Bible, especially the Old Testament? If one is a Christian, why not just study the New Testament? If one is not a Christian, is there any value in studying any part of the Bible?

There's a good chance that among the members of this class, there are a variety of answers to these questions -- and probably additional questions -- that will be brought to the study of the Old Testament. Important goals of this course are to expand upon our answers and our questions, to stretch our imaginations as well as to enlarge our knowledge. We may even revise our answers and develop new questions along the way.

In practical terms this course provides an overview of representative sections of the Old Testament. We will read from a variety of books of the Old Testament in addition to portions of our text books. We will learn how to use several analytical tools (called "criticism" in biblical studies) to help us explore how to interpret the biblical texts. Some of these tools, such as feminist criticism, will seem controversial, but the aim with any tool we use, controversial or not, is to understand better  what the Bible itself is saying. In other words, the tools are always just tools -- when used properly they help us to learn what a text in the Bible means.

Each of us brings to the course varying backgrounds and expectations about the Bible, in general, and the Old Testament, in particular. It is not the aim of the course either to convert the unbeliever nor to subvert the faith of the believer. However, it is the position of the Lyon College Program in Religion and Philosophy that faith and critical thinking are compatible and mutually enhance each other. Our ultimate goal is to learn to read biblical texts with at least as much care and intelligent analysis as we would read an ancient piece of literature, a historical document, a philosophical essay, or a legal contract. (By the way, all these sorts of writings can be found in the Old Testament.)

Although the aim of the course is neither to convert nor subvert, I think it is important for students to be aware of my "bias" as we begin our study together. As a Christian, I approach the biblical texts as documents of faith shared by Jews and Christians, and look upon these texts, along with the New Testament, as having a unique role in revealing the nature of God and how human beings are invited to respond to God. As a scholar, I have discovered that my faith has been enriched by the kind of study we will do in this course. My experience has been that the Truth revealed in the biblical texts is best apprehended when one critically examines them in the context of their original languages, social setting, and history. To do so means bracketing many theological assumptions in order to allow the texts to speak to us with the same sort of freshness as they did to their first readers. Thus, a guiding rule-of-thumb for reading and interpreting texts in this course is to ask, "How would the first readers of this text have understood it?"

As we begin this course, let me suggest a prayer, "For the Spirit of Truth," to guide all of us:

From the cowardice that dares not face new truth,
From the laziness that is contented with half truth,
From the arrogance that thinks it knows all truth,
Good Lord, deliver me. (United Methodist Hymnal #597)


Course Objectives:

Upon successful completion of this course, the student will:



Students will be expected to complete all reading assignments on time, attend all classes, take all quizzes and exams, and write 10 e-journals responding to questions found in the class schedule below.  It is important for students to keep in mind that the college requires all students to pledge their own work in accordance with the Lyon College Honor Code. If students have questions about what constitutes plagiarism, they should read the MLA Handbook’s discussion of plagiarism and consult with someone in the writing lab or with me prior to turning in the paper. Students may find it helpful to make an appointment with the someone in the Writing Center for advice on writing their papers.

CELL PHONES, COMPUTERS, AND OTHER ELECTRONICS: Cell phones should either be turned off or put on silent or vibrate in class. They should be put away and not visible. Texting during class is not permitted. If you are awaiting an emergency call, then you should sit near the class entrance, and when your phone vibrates, you should quietly exit and take your call in the hallway out of earshot of the class. Students may use computers in class to keep notes only (unless directed otherwise by the professor). Listening to iPods or other mp3 or similar players is prohibited in class. Violation of these requirements will adversely affect your participation/ attendance grade for the class.

COLLABORATION: Students are welcome to help each other in preparing for exams (e.g., study groups) and exchanging ideas and advice on reports. However, the writing of the reports, actual written work on quizzes and exams, etc., are to be done by the student her/himself and pledged in accordance with the Lyon College Honor Code. Be sure to write "pledged" on any work submitted, including e-journals.

E-JOURNALS (E-mail journals): The schedule below includes 10 questions that students are expected to respond to by e-mail. Look for the e-journal questions in a blue font. Each e-journal has a due date. If the e-journal is sent late, 5 points will be deducted from the grade for each day it is late. Each e-journal is graded on a 100 point scale, and each counts 2% of the student's final grade. Think of the e-journals as short essays: they will be graded on thoughtfulness and clarity. Grammar and spelling can affect one's grade. When you send your first e-journal, I will respond with an e-mail that includes your e-journal below my comments. When you send your second e-journal, click "reply" to my e-mail and write your e-journal above my previous comments. I will e-mail my comments on the second e-journal with your previous e-journals (and my previous comments) below my new comments. The idea is that by the end of the semester, my last comments on your tenth e-journal will include the year's e-journal conversation between us.

CONTENT QUIZZES: 15% of your grade is made up of content quizzes over the readings from Reading the Old Testament. Each quiz has a due date -- prior to that due date, you may take the content quiz as often as you like in order to achieve a grade on the quiz that you are satisfied with. These quizzes are open-book and open-Bible quizzes. Whatever grade you have on the quiz at the time it is due, is the grade you will receive on the quiz. Note: Because the quizzes are open-book and can be retaken, there will be no extensions given beyond the due date listed in the syllabus and Educator. It is the student's responsibility to take them on time.

EXAMS: Exams are NOT open-book or open-note and may NOT be retaken. However, students may use an unmarked Bible on exams. The exams will also be taken on-line through Educator at . Each exam has a specific due date and time--there is no reason for late submissions. To avoid technical difficulties, it is recommended that students take the exam at least 2 hours before it is due.

Grades will be weighted as follows:

Attendance/Participation 10%
Content Quizzes 15%
Exam#1 5%
Exam#2 10%
Exam#3 10%
Exam#4 10%
E-mail Journals 20%
Final Exam 20%

Grading Scale: A=90-100; B=80-89; C=70-79; D=60-69; F=0-59



Page 114 of the Lyon Catalog states: Students are expected to attend all class periods for the courses in which they are enrolled. They are responsible for conferring with individual professors regarding any missed assignments. Faculty members are to notify the Registrar when a student misses the equivalent of one, two, three, and four weeks of class periods in a single course. Under this policy, there is no distinction between “excused” and “unexcused” absences, except that a student may make up work missed during an excused absence. A reminder of the college’s attendance policy will be issued to the student at one week, a second reminder at two weeks, a warning at three weeks, and notification of administrative withdrawal and the assigning of an “F” grade at four weeks. Students who are administratively withdrawn from more than one course will be placed on probation or suspended (see Academic Probation and Academic Suspension).

Attendance and participation are graded, and they will also enhance the student's ability to do well on examsLate assignments will be graded down five points for each calendar day late.


In keeping with Lyon College policy, students are expected to check their Lyon e-mail accounts daily. This is the primary way professors and college officials have to communicate with you. Students are accountable for information regarding due dates, assignments, exams, etc., that are sent through the Lyon e-mail system.


Although this is a freshman level course, I would like you to create electronically (e.g., a folder on your I-drive) a portfolio in which you save your e-journals and any other papers you may do in RPH courses. This will not be graded, but in the event you do take other RPH courses, Dr. Beck and I would like to be able to ‘see’ your progress and I hope you would want to reflect upon your work. Because RPH classes are so ‘holistic’ in their approach to human affairs, we both hope that what you write will be connected to your other academic work and to the choices you make in other dimensions of your lives. Those of you who are considering a major or minor in RPH are required to keep a portfolio. Making this a requirement in every class means that those of you who have not yet decided whether to major or minor will have the portfolios on-line and accessible, making it very easy to declare a major or minor (see catalog for requirements).


Please note: Students seeking reasonable accommodations based on documented learning disabilities should contact the Office of Academic Services at 870-307-7332.


Course Outline

There are links to slides (click on the week) that relate to the material being covered in class. These are useful in preparing for class discussions and in highlighting or complementing the readings. They may not be identical to slides used in class, so it is still important to take your own notes.



Week 1-2 (Aug. 20-29):
Read: Bandstra 1-33 Laffey 1-4  
8-20 Click here for lecture recording [Right click to save to your computer]
8-22 Click here for lecture recording
8-25 Click here for lecture recording
8-27 Click her for lecture recording
8-29 Click her for lecture recording (only 2nd half recorded)
E-journal Question #1: What are the two locations for accessing the syllabus? Read over the syllabus carefully. Based upon what you read there, discuss what issues have the most interest to you and why. Due August 22, 10 p.m.




Week 3-4 (Sept. 1-12):

Read: Genesis 1-5 Bandstra 34-76 Laffey 7-27
Content Quiz #3: Complete content quizzes on "Chapter 1 Genesis 1-11" by 9:00 a.m. Sept. 1.

E-journal Question #2: Using the idea of the three worlds of the Bible (Historical, Literary, & Contemporary), briefly describe how those worlds apply to Genesis 1:1-2:4a. Due Sept. 10, 10 p.m.

9-01 Click here for lecture recording
9-03 Click here for lecture recording
9-05 Click here for lecture recording
9-08 Click here for lecture recording
9-10 Click here for lecture recording
9-12 Click here for lecture recording
Due by Sept 12 (11:59 p.m.) -- First (objective) exam.  See questions 1-10 on the study guide as well as the questions from the Bandstra website. Go to Educator to take exam.

Due by Sept. 13 (11:59 p.m.) -- Second Exam (essay).  This exam is made up of essay questions overlapping the material covered on the objective exam. The exam question will be found in Educator under the "Examinations & Quizzes" link, and must be completed there.


Week 5 (Sept. 15-Sept. 19)

Read: Genesis 6-11 "Utnapishtim" from the Epic of Gilgamesh (in Educator, go to Course Materials, then Epic of Gilgamesh, then Utnapishtim.doc; download the document and read it for class on Sept. 17)  
E-Journal Question #3: List the similarities and differences between the story of Utnapishtim and the story of Noah. Due Sept. 17, 8 a.m.
9-15 Click here for lecture recording
9-17 Click here for lecture recording
9-19 Click here for lecture recording
Week 6-8 (Sept. 22-Oct. 8):
Read: Genesis 12-50 Bandstra 77-113 Laffey 27-46
Content Quiz #4: Complete content quiz on "Chapter 2 Genesis 12-50" by 9:00 a.m. Sept. 22.

Click here for lecture recording

9-24 Click here for lecture recording
9-29 Click here for lecture recording
10-01 Click here for lecture recording
10-03 Click here for lecture recording
10-06 Click here for lecture recording
10-08 Click here for lecture recording
Sept. 26 -- Library Tour

E-Journal Question #4: Reread Genesis 34, and look over what Laffey & Bandstra say about this passage. Then go to the library (see above) and look at what two other sources (from list at the end of this assignment) say about Gen. 34. In your e-journal summarize what you learned and what your view of the passage is and why. Be sure to include citations and references when appropriate. Due Oct. 6.

Harper's Bible Commentary
Harper's Dictionary of the Bible
Westminster Old Testament Commentary
Word Bible Commentary
Hermeneia Bible Commentary Series
Interpreter's One-Volume Commentary
Anchor Bible
Anchor Bible Dictionary
Jerome and/or New Jerome Bible Commentaries

Due by Oct. 8 (11:59 p.m.) -- Exam over Genesis 6-50 (click here for study questions). Go to Educator to take the exam. [Note: this exam includes both objective and essay questions.]

Oct. 9-10 -- FALL BREAK

E-Journal Question #5: Throughout Genesis, YHWH is fairly consistent in favoring the oppressed, lowly, women, and underdog. Discuss what point the biblical text is trying to convey about the nature of God and God's relationship to humankind. Due Oct. 13 (Monday after Fall Break).

Week 8-9 (Oct. 13-20):
Read: Exodus 1-24 & 32-34 Bandstra 114-147 Laffey 46-55
Content Quiz #5: Complete content quiz on "Chapter 3 Exodus" by 9:00 a.m. Oct. 13.
E-Journal Question #6: Discuss why you think God kept hardening Pharaoh's heart before the Israelites were freed. Was God being fair to Pharaoh? Due Oct. 15.
10-13 Click here for lecture recording
10-15 Click here for lecture recording
10-17 Click here for lecture recording
10-20 Click here for lecture recording

Week 9 (Oct. 22-24):

Read: 2 Kings 22-23; Leviticus 17-26 Bandstra 148-183  
E-Journal Question #7: The year of jubilee in Leviticus talks about liberating slaves, forgiving all debts, and redistributing land. What do you think this suggests about ancient Israel's view of justice? Do you think it has any implications for how modern people of faith should live? Explain. Due Oct. 22.
10-22 Click here for lecture recording
10-24 Click here for lecture recording
Content Quizzes #6 & #7: Complete BOTH content quizzes on "Chapter 4 Leviticus and Numbers" and "Chapter 5 Deuteronomy" by 9:00 a.m. Oct. 22.

Due by Oct. 25 (11:59 p.m.) -- Fourth Exam (see Bandstra website for study guide questions and click here for additional study questions). Go to Educator to take the exam.



Week 10 (Oct. 27-Oct. 29)
Read: Joshua 1-12; Judges 1-5 & 11 & 13-16 Bandstra 186-238 Laffey 85-93
E-Journal Question #8: Read over Judges 11 and the section in Laffey's book that discusses the story of Jephthah and his daughter. Look through at least one of the commentaries from the Oct. 6 e-journal assignment for an additional perspective. Discuss what you think this story means. Due Oct. 29.
10-27 Click here for lecture recording
10-29 Click here for lecture recording
10-31 Click here for lecture recording

Complete content quiz #8 on Joshua by 9:00 a.m., Oct. 27.

Complete content quiz #9 on Judges by 9:00 a.m., Oct. 29.

Week 10-11 (Oct. 31-Nov. 3)
Read: I Sam. 1-17; II Sam. 1-8 Bandstra 239-259 Laffey 105-108, 118-122 & 124-126
10-31 Click here for lecture recording
11-03 Click here for lecture recording
Complete content quiz #10 on Samuel by 9:00 a.m., Oct. 31.
Week 11-12 (Nov. 5-Nov. 14):
Read: Amos & Hosea Bandstra 282-310 Laffey 167-171
11-05 Click here for lecture recording
11-10 Click here for lecture recording
11-12 Click here for lecture recording
11-14 Click here for lecture recording
11-17 Click here for lecture recording
E-Journal Question #9: Compare the themes of Amos and Hosea. Which do you find more compelling and why? Due Nov. 12.

Content Quiz #11: Complete content quiz on Amos & Hosea by 9:00 a.m., Nov. 5.



Week 13-14 (Nov. 17-24):
Read: Psalms 1, 8, 22, 23, 39, 88, 119, 148-150; and Song of Songs Bandstra 366-396; 418-437 Laffey 202-204

Content Quizzes #12 & #13 & #14:

Complete content quiz #12 on "Part Three Writings" by by 9:00 a.m., Nov. 17

Complete content quiz #13 on "Chapter 13 Psalms"  by 9:00 a.m., Nov. 19

Complete content quiz #14 on "Chapter 15 Five Scrolls" by 9:00 a.m., Nov. 21

E-Journal Question #10: Pick one of the Psalms that were assigned (1, 8, 22, 23, 39, 88, 119, 148-150), then consult at least two of the sources listed for e-journal #4, and explain the historical, literary, and contemporary world of the psalm. Be sure to include references when appropriate. Due Nov. 21.

11-21 Click here for lecture recording
11-24 Click here for lecture recording
Week 15 (Nov. 24-Dec. 5):
Read: Job Bandstra 397-417

November 26-30 is Thanksgiving Holiday. 

Content Quiz #15: Complete content quiz on "Chapter 14 Proverbs and Job" by 9:00 a.m., Nov. 24.
12-01 Click here for lecture recording
12-03 Click here for lecture recording
12-05 Click here for lecture recording

FINAL EXAM: The exam will be available at 11 a.m., Friday, Dec. 5. It must be completed by Thursday, Dec. 11, at 12:30 p.m. click here for study guide

[Approximately 3/4 of the exam will be over the last 5 weeks and 1/4 will be comprehensive]


© 2012-14 Paul Custodio Bube