Orthodox Understanding of the Old Testament

And Contemporary Exegesis

Information and Readings for Auditors

Course Format: In Person or Online

The course meets on Tuesdays from 7pm to 9pm in Larkin 340.

The Zoom link for those following online is: https://bit.ly/trh3455

Resources

Required Study Bible 

The following NRSVue study Bible is required for the course:
  • The SBL Study Bible: Including Apocryphal and Deuterocanonical Books (HarperOne, 2023)
This is a very newly-released (November 2023) updated version — including the updated edition of the NRSV as well as with revised notes and essays — of the following, which remains an adequate substitute for students who already own a copy:
  • The Harper Collins Study Bible: Including Apocryphal and Deuterocanonical Books with Concordance (HarperOne, 2006)
Please ensure you have this study Bible with you for all class sessions. Other Bible Versions Together with the above study Bible, our main reference texts for Old Testament will be the following: Septuagint
  • A New English Translation of the Septuagint (Oxford, 2007) — available online through the U of T library
Tanakh (Jewish Bible)
  • Jewish Study Bible (Oxford, 2014) — available online through the U of T library
  • Robert Alter, trans. The Hebrew Bible: A Translation with Commentary (Norton, 2019)
Additionally, a Bible software package or online Bible library resource comprising primary sources, interlinear and multiple translations and concordance tools will be helpful.

Course Book

Students may wish to acquire the following text which will be read in its entirety. It is also available to read online through the University of Toronto library system.
  • Eugen Pentiuc, The Old Testament in Eastern Orthodox Tradition (Oxford, 2014)
A selection from the companion book by Pentiuc, Hearing the Scriptures: Liturgical Exegesis of the Old Testament in Byzantine Orthodox Hymnography (Oxford, 2021), which is also available online through the library, will be assigned for the commentary on liturgical exegesis assignment.

Other Resources

There is obviously an endless amount of literature available for studying the Bible. What follows are a very few recommended materials, curated with the course expectations and assignments in mind, and kept brief enough that we can refer to these together in our class discussions as the need should arise. Beyond this, students are encouraged to follow up on the works listed in the bibliography of the Pentiuc course book listed above, as well as speaking with the research staff at the Graham Library who will be happy to assist in finding good study resources both in print and online for their specific exegetical projects. Premodernity / Patristic  For finding patristic texts referencing specific Biblical passages (a jumping off point for further patristic reading):
  • Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture series (Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press, 1998-) — available online through the U of T library
For a detailed description of patristic Biblical interpretation:
  • Henri de Lubac, Medieval Exegesis : The Four Senses of Scripture, volumes 1 and 2 (Chicago: Eerdmans, 2000) — available online through the U of T library
See also several articles in The Oxford Handbook of the Bible in Orthodox Christianity referenced below. Modernity / Historical-Critical  For quick reference to historical-critical approaches and tools:
  • Richard Soulen, Handbook of Biblical Criticism (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox, 2011) — available online through the U of T library
For the most comprehensive Biblical commentary, constantly in revision. For each biblical book, the series includes an original translation with translational and text-critical notes, overviews of the historical, critical, and literary evolution of the text, an outline of major themes and topics, a verse-by-verse commentary, treatment of competing scholarly theories, historical background, and more. The commentary available in this series will be sufficient to meet the needs of the short critical methods exegesis paper.
  • Anchor Yale Bible Series (before 2007, the Anchor Bible, published by Doubleday) — many volumes in this series, but not all, are available online through the U of T library
Postcritical / Canonical and Narrative Theology For a critique of Biblical criticism under modernity (the historical-critical schools) and an appeal to narrative theology:
  • Hans Frei, The Eclipse of Biblical Narrative (New Haven: Yale, 1974) — available online through the U of T library
For a recovery of a properly theological reading of the Bible standing as a canonically established vehicle of a living faith:
  • Brevard Childs, Introduction to the Old Testament as Scripture (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1980)
  • Brevard Childs, Old Testament Theology in a Canonical Context (Philadelphia, Fortress Press, 1985)
For a thoroughgoing narrative reading of the Scriptures and appreciation of their literary shaping, focusing on type scenes, tracing the impact of themes and even key words throughout different books, and exploring the importance of the juxtaposition of stories for mutual interpretation:
  • Robert Alter, The Art of Biblical Narrative (New York: Basic Books, 1981) — available online through the U of T library

Pre-Course Reading

This course is structured around the explanation of the way the Scriptures are read in Orthodox Christianity given by Fr Eugen Pentiuc in his 2014 book, The Old Testament in Eastern Orthodox Tradition.  The approach Pentiuc outlines is assumed in this course from the first class. While we will be exploring and applying what he describes throughout the course, ensuring that what Pentiuc describes will be learned and thoroughly understood in due course, it is important to emphasise that the earlier the terms and methods outlined by Pentiuc are acquired, the greater the learning and application that can ensue. Ideally, therefore, the entire book would be read before the course. Where practicable, that’s the recommendation. At a minimum, the following comprehensive book review by Leslie Baynes should be carefully read and digested before the course begins. You might take the review in one hand and the book in the other, only skimming through the book content at this stage, making mental or marginal notes for near future in-depth reading. You will note that there are no assigned weekly readings from the book in the course outline. It is simply incumbent upon every student to read the book as soon and as thoroughly as possible. Whilst there are no prerequisites for this course, some familiarity with the overall narrative of the Scriptures is assumed. For those needing a primer (or refresher) in the main Biblical stories and themes, the following book is recommended, both for the skilful way it condenses the text as well as the integration and application of a postcritical, narrative theological approach to the Scriptures.

Week 1: Text, Canon, Authority — Post-Exile and the Shaping of Scriptures

Topics

  • course overview, format, expectations, and resources
  • text, canon, authority
  • exile, post-exile, and the shaping of the Scriptures
    • Ezra-Nehemiah
    • Malachi
    • I-II Chronicles (plus Prayer of Manasseh)

Readings

  • note pre-course reading above
  • optional: read the Old Testament books listed above under this week’s topics

Week 1 Recording

Week 2: Torah I — Exodus

Topics

  • Narrative of liberation, formation of Israel
  • Revelation (and theophanies) of the God of Israel
  • Discursive, aural, and visual modes of patristic exegesis
  • The Exodus fulfilled in the Messiah of Israel

General Reading

  • Book of Exodus
  • Psalms 77 and 78, 80 and 81, 105 and 106, and 135 and 136

Focused Reading

  • Exodus 15 — The Songs of Moses and Miriam
  • Exodus 3 — Moses at the Burning Bush / The Divine Name Revealed

Week 2 Recording

Week 3: Torah II — Genesis

Topics

  • Creation (tabernacle/temple) and flood (ark) narratives — the creating and recreating God
  • Tower of Babel and Pentecost
  • Patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob — “folk tales” and the “God of our fathers”
  • Israelites in foreign courts — the Joseph cycle

General Reading

  • Book of Genesis
  • Psalm 104
  • Prayer of Azariah and the Song of the Three Jews

Focused Reading

  • Genesis 1 (to 2:4a)
  • Genesis 12
  • Genesis 22
  • Genesis 25-33
  • Genesis 49 (all of Genesis 37-50 if you can)

Week 3 Recording

Week 4: Torah III — Leviticus, Numbers

Topics

  • Covenant and Torah (law, teaching)
  • Canonical approach
  • Guidance for first assignment (short critical methods exegesis)

General Reading

  • Book of Leviticus
  • Book of Numbers
  • Psalms 19, 32, 50, 89, 119

Focused Reading

  • Exodus 20-24
  • Leviticus 19-20
  • Numbers 14:1-25
  • Numbers 21:4-9

Week 4 Recording

Week 5: Torah IV: Deuteronomy | Earlier Prophets / Deuteronomistic History I: Joshua and Judges

Topics

  • Deuteronomy and Deuteronomistic theology as capstone on Torah
  • Preview of the need for kings and prophets within the covenant
  • Narrative of the conquest of Canaan and downward spiral of the time of the judges
  • Violence and ‘genocide’ in the Old Testament

General Reading

  • Book of Deuteronomy
  • Book of Joshua
  • Book of Judges

Focused Reading

  • Deuteronomy 5-6
  • Deuteronomy 10
  • Deuteronomy 18
  • Deuteronomy 31-34
  • Joshua 3
  • Joshua 5:13-15
  • Joshua 24
  • Judges 2
  • Judges 4-5
  • Judges 19

Week 6: Earlier Prophets / Deuteronomistic History II: I & II Samuel, I & II Kings

Topics

  • Discussion: the question of God and war, violence, rape, and genocide
  • Cycle of stories of the Judge and Prophet Samuel
  • Monarchy as central theme of the Deuteronomistic history and the Scriptures as a whole: who should be king in Israel? what makes good or bad kings? what hope remains when the kingdom is lost?
  • David as paradigmatic king, symbol of Israel, and messianic type
  • Role of prophecy in relation to monarchy: how are all these Deuteronomistic history books actually prophetic books (included under Nevi’im in the Tanakh)?
  • Cycle of stories of the Prophet Elijah

General Reading

  • I & II Samuel
  • I & II Kings
  • Psalms 47, 93, 97, 99
  • Psalms 2, 20-21, 45, 72, 101, 110, 132

Focused Reading

A reminder to come to class prepared with comments or questions on these passages to help with the class discussion.

  • I Samuel 1-3 (cf. Luke 1)
  • I Samuel 7-8, 12, 15-16
  • II Samuel 5-7, 11-12, 22-23:7
  • I Kings 2-3, 4:20-34, 8
  • I Kings 17-19, 21
  • II Kings 2, 4-5, 9:30-37
  • II Kings 17-25 (focusing especially on King Josiah)
  • Psalm 51

Optional Reading

FWIW, here’s an article I found on monarchy in the Bible.

Week 6 Recording

Week 7: Major Prophets: Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel

Topics

  • (held over from week 6) prophetic tradition from Elijah and Elisha
  • the prophets and the fall of the northern kingdom (Israel)
  • major prophets of the southern kingdom (Judah):
    • (first) Isaiah in the days of Kings Ahaz and Hezekiah — the hope of ‘God with us’
    • Jeremiah from the reformation of King Josiah to the exile — the hope of the new covenant
    • Ezekiel during the exile — the hope of the good shepherd, the resurrection of the people, and the new Temple
    • (second and third) Isaiah in the exile and post-exilic period — the hope of the messianic kingdom

General Reading

  • Isaiah
  • Jeremiah
  • Ezekiel

Focused Reading

  • Isaiah in the time of Kings Ahaz and Hezekiah
    • Isaiah 1.1-20, 2:1-5
    • Isaiah 6
    • Isaiah 7, 9:1-7
    • Isaiah 11:1-9
    • Isaiah 35
    • Isaiah 36-39 (compare with 2 Kings)
  • Isaiah in exile
    • Isaiah 40
    • servant songs: Isaiah 42:1-4, 49:1-6, 50:4-9, and 52:13-53:12
  • Isaiah after the exile
    • Isaiah 55, 61, 64-66
  • Jeremiah 1-2:3, 3.6-25, 30-33
  • Ezekiel 1-3:11, 10, 34, 37, 40-44

Week 7 Recording

Week 8: Book of the Twelve / Minor Prophets — plus Daniel and Apocalyptic Literature

Topics

  • (held over from week 7)
    • Jeremiah from the reformation of King Josiah to the exile — the hope of the new covenant
    • Ezekiel during the exile — the hope of the good shepherd, the resurrection of the people, and the new Temple
  • “Book of the Twelve” / minor prophets
  • reading the prophets christotelically
  • apocalyptic literature
  • Prophecy of Daniel

General Reading

  • Book of the Twelve (try to read “as one book” and look for overall themes)
  • Daniel

Focused Reading

Allusions to the Book of the Twelve in the New Testament — as explained at the end of last week’s class, try to read these selections (often understood as mere ‘prooftexts’) christotelically

  • Hosea 1:6, 1:9, 2:1, 2:23, 6:6, 10:8, 11:1, 13:14
  • Joel 2:38-32
  • Amos 3:13, 5:25-27, 9:11
  • Obadiah 15
  • Jonah 1:17, 2.1-10
  • Micah 5:2-4, 7:6
  • Nahum 1:15
  • Habakkuk 1:5, 2:3-4
  • Zephaniah 3:13
  • Haggai 2:6, 2:21
  • Zechariah 3:2, 8:16, 9:9, 11:13, 12:10, 13:7
  • Malachi 1:2, 3:1, 3:17, 4:5

Apocalyptic literature

  • Isaiah 24–27
  • Ezekiel 38–39
  • Joel 3:9–17
  • Zechariah 12–14
  • Daniel 7–12

Week 8 Recording