Coordinator, Ancient Near Eastern Studies
Professor of Ancient Scripture
Offices: 2015 HRCB (Kennedy Center); 365-F JSB
Phone: 801-422-3359
Email: eric_huntsman@byu.edu
Twitter: @EricDHuntsman

Religion A 301:
The Old Testament

Course Description

Fall 2008 Syllabus

Rel A 301 is an introductory survey to the first half of the Hebrew Bible or Tanakh, commonly known as the "Old Testament." In addition to reading most of Genesis thru 2 Samuel and a sampling of the psalms, this course will introduce students to the basic historical context and the literary and theological issues that surround this important work of scripture.

Course Objectives

This section of Rel 301 has three major objectives

  • First, to increase the student’s knowledge of the Book of Mormon—that is, to familiarize him or her with the basic storylines, characters, and concepts in this book of scripture.
  • Second, to help the student read, discuss, and write about the Book of Mormon as both a source of scriptural knowledge and as a sacred text by asking basic historical, literary, and theological questions (a process known as "exegesis").
  • Third, to strengthen individual testimonies of sacred truths, particularly of Jesus Christ and the doctrines of the Restoration.

Class discussions, quizzes, and exams will all be formatted with these three overarching objectives in mind

Commentaries and Other References

The greatest benefits from scripture study come from reading, pondering, and praying about the scriptures themselves. Still, serious, university-level study of scripture can often be aided by looking at or consulting various commentaries. A few such works that some may find useful in their lifelong study of the Old Testament include the following:

  • Bandstra, Barry L. Reading the Old Testament. Belmont, Calif.: Wadsworth Publishing Co. , 1999. [Bandstra, excerpts online on blackboard]
  • The HarperCollins Study Bible. Revised and Updated. Harold W. Attridge, general editor. News York: HarperCollins Publishers, 2006.
  • Ludlow, Daniel H. A Companion to Your Study of the Old Testament. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1981.
  • Rasmussen, Ellis T. A Latter-day Saint Commentary on the Old Testament. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1993. [Rasmussen, excerpts in packet]
  • Soggin, J. Alberto. Introduction to the Old Testament. Translated by John Bowden. Third Edition. Louisville, Kentucky: Westminster/John Knox Press, 1989.
  • Studies in Scripture vol. 3: Genesis to 2 Samuel. Edited by Kent P. Jackson and Robert L. Millet. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, ?. [SS 3, excerpts in packet]
  • In addition to the introductions and reference works above, for papers and future in-depth research students should be aware of major commentary series such as the following:
  • The Anchor Yale Bible Commentaries. John J. Collins, General Editor. New Haven: Yale University Press.
  • The Forms of the Old Testament Literature. Series Editors: Rolf P. Knierim, Gene M. Tucker, and Marvin A. Sweeney. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Wm. B. Eerdmans.
  • The New International Commentary on the Old Testament. Edited By: Robert L. Hubbard Jr. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Wm. B. Eerdmans.
  • The Old Testament Library. Philadelphia: The Westminster Press.
  • A volume or volumes is published for each biblical book in each series.

Lecture Outlines and Presentations

  • W03Sep Introduction
  • M08Sep Historical and Literary Background. The World of the Old Testament—peoples and places. Introduction to Torah; Documentary Hypothesis and other theories of composition; Exegesis and Exegetical Method.
    • Reading: Rasmussen, xi–xviii (packet, 3–7); Jackson, "God’s Testament to Ancient Israel," and Brown, "Approaches to the Pentateuch," SS3 3–23 (packet, 18–28); Bandstra, 9–16, 18–20, 34–47 (online); Huntsman, "Teaching through Exegesis: Helping Students Ask Questions of the Text" (packet, 150–159).
  • W10Sep Creation and Fall. Overview and Structure of Genesis. First and Second Creation Accounts—Priestly and Yawehistic? Sample Exegetical Questions for the First Account. The Temptation. The Judgements. An LDS Allegory of the Fall. Genesis 1:1–3:24; cf. Moses 2:1–5:12, 6:48–68; Abraham 4–5; 2 Nephi 2:14–29.
    • Additional Reading: Rasmussen, 1–2 (packet, 7–8); Jackson, "Genesis and the Early Experiences of Mankind," SS3 25–28 (packet, 28–30).
  • M15Sep The Flood and Its Aftermath. Cain and Abel; The Beginnings of Civilization; Adam’s Descendents to Noah; Wickedness of Mankind; Preparations for the Flood and the Great Deluge; Emerging from the Ark: Sacrifice and Commandments; the Noah Covenant; Noah’s Sons and the Division of the Nations. Genesis 4:1–11:26; cf. Moses 5:13–8:30.
    • Additional Reading: Jackson, "Genesis and the Early Experiences of Mankind," SS3 29–33 (packet, 30–32).
  • W17Sep Abraham. Noah to Abraham; Abram’s Early Career; Melchizedek; Abraham’s Posterity; Establishing the Covenant; Lessons from Sodom and Lot; "Other" Nations in Genesis; the Problem of Seeming Patriarchal Misbehavior. Genesis 11:27–20:18.
    • Additional Reading: Bandstra, 20–21 (online); McConkie, "The Promises Made to the Fathers," SS3, 47–61 (packet, 33–40).
  • M22Sep Isaac. Later Career of Abraham and Early Life of Isaac: Command to Sacrifice Isaac; Marriage of Isaac and Rebekah. Abraham’s Final Days. History of Isaac and His sons: Esau Sells His Birthright to Jacob; Isaac and Abimelech—not again! Esau’s Hittite Wives set the stage for his loss of blessing. Genesis 21:1–26:35.
  • W24Sep Jacob. Isaac Blesses Jacob. A Parting of the Ways. Jacob’s Dream at Bethel. Jacob and the Daughters of Laban. Jacob’s Return to Canaan. Jacob Wrestles at Peniel. The Tragedy of Dinah. Final Phases of the Jacob Story—Return to Bethel, Birth of Benjamin and Death of Rachel, Death of Isaac. Genesis 27:1–36:40. Take-home quiz #1 distributed.
  • M29Sep Rosh Hashanah begins at sunset.  Take-home quiz #1 due. Joseph. Genesis 37:1–41:57.
  • W01Oct Israel in Egypt. Joseph’s Children in Egypt; Joseph Tests his Brothers; Jacob Blesses Ephraim and Manasseh; Jacob’s Blesses his other Descendents Genesis 42:1–50:26.
  • EXAMINATION 1  Th02–Sa04Oct; M06Oct (late)

  • M06Oct Even if you are still studying for or taking the exam, come to class for this important introductory lecture!  Oppression and Deliverance. Introduction to Exodus; Moses the Deliverer; Plagues and Release. Exodus 1:1–12:32.
    • Additional Reading: Rasmussen, 83 (packet, 8); Bandstra, 21 (online).
  • W08Oct Yom Kippur begins at sunset The Road to Sinai. Flight from Egypt (12:33–15:21); Sanctifying the Firstborn; Miraculous Escape From Pharaoh; Songs of Moses and Miriam; Bitter Water Made Sweet and Bread from Heaven; Amalek and "Moses’ Hands"; Jethro’s Advice; Exodus 12:33–19:2.
    • Additional Reading: Lunquist, "The Exodus," SS3, 111–123 (packet, 41–47).
  • M13Oct Sukkot begins at sunset.  The Revelation at Sinai. Exodus 19:3–24:18, 31:18–34:35.
    • Additional Reading: Wright, "The Laws and the Sanctuary," SS3, 143–149 (packet, 48–51).
  • W15Oct The Tabernacle: A Pattern of Heaven, A Pattern of Holiness. Exodus 25:1–31:17, 35:1–40:38.
    • Additional Reading: Wright, "The Laws and the Sanctuary," SS3, 149–152 (packet, 51–52).
  • M20Oct The Way to God: Sacrifices and Priests. Introduction to Leviticus; offerings; establishing a priesthood. Leviticus 1:1–10:20.
    • Additional Reading: Rasmussen, 127–28 (packet, 9); Jackson, "The Law of Moses and the Atonement of Christ," SS3, 153–172 (packet, 53–62).
  • W22Oct The Walk with God: Sanctification. Laws of purity; the Day of Atonement; ritual and moral holiness; priestly standards; festivals. Leviticus 11:1–27:34.
  • M27Oct Lessons in the Wilderness I. Introduction to Numbers; The Census of the Exodus Generation; The Census of the Exodus Generation; The Order of Encampment and Marching; Sons of Aaron and the Rest of the Tribe of Levi; Keeping the Camp of the Lord Pure; the Nazarite Vow; the Priestly Benediction Numbers 1:1–10:10.
    • Additional Reading: Rasmussen, 144–45 (packet, 10).
  • W29Oct Lessons in the Wilderness II. Report of the spies; the people quail; divine discipline; marching to Moab; Balak and Balaam; offerings and festivals once more; final events and directions. Numbers 10:11–27:23, 32:1–34:15. Take-home quiz #2 distributed.
  • M03Nov Take-home Quiz #2 due.  Deuteronomy: The "Retelling" of the Law. Introduction to Deuteronomy. Israel’s wilderness wanderings reviewed; a review of the law; commands concerning God, festivals, leaders, and relationships; Israel’s covenant ratified; Moses’ farewell; The "rediscovery" of the law and its later impact Deuteronomy 1:1–13:18, 18:15–22, 26:1–34:12; 2 Kings 22.
    • Additional Reading: Rasmussen, 167–68 (packet, 11); Bandstra, 184–198 (online).
  • EXAMINATION 2  W05Nov–Sa08Nov; M10Nov (late)

  • W05Nov The Conquest I. Introduction to the Deuteronomic History—the "Former Prophets of the Nevi’im; book of Joshua. Entering the Land of Canaan; "conquering" the Land of Canaan; dividing the Land of Canaan. Joshua 1:1–12:24, 23:1–24:33 (read chapter headings for Joshua 13–22 and review map 3 to get an idea of the tribal allotments).
    • Additional Reading: Rasmussen, 194 (packet, 12); Lundquist, "The Israelite Conquest of Canaan," SS3, 225–236 (packet, 63–68); Bandstra, 21–22, 198–199, 204–209. (online).
  • M10Nov Judges I. Introduction to Judges; the political and spiritual background; early enemies and leaders; Deborah and Barak; Gideon’s call and fall; Abimelech’s tyranny. Judges 1:1–9:57.
    • Additional Reading: Rasmussen, 194 (packet, 12); Parry and Ricks, "The Judges of Israel," SS3, 239–247 (packet, 69–73); Bandstra, 237–243 (online).
  • W12Nov Judges II. Intermediate and Ephemeral Leaders; the Tragedy of Jephthah and His Daughter; Samson; Apostasy During the Time of the Judges; Tribal Trauma: Dan and Benjamin. Judges 10:1–21:25.
    • Additional Reading: Bandstra, 247–251 (online).
  • M17Nov Ruth. Introduction to Ruth: placement—topic, chronology, or genre? The Ketuvim or "Writings." The story of Ruth—resolve, rights, request, and reward. Ruth.
    • Additional Reading: Rasmussen, 224 (packet, 13); Bandstra, 384–386, 441, 445–449 (online).
  • W19Nov Samuel. Introduction to 1–2 Samuel. Samuel’s early life and call; his judgeship; Israel’s demand for a king; The rise of Saul; Samuels’ farewell address. 1 Samuel 1:1–12:25.
    • Additional Reading: Rasmussen, 230–31 (packet, 14); Seely, "An Introduction to 1 and 2 Samuel," SS3, 259–270 (packet, 74–79).
  • M24Nov Saul and David. Rejection of Saul; David anointed as king; David and Goliath; David and Saul’s family—Jonathan and Michal; Saul and David at odds; David in Gath; the death of Saul and his sons. 1 Samuel 13:1–31:13.
    • Additional Reading: Bandstra, 22–24 (online).
  • W24Nov No class.
  • M01Dec David the King I. Review of the background of 1–2 Samuel, overview of the structure of 2 Samuel; the issue of sacral kingship—the examples of Saul and David; David Established as King; Consolidation of the Kingdom; the selection of Jerusalem as a political and religious capital; The Davidic Covenant; David’s Conquests for and Administration of the Kingdom. 2 Samuel 1:1–10:1
    • Additional Reading: Rasmussen, 254–55 (packet, 15); Madsen, "David, the King of Israel," SS3, 293–306 (packet, 80–86).
  • W03Dec David the King II. David’s crimes—Bathsheba and Uriah; conflicts within the Davidic kingdom; Absalom’s rebellion; last words and deeds of David. 2 Samuel 11:1–24:25. Take-home quiz #3 distributed
    • Additional Reading: Madsen, "David, the King of Israel," SS3, 306–314 (packet, 86–90).
  • M08Dec Take-home Quiz #3 due.  A Taste of the Psalms I. Overview of Hebrew poetry; introduction to Psalms; types of psalms—prayers, laments, thanksgivings, imprecations, hymns, royal/messianic, sanctuary. Psalms 1–8.
    • Additional Reading: Bandstra, 386–391, 403–419 (online).
  • W10Dec Taste of the Psalms II. Psalms 15, 19; 22–24, 27, 30, 42, 45, 63; 84; 96, 100, 104, 106, 113–118; look at 119; 122, 127, 146–150. Exegetical Paper Due
  • Tu17Dec FINAL EXAM, 7–10:00 a.m. (In class!)

  • Su21Dec Chanukah begins at sunset

Announcements and Upcoming Events

Recent Lectures

September 12: “Sitting at the Feet of Jesus,” Time Out for Women, Denver

August 18-21 “Worship: Encountering and Being Transformed by God,” BYU Education Week

August 17 “LDS Christology and the Gospel of John,” BYU Education Week

August 5-11 Aspen Grove Family Camp

April 22: “Grateful for Grace: Appreciating the Saving and Transforming Power of Jesus Christ,” YSA 18th Stake Fireside

April 30: Womens Conference 2015 "Wells of Trust Fanning Flames of Faith"

May 8–9:   “The Search for the ‘Real’ Jesus of Nazareth: The Jesus of Faith, History, and Revelation,” Miller-Eccles Study Group, Fullerton and La Cañada, California

Upcoming Lectures

September 24 Second John A. Widtsoe Symposium, “Religion in the Public Square,” 7:00-9:00, tutor Center Ballroom, USC, Los Angeles (with the following link:

October 9 “The Footsteps of Jesus: Remembering His Miracles,” Cruise Lady Learn Our Religion Series, 7:00, 9118 S Redwood, West Jordan

November 8: “Sitting at the Feet of Jesus,” Time Out for Women, St. George

November 14: “Sitting at the Feet of Jesus,” Time Out for Women, Portland