Department of Government Professor James B. Murphy Dartmouth College 206 Silsby Hall

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Department of Government Professor James B. Murphy

Dartmouth College 206 Silsby Hall

Fall 2012 Office Hours: Tues. 10 to 12.

M, W, F: 1:45 to 2:50.

Th. (X-Hour): 1:00 to 1:50. Or by appointment.

Phone: (Off.) 646-2862.
Writing 5: Sex and Violence in the Bible
DESCRIPTION: In this course, students will learn how to write blogs, short essays, and a term-paper about the Book of Books. For better or worse, many of our ideas about love, sex, marriage, killing, war, peace, slavery, freedom and government come from the Bible – not to mention our ideas about the origin and the end of the universe. No book has been more influential on world history and world culture than the Bible: much of our art, literature, and even politics is inspired by the Bible, ranging from the temperance movements to the various civil rights movements. At the same time, no book has been more controversial and more divisive than the Bible: it is the most beloved and the most hated book of all time. In this course, we shall study selected stories from the Bible and discuss the moral and political ideas we find there.
COURSE AIMS: 1) To learn how to read and how to write about the moral and political ideas in the Bible. 2) To appreciate the challenge and complexity of understanding the Bible: we shall see why the Bible can be quoted to support almost any side of any moral argument; 3) To learn to avoid the dangers of partisan “proof-texting,” that is, taking random quotes out of context from the Bible to support one’s preferred moral or political position. “Proof-texting” is the nearly universal practice of those who love and of those who hate the Bible; 4) To learn how to locate passages in the Bible by chapter and verse and to learn that the “Bible” is capitalized while “biblical” is not!
LEARNING GOALS: Students who actively apply themselves to this course’s readings, discussions, papers, and presentations will become competent readers of and writers about the most important but also most difficult book in history. In particular, you will be able to answer in writing three kinds of questions about the Bible: What did the text mean to its author? What does the text mean to us? What does the text mean for knowledge and truth?

  1. Questions of Exegesis: What did the Bible originally mean to those who first wrote, heard, and read it? You will be able to explicate accurately many key passages from the Bible.

  2. Questions of Application: How does this biblical text apply to your life and to our contemporary moral and political debates? You will be able to apply the ideas we find in the Bible to the moral and political controversies of our contemporary world.

  3. Questions of Evaluation: Do these biblical ideas make sense? Are they true and sound? You will be able to evaluate the ideas we find in the Bible to judge for yourself if they are good and true ideas or false and pernicious ones.

PEDAGOGY: The teaching methods of this course are all designed to promote the learning goals listed above. Research demonstrates that we all learn only by doing. Hence, the person who learns the most from lecturing is the lecturer: so I will keep lecturing to a bare minimum. We shall devote each class period to activities that will reinforce and consolidate what you learn from reading the assigned passages of the Bible. We shall make oral presentations, write papers, discuss and debate particular passages, and collaborate in small groups. Our class meetings will be occupied with active mastery of the questions of exegesis, application, and evaluation that we pose to each passage from the Bible we study. All learning, therefore, depends upon your daily preparation for each class period. In this active setting, you can run, but you cannot hide.
REQUIREMENTS: 1) Students are required to read all of the assigned biblical texts in advance of the date listed on the syllabus. 2) Students are required to attend every class meeting listed on the syllabus. 3) Students are required to copy out a passage from the assigned reading each day that you find especially puzzling, inspirational, or outrageous and post it on Blackboard with an explanation of why you selected it. 4) Students are required to write three short essays on biblical passages of your choice: one of exegesis, one of application, and one of evaluation. 5) Students are required to make two oral presentations in class: one on the Old Testament and one on the New Testament. 6) Students are required to write one 20-page Term Paper which will be based on two shorter 8-10 page essays, each of which will be revised. The first essay will be based on the Old Testament and the second essay will be based on the New Testament. The Final Term Paper will combine these two essays in order to assess the unity of the Bible as a whole. All the writing, therefore, builds toward the term paper. 7) Students will be required to make PowerPoint presentations of their term papers during the final week of class. 8) Every student is required to meet with me during office hours to discuss the theme of your term paper.
The short essays are each worth about 5% of the grade, each oral presentation is worth about 5%, the term paper is worth about 45%, and class participation (including attendance, reading responses on Blackboard, debates, discussion and other activities) is worth about 25%.
STRATEGY FOR SUCCESS: Every aspect of this course is structured to ensure that every student achieves genuine mastery of the learning goals. I have no interest in sorting my students: I want every student to succeed. Your success depends upon daily practice in reading the Bible and blogging about it, selecting passages for discussion, discussing and debating interpretations in class, making oral presentations and writing papers. All serious reading is re-reading: the assigned biblical readings are not long, but they are dense. First, read the introductory material in your Study Bible for each assigned book of the Bible; second, read the day’s assigned biblical text; third, re-read the assigned text along with the scholarly footnotes. Mark the passages in your Bible that you find especially puzzling, inspirational, or offensive.
Required Texts: Every student must purchase The HarperCollins Study Bible, available at Dartmouth Book Store and Wheelock Books. True, there are many on-line versions of the Bible, but this is a scholarly edition with a superb translation and excellent introductions and notes. Also, it will be crucial for our class that we are all on the same page.
Writing Tutorials:
For individual peer tutorial assistance with writing, research, and multimedia projects, students may use RWIT, the Student Center for Research, Writing, and Information Technology. To make appointments go to RWIT’s appointment scheduler at, or drop by the Center in 183 Baker-Berry Library, Level One (next to the Reference area) from 4 to 6 pm and 7 to 10 pm, Sundays through Thursdays.
Learning Accommodations:

Students with disabilities enrolled in this course and who may need disability-related classroom accommodations are encouraged to make an appointment to see me before the end of the second week of the term. All discussions will remain confidential, although the Student Accessibility Services office may be consulted to discuss appropriate implementation of any accommodation requested.
 Student Accessibility Services (
Honor Principle
Academic Integrity has a different application to each kind of class. In this class here is what it means: First, do not consult secondary sources for your interpretation of the Bible. You are encouraged to read the commentaries in your study Bible and I have provided links to on-line concordances which you should consult. Second, in drafting papers and writing blogs, consult only writing tutors or me. Third, you are encouraged to discuss the Bible readings and our class conversations with anyone.
September 10: The Bible: One Book or Many?
12: Genesis: Why Two Different Accounts of Creation?
Reading: Gen. 1-2.
13 (X-Hour): Genesis: Trouble in Paradise.
Debate: Expulsion from Eden: Rise or Fall?
Reading: Gen. 3-4.
14: Genesis: A New Creation with Noah; God’s Covenant with Mankind.
Reading: Gen. 6-9.
17: Writing Workshop: Exegesis.
19: Genesis: Covenant with Abraham and Binding of Isaac.
Debate: Is God Immoral?
Reading: Gen. 11:1-9; 12-13; 15; 17-19; 21-22.
21: Genesis: Patriarchy and Polygamy.

Reading: Gen. 24; 25: 19-34; 26: 1-5; 27-29; 30: 1-24; 32: 23-33.

Debate: Is the Bible Sexist?

Short Paper One (Exegesis): Due On Blackboard 9 AM.
24: Genesis: The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.
Reading: Gen. 37; 39-50.
26: Exodus: The Politics of Slavery and Liberation.

Reading: Ex. 1-14; 15: 1-21.

27 (X-Hour): Writing Workshop: Application.
28: Leviticus: Laws of Sex.

Reading: Ex. 19-24; 31: 13-18; 32-34; Lev. 18-20; Deut. 4-11.

Oct 1: Joshua: The Politics of Holy War.
Reading: Deut. 20: 10-20; Josh. 6.
Debate: Does God Endorse Genocide?
3: Ruth, Judith, Esther: Role Models for Women?
Reading: Ruth, Judith, Esther.
Debate: Are Ruth, Judith, and Esther Feminists?
Short Paper Two (Application): Due on Blackboard 9 AM.

5: Class Cancelled: Professor Away.
8: Theocracy or Kingship?
Reading: 1 Sam. 8-12; 2 Sam. 11-12.

Debate: Does God Favor Kingship?
Writing: Draft OT Essay Due on Blackboard 9 AM.
10: Isaiah: Speaking Truth to Power.
Reading: Is. 1-5; 9-12; 24-27; 39-46; 60-66.
12: Writing Workshop: Writing and Revision.
15: Matthew and the Politics of Judeo-Christianity.
Reading: Matt. 1-7; 19-20; 25: 31-46.
Debate: Is Christianity Jewish?
17: Luke: What is the Kingdom of God?
Reading: Lk. 1-12.
Writing: Revised OT Essay Due On Blackboard 9 AM
18 (X-Hour): Luke and the Politics of the Kingdom of God.
Reading: Lk. 13-24.
Debate: Does Jesus Hate the Rich?
19: Writing Workshop: Evaluation.
22: John and the Politics of the Divinity of Jesus.
Reading: Gospel of John.
Debate: Who Killed Jesus? Jews or Romans?
24: Acts and the Politics of Martyrdom and Evangelization.
Reading: Book of Acts.
Debate: Are Christians Suicidal?
Short Paper Three (Evaluation): Due on Blackboard 9 AM.
25 (X-Hour): An Attack on The Law?
Reading: Romans 1-14.
Debate: Is Paul Jewish or the First Christian?
Writing: Draft NT Essay Due on Blackboard 9 AM.
26: Celibacy and Marriage in Christianity.
Reading: 1 Corinthians.
Debate: Does Christianity Denigrate Marriage?
Oct. 29: James and the Politics of Rich and Poor; God is Love.
Reading: James 1-5; 1 John.
Debate: Is Yahweh the God of Love?
31: John and the War of Armageddon.
Reading: Rev. 1-11.
Nov. 1 (X-Hour) John and the Millennium: Heaven Comes Down to Us.
Reading: Rev. 12-22.

Debate: Is Christianity Violent?
Nov. 2, 5, 7, 8, 9: Student Presentations of Term Papers.
12: Revised Term Papers Due on Blackboard 9AM.
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