Religious Studies 2DD3
The Five Books of Moses
McMaster University, Fall 2004
Lectures: Mondays and Wednesdays, 10:30-11:20, TSH/B106
Tutorial I: Fridays, 11:30-12:20, JHE/326H; Tutorial II: Fridays, 13:30-14:20, BSB/106
Instructor - Dr. Annette Y. Reed
Email -
Phone - 905-525-9140 ext. 24597
Office hours – UH 110; Wednesdays 11:30–12:30

Teaching Assistants
Susan Wendel, , UH B-120
Robert Lockey,

Course Requirements | Required Readings | Schedule of Assignments | Printable Syllabus

The first five books of the Bible—Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy—have had a formative influence on ideas about God, humankind, and the cosmos, as well as understandings of ethics, family, history, and nationhood, in Judaism, Christianity, and Western culture more broadly. Termed the Torah in Jewish tradition and the Pentateuch in Christian tradition, these books contain some of the most familiar and famous biblical tales, alongside laws and precepts that shaped Jewish and Christian views of piety and proper ritual practice. At the same time, these books provide precious evidence of the history, religion, and culture of ancient Israel. As such, their study opens a window onto the specific socio-historical circumstances that shaped the words that Jews and Christians would come to cherish as divine Scripture. In this course, we will read through the entirety of these five books. Approaching them from an academic perspective, we shall trace the processes by which these texts came to be formed and consider the multiple socio-historical contexts that informed them, while also analyzing their narrative structures and meaning in their present form.

Course Requirements

  • Attendance & participation (10%) – It is imperative that students attend the Lectures and weekly Tutorials. Not only will attendance and participation count for 10% of the final grade, but Lectures will cover material not treated in the textbooks, for which students will be responsible in the Quizzes and on the Final Exam. Tutorial sessions will focus on close readings of key selections from the assigned biblical texts; detailed knowledge of these selections will be assumed in the Lectures and on the Exam. Make sure to have read the assigned passages prior to attending Lectures and Tutorials and to bring your Bibles to both!

  • Quizzes (30%) – Three in-class quizzes (20-30 min. each) will consist of identification questions and test knowledge of the biblical sources as well as key concepts from the supplementary readings in Friedman and Blenkinsopp. They are scheduled for October 6th (Genesis), October 25th (Exodus), and November 22nd (Leviticus & Numbers).

  • Short Paper (25%) – Due November 1st, the paper will be a short (3-5 pp.) source-critical analysis of a passage from the assigned readings, discussed with reference to Lectures and assigned readings as well as scholarly commentaries. These commentaries will be placed on reserve at Mills. Paper Guidelines

  • Final Exam (35%) – The final exam will consist of identification questions spanning all the material covered in the course, together with 2-3 essay questions.

    Required Readings

    The following books are required for this course. They are available for purchase at Titles and have been placed on Reserve at Mills:

  • HarperCollins Study Bible (NRSV Translation), Society of Biblical Literature, 1993. Acceptable alternatives include the Oxford Study Bible: Revised English Bible with Apocrypha (Oxford UP, 1992), Tanakh: A New Translation of the Holy Scriptures According to the Traditional Hebrew Text (Jewish Publication Society, 1985), and The Jewish Study Bible: Tanakh Translation, Torah, Neviim, Kethuvim (Oxford UP, 2003). Students who wish to use another biblical translation should consult with the instructor in the first weeks of class.

  • Richard Friedman, Who Wrote the Bible? San Francisco: HarperCollins, 1997.

  • Joseph Blenkinsopp, The Pentateuch: An Introduction to the First Five Books of the Bible, New York: Doubleday, 1992.

    Statement on Academic Dishonesty

    Academic dishonesty consists of misrepresentation by deception or by other fraudulent means and can result in serious consequences, e.g. the grade of zero on an assignment, loss of credit with a notion on the transcript (notation reads: “Grade of F assigned for academic dishonesty”), and/or suspension or expulsion from the university. It is your responsibility to understand what constitutes academic dishonesty. For information on the various kinds of academic dishonesty please refer to the Academic Integrity Policy, specifically Appendix 3.

    The following illustrates only three forms of academic dishonesty: (1) Plagiarism, e.g. the submission of work that is not one's own or for which other credit has been obtained. (2) Improper collaboration in group work. (3) Copying or using unauthorized aids in tests and examinations.

    Please be aware that Plagiarism includes quoting and paraphrasing other people’s writings or ideas – whether from a book, commentary, website, etc. – without proper citation of the author, book, URL, or so on. I cannot stress this enough: whenever in doubt, always add a reference (whether in a footnote or in parentheses in the body of your paper) making clear the source of your information!

    Schedule of Assignments

    Monday, September 13 – Introductory Comments

    Wednesday, September 15 – Approaches to Studying the Pentateuch
    Friedman, pp. 15-49; Blenkinsopp, pp. 31-53
    Class Handout
    Additional resources:
    P—Understanding the Priestly Source, BR 12:03, Jun 1996 By Victor Hurowitz (McMaster only)
    Scholars Face Off Over Age of Biblical Stories, BR 10:04, Aug 1994 By Richard Elliott Friedman and John Van Seters (McMaster only)
    The Documentary Hypothesis in Trouble, BR 1:04, Fall 1985 By Joseph Blenkinsopp (McMaster only)

    Monday, September 20 – Creation of the Cosmos and Humankind
    Genesis 1-3
    Friedman, pp. 50-53; Blenkinsopp, pp. 12-28, 54-71
    Class Handout
    Additional resources:
    Eve and Adam, BR 4:03, Jun 1988 By Pamela J. Milne (McMaster only)

    Wednesday, September 22 – Earliest Human History
    Genesis 4-11
    Friedman, pp. 53-61; Blenkinsopp, pp. 71-97
    Class Handout; Chart
    Additional resources:
    When the Sons of God Cavorted with the Daughters of Men, BR 3:02, Spring 1987 By Ronald S. Hendel (McMaster only)
    The Sources of Genesis 1–11 According to the Documentary Hypothesis, BR 1:04, Fall 1985 (McMaster only)
    Disentangling the Sources of the Flood Story (Genesis 6:1–9:29) According to the Documentary Hypothesis, BR 1:04, Fall 1985 (McMaster only)
    What the Babylonian Flood Stories Can and Cannot Teach Us About the Genesis Flood, BAR 4:04, Nov/Dec 1978 By Tikva Frymer-Kensky (McMaster only)

    Monday, September 27 – Abraham Cycle
    Genesis 11:26-25:11
    Blenkinsopp, pp. 98-133
    Class Handout; Chart
    Additional resources:
    The Patriarchal Age: Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, Ancient Israel, 1999 By Ronald S. Hendel and P. Kyle McCarter Jr. (McMaster only)
    Hagar’s Expulsion—A Tale Twice-Told in Genesis, BR 2:04, Fall 1986 By Zefira Gitay (McMaster only)

    Wednesday, September 29 – Jacob Cycle
    Genesis 25:11-36:42
    Friedman, pp. 62-69
    Class Handout
    Additional resources:
    Deception for Deception, BR 2:01, Winter 1986 By Richard Elliott Friedman (McMaster only)
    The Patriarch Jacob—An “Innocent Man”, BR 2:01, Winter 1986 By Carl D. Evans (McMaster only)

    Monday, October 4 – Joseph Story
    Genesis 37-50
    Blenkinsopp, pp. 134-160
    Class Handout
    Additional resources:
    Excavating the Tribe of Reuben, BAR 27:02, Mar/Apr 2001 (McMaster only)
    Dreamer, Schemer, Slave and Prince, BR 14:02, Apr 1998 By Arnold Ages (McMaster only)

    Wednesday, October 6 – Israel in Egypt
    Exodus 1-6
    **QUIZ 1 (GENESIS)**

    Monday, October 11 –Thanksgiving; no class

    Wednesday, October 13 – Plagues, Passover, and the Exodus
    Exodus 7:1-15:21
    Class Handout
    Friedman, pp. 150-73

    Monday, October 18 – Law and Covenant
    Exodus 15:22-24:18
    Class Handout
    Class Handout #2
    Blenkinsopp, pp. 183-209

    Wednesday, October 20 – Tabernacle, Golden Calf, and Renewal of Covenant
    Exodus 25-40
    Class Handout
    Class Handout #2
    Friedman, pp. 173-206

    Monday, October 25 – Sacrifice
    Leviticus 1-7
    ** QUIZ #2 (EXODUS)**
    Class Handout

    Wednesday, October 27 – Priestly Ordination
    Leviticus 8-10
    Blenkinsopp, pp. 220-23
    Class Handout

    Monday, November 1 – Purity and Impurity
    Leviticus 11-16
    **PAPER DUE**
    Class Handout

    Wednesday, November 3 – The Holiness Code
    Leviticus 17-27
    Blenkinsopp, pp. 223-25
    Class Handout

    Monday, November 8 – Preparations for Departure to Sinai
    Numbers 1:1-10:10
    Blenkinsopp, pp. 160-182
    Class Handout

    Wednesday, November 10 – From Sinai to Kadesh
    Numbers 10:10-20:21
    Friedman, pp. 207-33
    Class Handout

    Monday, November 15 – From Kadesh to Moab
    Numbers 20:22-36:13
    Blenkinsopp, pp. 229-242
    Class Handout
    Class Handout #2

    Wednesday, November 17 – Remembering the Past
    Deuteronomy 1:1-4:40
    Friedman, pp. 89-100
    Class Handout

    Monday, November 22 –

    Wednesday, November 24 – Looking forward to the Future
    Deuteronomy 4:41-11:32
    Friedman, pp. 101-149
    Class Handout #2

    Monday, November 29 – Laws
    Deuteronomy 12-26
    Blenkinsopp, pp. 209-20
    Class Handout

    Wednesday, December 1 – Blessings, Curses, and the Death of Moses
    Deuteronomy 27:1-34:12
    Friedman, pp. 234-45
    Class Handout

    FINAL EXAM – December 11, 4pm Study Guide

  • Religious Studies 2DD3 - The Five Books of Moses - A. Y. Reed - 2004
    Top of Page | Course Requirements | Required Readings |Schedule of Assignments | Printable Syllabus
    McMaster University | Dept. of Religious Studies