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Study information

Introduction to the History and Literatures of the Bible

Module titleIntroduction to the History and Literatures of the Bible
Module codeTHE1109
Academic year2023/4
Module staff

Dr Logan Williams (Convenor)

Professor Francesca Stavrakopoulou (Convenor)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks


Number students taking module (anticipated)


Module description

Do you want to know why Adam was created from clay, but Eve was created from Adam? Or why the Ten Commandments had to be rewritten? Do you want to know why the Bible has only four gospels? Or what the book of Revelation is really about? This Level One core Theology and Religion module will introduce you to the Bible’s historical contexts and literary genres (narrative, poetry, gospel, apocalyptic, etc) by focusing on some of its prominent themes, including ideas about creation and destruction, identity and otherness, and the relationship between the human and the divine. The first half of the module will concentrate on the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament, while the second half will be devoted to the New Testament. Designed for students who have little or no knowledge of the Bible, or of the early histories of Judaism and Christianity, the module is suitable for anyone with an interest in the topic, particularly those working  in disciplines such as History, Classics/Ancient History, Liberal Arts, as well as in Theology and Religion. This module will also be of value to those who know the Bible in a devotional or liturgical context, but lack an understanding of its various historical, cultural, and literary contexts. This module is also designed to introduce  two  types of assessments that you will encounter at university – essay writing and text analysis  – and the various strategies that can be adopted when facing them. 

Module aims - intentions of the module

This module aims to:

  • introduce the historical and cultural contexts in which the biblical texts were written
  • introduce various literary types found within the Jewish scriptures and the Christian Bible
  • explore some of the Bible’s key themes and religious preferences  
  • consider how texts became authoritative
  • develop core academic skills in essay writing and text analysis

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 1. Demonstrate, with guidance, a basic knowledge and understanding of the socio-historical and religious settings and genres of the biblical texts in the Hebrew Bible and New Testament
  • 2. Interpret biblical texts, with guidance, in light of their literary and historical contexts

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 3. Begin, with guidance, to employ a variety of complementary methods of study: historical-critical; socio-religious; literary; theological etc.
  • 4. Make guided use of a diversity of primary and secondary sources;

ILO: Personal and key skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 5. Communicate information, including one’s own evaluative judgements, in a written form
  • 6. Demonstrate the ability to summarise information accurately and fairly
  • 7. Engage in discussion, presenting one’s own ideas clearly and showing understanding of others’.

Syllabus plan

Whilst the content may vary from year to year, it is envisioned that it will cover some or all of the following topics:

  • ancient myths about creation, flood, and the distant past
  • identity, politics, and power within the context of changing empires (from the neo-Assyrians to the Romans) the significance of Jerusalem and its temple prophets, priests, kings, and messiahs  
  • the history and literature of formative/early Judaism (including the Dead Sea Scrolls)
  • the beginnings of Christianity, as evidenced in the New Testament and related Jewish writings.
  • early Jewish and Christain traditions about the idealised future

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled Learning and Teaching22Lectures
Scheduled Learning and Teaching11Seminars
Guided Independent Study117Private Study

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Analysis1000 words1-6Written feedback

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Essay501.5 hours1-6Written comments
Analysis401000 words1-6Written comments
Wikis10 5 x 100 words1-4, 7Cohort feedback and marksheet

Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
EssayEssay (as above)1-6Referral/deferral period
AnalysisAnalysis (as above)1-6Referral/deferral period
WikisWikis (as above)1-4, 7Referral/deferral period

Re-assessment notes

Deferral – if you miss an assessment for certificated reasons judged acceptable by the Mitigation Committee, you will normally be either deferred in the assessment or an extension may be granted. The mark given for a re-assessment taken as a result of deferral will not be capped and will be treated as it would be if it were your first attempt at the assessment.

Referral – if you have failed the module overall (i.e. a final overall module mark of less than 40%) you will be required to submit a further assessment as necessary. If you are successful on referral, your overall module mark will be capped at 40%.

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

  • John Barton, A History of the Bible (London: Allen Lane, 2019)
  • John J. Collins, Introduction to the Hebrew Bible (third edition; Fortress Press, 2018)
  • Dale B. Martin, New Testament History and Literature (Yale University Press, 2012)

Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

Key words search

Bible; Judaism; Christianity; antiquity; religious history; ancient Near East

Credit value15
Module ECTS


Module pre-requisites


Module co-requisites


NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date