Yeshiva University Stern College for Women

Introduction to the Bible

Fall 2017, BIBL 1015, CRN 78162

Tuesdays and Thursdays 12:00-1:15PM

Dr. Richard Hidary

email the class

This course will not be a study of any specific book of Tanakh but rather a study of the most important questions about Tanakh as a whole: how was it put together in the form we have it today, how has it been interpreted in the past and today, and what are its most impactful ideas? The background and methodologies gained in this course will hopefully inform and enhance all of your Tanakh studies, both in college and afterwards.


Required book: Moshe Sokolow, Tanakh: An Owners Manual (Ktav, 2015). Amazon, B-N.

Please bring a Tanakh to every class. All other course material will be available for download on the course website:



(1)   Attendance, prompt arrival and class participation are assumed. Anything more than two absences or three lates will lower your grade.

(2)   Preparation and Participation: Homework assignments and quizzes based on readings to prepare may be given throughout the semester. The purpose of these is to make sure you keep up with the preparation. In addition, students will be selected randomly each class to read and explain the required texts. (10%)

(3)   Exams. A midterm (35%) and a final (40%) will assess your grasp and retention of material as well as give the class an opportunity to review and notice patterns that recur through many topics.

(4)  The last 15% of your grade will be a written assignment of 7-8 pages on a topic of your choice relating to something we studied in class. Please approve the topic beforehand. For example, you can choose a biblical passage and compare traditional and modern commentaries and how they deal with the same questions. The paper should cite at least five primary sources (biblical passages or ancient commentaries) and two secondary sources (modern books or articles). Please confirm your topic with me before you start writing. All papers are due on December 14.

Office hours are immediately after class or by appointment in room 523.



Unit I - Creation and Transmission of the Bible

1.         Tuesday, August 31

The Aleppo Codex and Ba`ale Hamesorah

Reading: Hayim Tawil and Bernard Schneider, Crown of Aleppo: The Mystery of the Oldest Hebrew Bible Codex, pp. 15-45.

powerpoint - Aleppo Codex, handout, pictures


2.         Tuesday, September 5

Dates and Historical Overview

powerpoints - Historical Overview

Reading: Lawrence Schiffman, From Text to Tradition: A History of Second Temple and Rabbinic Judaism, 17-59.


3.         Thursday, September 7

The Dead Sea Scrolls and "Lower Criticism"

Jordan Penkower, “The Development of the Masoretic Bible,” in The Jewish Study Bible, pp. 2077-2084.

intro to dead sea scrolls

Biblical Scrolls



4.         Tuesday, September 12 - No class, I will be away at a conference.


5.         Thursday, September 14


Reading: Sokolow, 15-33.

Canonization of Tanakh


6.         Tuesday, September 19

Reading: Sokolow, 34-43.

Authorship of Tehillim Slides 


7.         Tuesday, September 26


Reading: Sokolow, 44-55.

Marc Brettler, “The Canonization of the Bible,” in The Jewish Study Bible, pp. 2072-77.

Sid Leiman, The Canonization of Hebrew Scripture: The Talmudic and Midrashic Evidence, 30-34, 56-66, 86-103, 131-135.

8.         Tuesday, October 17

Reading: Sokolow, 56-85.

Qere and Ketiv


9.         Thursday, October 19

Taamim, and other Massoretic Contributions

10.       Tuesday, October 24

Ketav Ivri - powerpoint


Unit II - Interpreting the Bible

11.       Thursday, October 26

Inner-Biblical Exegesis

The First Commentary: The Bible Interpreting Itself handout



12.       Tuesday, October 31

James Kugel, The Bible as It Was, pp. 1-42.



13.       Thursday, November 2 -

Second Temple Commentaries Handout

Reading: Sokolow, 134-145.



14.       Tuesday, November 7

Midrash Aggadah - Vayikra Rabbah Hebrew

Moshe Shamah, “On Interpreting Midrashim,” General Remarks and Examples.


15.       Thursday, November 9

 - Midterm

review sheet


16.       Tuesday, November 14

Midrash Halakha - 13 Middot, What is Midrash?

Towner, W. Sibley. “Hermeneutical Systems of Hillel and the Tannaim: A Fresh Look.” Hebrew Union College Annual 53 (1983): 101-35.



17.       Thursday, November 16

Richard Hidary, “Talmudic Topoi: The Hermeneutical Methods of Midrash and Greco-Roman Rhetoric.”

Goal of Midrash Halakha

Talmudic Topoi Powerpoint




18.       Tuesday, November 21

Rashi and the Pashtanim


Reading: Sokolow, 86-97.

Barry Walfish, “Medieval Jewish Interpretation” in The Jewish Study Bible, pp. 1876-1900.



19.       Tuesday, November 28

Ibn Ezra and Others

Sokolow, 98-133.



20.       Thursday, November 30

Source Criticism

Reading: Sokolow, 146-156.

Mordechai Breuer, “The Study of Bible and the Primacy of the Fear of Heaven: Compatibility or Contradiction?” in Modern Scholarship in the Study of Torah: Contributions and Limitations, pp. 159-180.


Reading: Hayyin Angel, “The Yeshiva and the Academy: How We Can Learn from One Another in Biblical Scholarship,” in Revealed texts, Hidden Meanings: Finding the Religious Significance in Tanakh, pp. 19-29.

Rabbi J.B. Soloveitchik, The Lonely Man of Faith.




Unit IIIAppreciating the Bible

21.       Tuesday, December 5

What is Prophecy?

Tanakh, Hazal, Rambam, Moreh Nevuchim.




22.       Thursday, November 7

Biblical Law, Ancient Near Eastern Parallels

Reading: Sokolow, 157167.

Barry Eichler, “Study of Bible in Light of Our Knowledge of the Ancient Near East” in Modern Scholarship in the Study of Torah: Contributions and Limitations, pp. 81-100.





23.       Tuesday, December 12

Biblical Narrative

Reading: Robert Alter, “Biblical Type-Scenes and the Use of Convention,” in The Art of Biblical Narrative, 47-62.

Beresheet 12 - Lekh Lekha


David Berger, “On the Morality of the Patriarchs in Jewish Polemical Exegesis,” in Modern Scholarship in the Study of Torah: Contributions and Limitations, pp. 131-146.



24.       Thursday, December 14

Biblical Narrative, Ancient Near Eastern Parallels

Genesis 1 and Enuma Elish

Sea Monsters


25.       Tuesday, Deember 19

No class.


26.       Thursday, December 21

Biblical Poetry

Robert Alter, “The Dynamics of Parallelism,” in The Art of Biblical Poetry, pp. 3-26. - Powerpoint

Mizmorim 9 and 10      Structure - Summary Sheet       Powerpoint Slides

Mizmor 37          Structure - Summary Sheet       Powerpoint Slides



If we have time:

Biblical Prophecy

Reading: Abraham Joshua Heschel, “What Manner of Man is the Prophet?” in The Prophets, pp. 1-36.


Impact of the Bible on the World

Reading: Joshua Berman, Created Equal: How the Bible Broke with Ancient Political Thought, pp. 51-108.


Final – Thursday January 4th at 1:00PM

Final Review sheet

Readings in one pdf.


Students with disabilities who are enrolled in this course and who will be requesting documented disability-related accommodations should make an appointment with the Office of Disability Services, (646) 592-4132,, during the first week of class.  Once you have been approved for accommodations, please submit your accommodation letter to ensure the successful implementation of those accommodations.