Daniel Machiella Syllabus

Psalms and Wisdom Literature

THEO 60108 ::: Summer 2013

                                                                                          Instructor: Daniel Machiela      E-mail: machiel@mcmaster.ca

Meeting time: Monday through Friday 3:15-5:55

Place: 203 DeBartolo Hall

COURSE INFORMATION

Course description:

The Old Testament/Hebrew Bible contains a rich array of Israel’s sacred literature, attesting to an equally rich, complex relationship with her God. In this course, we will explore together the book of Psalms and a varied collection of writings typically gathered under the heading “Wisdom Literature.” This category includes the books of Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs, and Job, as well as the deuterocanonical books of Ecclesiasticus (or Sirach) and Wisdom of Solomon. The Psalms have always held a central place in Jewish and Christian liturgy and theology, giving voice to the spiritual life of Israel and her descendants. The wisdom writings reflect profound worldviews by addressing life’s everyday matters and problems. Our time will be spent doing close readings of these texts, paying attention to their historical and literary dimensions, their reception and interpretation in the early Church (and Synagogue), and their ongoing significance for religious life today.

Course Assessment:

Group discussion and presentation over the three weeks of the course will figure significantly in my course assessments. We will be reading widely, wrestling with and talking about these texts from a variety of vantage points, and your engagement in that process is highly valued. Consequently, I will allot 35% of the final assessment to your participation in our sessions together. This will not be based simply on how much you speak in class, but on the quality of your reading and reflection on the course material.

The remaining 70% of your assessment will be based on two components: First, on three short written assignments of approximately 5 pages, in which you will evaluate and engage with various interpreters (ancient and/or modern) of the texts being discussed (45% total; 15% per assignment). This could include, for example, a short essay on Gregory of Nyssa’s Treatise on the Inscriptions of the Psalms, Hermann Gunkel’s critical methods, or Rashi’s Psalms commentary. Finally, there will be a written or oral final examination, worth 20%. In summary, the main components of the assessment are:

Participation in class sessions:        35%

Short essays:                                     45% (3 @ 15% each)

Final:                                                  20%

Required Texts:

  1. The Catholic Study Bible (NAB trans.; Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1990 or newer)
  2. Robert Alter, The Art of Biblical Poetry (New York: Basic Books, 1987)
  3. We will also read widely in other literature related to the Psalms and Wisdom Literature. Readings will be placed on e-reserves for easy access and use.

TENTATIVE SCHEDULE

Date                                                  Description/Assignment

17 June

Monday

Psalms, Session 1: Introduction to the course and Book of Psalms as a canonical collection

Assigned reading for next class:

 

18 June

Tuesday

Psalms, Session 2: Psalms as individual units (part 1)

Assigned reading for next class:

 

19 June

Wednesday

Psalms, Session 3: Psalms as individual units (part 2)

Assigned reading for next class:

 

20 June

Thursday

Psalms, Session 4: Smaller groupings of individual psalms

Assigned reading for next class:

 

21 June

Friday

Psalms, Session 5: The Psalms as a book (part 1)

Assigned reading for next class:

 

24 June

Monday

Psalms, Session 6: The Psalms as a book (part 2)

Assigned reading for next class:

 

25 June

Tuesday

Psalms, Session 7: Patristic, Rabbinic, and subsequent interpretation

Assigned reading for next class:

 

26 June

Wednesday

General introduction to Wisdom Literature; Proverbs, Session 1: Background to the book and its composition

Assigned reading for next class:

 

27 June

Thursday

Proverbs, Session 2: Interpretive traditions and the grouping of Proverbs-Ecclesiastes-Song of Songs

Assigned reading for next class:

 

28 Oct.

Friday

Ecclesiastes

Assigned reading for next class:

 

1 July

Monday

Song of Songs

Assigned reading for next class:

 

2 July

Tuesday

Job, Session 1

Assigned reading for next class:

 

3 July

Wednesday

Job, Session 2

Assigned reading for next class:

 

4 July

Thursday

Independence Day: NO CLASS

 

5 July

Friday

Soundings in the Deuterocanon: Ecclesiaticus (Sirach) and Wisdom of Solomon

Assigned reading for next class: