Course Summary

Contextualizing the Old Testament

The course deals with archaeology, geography, history, and social life found among the people who dwelt in Mesopotamia, Anatolia, the Levant, and Egypt prior to the coming of Christ. The investigation raises awareness of extra-biblical material and demonstrates the value of the Near East culture to the study of the Old Testament. 3 semester hours of undergraduate credit.  (May not be taken if credit has been earned for BRS 5 Old Testament Backgrounds.)

The course is organized in three modules. The three modules are (1) History of the Ancient Near East, (2) Ancient Near East People Groups, and (3) The Social World of Ancient Israel.


·        Interrelate primary areas to form a portrait of life in the Ancient Near East

·        Demonstrate the contribution of Ancient Near East culture to the study of the Old Testament

·        Evaluate the contributions of archaeology and extra-biblical written sources

Credit.  Credit for the course requires a score of 70% or greater on each of three multiple choice examinations and two essays.  Each of the elements counts 20% of the course grade. A sample exam problem is given below.

How would you evaluate the impact of ancient Near East culture on the faith of Israel? (A) It shaped Israel's faith completely. (B) It contributed significantly, especially to the creation narrative. (C) It had little effect, for no materials have survived prior to Israel's formation. (D) It stood in opposition to the tenets of portrait of God as presented in Israel's covenant with Yahweh.

Resources.  Sufficient reading material may be found in the Electronic Collection without cost to the student.  Internet and other reading of an equivalent amount may be substituted.  The following is recommended if hard copies are preferred.  Internet sources are imbedded within the syllabus; recommended hard copy substitutes include these helpful works: 

Arnold, Bill T. and Brent Strawn (eds.). The World around the Old Testament: The People and Places of the Ancient Near East. Baker Academic, 2016. 560 pages. $36.12 ISBN: 978-0801039188

Matthews, Victor H. and Don C. Benjamin. Social World of Ancient Israel 1250-587 B.C.E. Baker Academic, 2005. 327 pages. $32.32. ISBN: 978-0801047077

Van De Mieroop, Marc. A History of the Ancient Near East ca. 3000-323 B.C. 3rd ed. Wiley-Blackwell, 2015. 424 pages. $42.70 ISBN: 978-1118718162