ENG 730                                THE BIBLE AND LITERATURE              T/Th 8:00-9:40

Fall 2003                                                                                                         henry.limouze@wright.edu


Erasmus of Rotterdam, Father of modern Bible translation


Recommended Texts:



Bible, King James Version.  World Bible Pub. Co.  Amazon: $3.99


Required Texts:




Comments on the Bible:  Any edition of the “King James” or “Authorized Version” (AV) of the Bible will do.  If you have an old one, that will be adequate.  I strongly recommend the Oxford World’s Classics edition of the AV listed above, since it is a complete reprinting of the original including the Apocrypha, which are almost always omitted from other editions.  It also includes Miles Smith’s introduction to the translation, “The Translators to the Reader,” which is never reprinted in other editions of AV.  Finally, it has a useful introduction, notes, and glossary.  However, if you need to save money, an inexpensive edition like the World Publishing Co. paperback will do.


Warning:  Avoid any version of the Bible that calls itself a “New King James Version” or “King James 2000” or any “Revised,” “Modernized,” or “Normalized” King James Versions like the plague!  These editions pretend to keep the AV language, but they change, simplify, modernize, and retranslate without giving you any sense of what words and phrases came from 1611 and what came from 1995  For the same reason, avoid the Scofield Reference Bible, which purports to give you the AV language, but actually makes significant changes in diction, usually putting the original 1611 word in a footnote.  While it is true that modern editions of the AV (including the World’s Classics text) are all to some extent changed, they simply modernize spelling.  The important thing to have is a copy of the AV as close as possible to the original.


Tyndale’s New Testament:  William Tyndale’s translation is the first in the line of sixteenth-century English translations that would culminate in the AV.  Tyndale translated the NT (twice), but he was executed before he could finish the OT.  Furthermore, his OT books are not currently available in an affordable paperback.  Daniell’s excellent edition of the NT is an optional text for this class.  Be aware, however, that ALL of Tyndale’s translations, along with all the other early English Bibles, are available (in original spelling) on an Ohiolink website.  Daniell’s edition has the enormous advantage of having modernized and regularized spelling.


Other Bibles:  This is not a class on the writing, assemblage, history, or interpretation of the Bible.  Those of you interested in these questions may wish to have a good reference Bible in an accurate modern translation.  There are several available, but I personally recommend The HarperCollins Study Bible, ed. Wayne A. Meeks, Jouette M. Bassler, et al., (New York: HarperCollins, 1993).  This edition uses the excellent NRSV of the Bible, and it contains very useful introductions and notes on each book.  It will give you a start in understanding when individual books were written and how they relate to their cultural and historical contexts.


Other Books:  The other texts above are convenient, well-edited, and usually annotated modern editions of the books we will read.  You may use your own copy of any of these.  But be sure that the text is the same: for example, there are “children’s editions” of Robinson Crusoe that should not be used.  The text of Blake’s Marriage of Heaven and Hell is widely available, but the inexpensive edition I have ordered includes all the illustrations from the original illuminated book.  Finally, the editions of Milton and Defoe I have selected include valuable ancillary material including critical essays. 


Online Resources:  There are enormously rich and valuable internet resources for the study of the Bible.  Ohiolink has The Bible in English, which contains the complete text of all significant English Bible translations up through the AV.  There are several searchable Bibles on the internet, at least one of which lets you search different translations.  Furthermore, you can also find on the internet complete and (as far as I can tell) reliable editions of Milton’s Paradise Lost, Blake’s Marriage of Heaven and Hell (with full illuminations and commentary), the narrative and writings of Sojourner Truth, and Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s The Woman’s Bible.  I do not know about Bunyan and Defoe only because I have not looked for them.  If you are willing to spend the necessary time at the computer, you would be able to do much of the required reading for this course online.  Since we will meet in a computer classroom, we will be exploring some of these resources in our class.



Course Schedule:


9/9       Introduction to course


9/11    Psalms  Translation Comparison Exercise Due


9/16    Pentateuch (Genesis, Exodus, Numbers, Deuteronomy)


9/18    History & Prophets (Judges, Ruth, 1 & 2 Samuel, 1 & 2 Kings, Isaiah, Jeremiah)


9/23    Writings (Job, Jonah, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, selections from Apocrypha);

start Christian Scripture (Mark)


9/25    Christian Scripture (Matthew 5-7, Luke, John, Acts, Romans, Corinthians,

Galatians, Philippians, Ephesians, Revelation)  Typology Exercise Due


9/30    Milton, Paradise Lost                                   Presentation 1


10/2    PL                                                                    Presentation 2


10/7    PL                                                                   Presentation 3


10/9    PL                   Translation and Poetry Exercise Due


10/14  Bunyan, Pilgrim’s Progress                     Presentation 4


10/16  PP                                                                 Presentation 5


10/21  Defoe, Robinson Crusoe                             Presentation 6


10/23  RC                  AV Echoes Exercise Due


10/28  Blake, Marriage of Heaven and Hell           Presentation 7


10/30  Marriage                                                         Presentation 8


11/4    Narrative of Sojourner Truth                         Presentation 9


11/6    Stanton, The Woman’s Bible                         Presentation 10


11/11  Holiday—Veterans’ Day


11/13  The Bible and the language of liberation:   King (and here), Jefferson, Lincoln (and here).

                        Seminar Paper Due


Final examination Due:  November 20, 2003





Four exercises, each about 1-2 pages in length                                            10%


  1. Psalm translation comparison (9/11):  study, compare, and discuss at least three of the early English translations of one Psalm.  Choose from:  Coverdale’s Bible (easier to access if you use “Matthew’s Bible”), The Great Bible, The Bishops’ Bible, The Geneva Bible, Douai/Rheims (numbering will differ), AV.  Choose one of the following Psalms:  2, 8, 14, 19, 22, 24, 40, 42, 46, 58, 77, 98, 137, 139


  1. Typology exercise (9/25):  study and compare a New Testament echo of an Old Testament action, pattern, character or motif.  The many echoes between the Hebrew and Christian scriptures were explained in terms of the theory of biblical typology, and the Hebrew scriptures were usually seen as foreshadowing the Christian truth.  See “typology” in the glossary.


  1. Translation and poetry (10/9):  study any one of the many passages in which Milton directly quotes or echoes the bible in PL.  Discuss the similarities and differences between Milton’s version and the AV, and evaluate the significance of the echo.  (Check to see if Milton was using an earlier translation, which is possible but has not really been demonstrated.)


  1. AV echoes (10/23): analyze the way Bunyan or Defoe echoes and uses the language of AV in a passage from PP or RC


Class Presentation, about 15-20 minutes in length                                      20%


Give a presentation in which you discuss an important way in which the assigned literature for the day echoes or relates to the bible.  Make your presentation clear, coherent, well researched, and concise.


Online discussion group                                                                                     10%


I have created an electronic discussion group for this class. To use it, you must have an email address (not necessarily a WSU email address) and must be able to send and receive email.  The discussion group is set up with your WSU email address as a "default."  All messages sent to the distribution list will go to all members of the class.


If you would prefer to use another email address instead of (or along with) your WSU address, you must give that address to me.  I can add any new address to the list.  If you want to use your WSU email account but need assistance or instructions on how to access it, please see the CATS help desk in the library basement (775-4827).  I strongly encourage you to begin using your Wright State email account!


Use the discussion group to converse with your classmates about the reading and discussion, to respond to my questions, to note relationships among readings, to raise your own questions or concerns, to argue points we can't always get to in class, or to alert the rest of us to an interesting find in your outside reading.  You can also quote a passage from one of the week's readings and frame your own discussion around it.


In order to receive a grade of C for discussion group participation you will need to make FOUR substantive postings. A grade of B requires SIX substantive postings, while a grade of A requires EIGHT substantive postings.  A "substantive posting" will raise and comment in depth on a new issue for discussion or it will respond in depth to an ongoing discussion.  It will be at least a paragraph in length (usually four or more complete sentences), and it must address the general subject of the Bible and literature.


Do not put your participation off until the end of the quarter.  I will count no more than two entries in each of the final three weeks of the course, so if you want an A for the discussion group section of the course, you will need to post at least two substantive messages during weeks one through seven.  Start early and post often!


Final Examination                                                                                                  20%


An essay examination, due November 20


Seminar Paper (9-12 pages minimum)                                                             40%


A graduate-level seminar paper, combining critical insight with any necessary supporting research, due November 13.  The paper must be correctly formatted following the latest edition of the MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers.  The paper must be on some aspect of the Bible and its relation to one of the works of literature assigned for this class.



Other factors affecting grade


Although I have not specifically listed “Attendance” or “Participation” among the requirements for this course, they are both implied in several of the other requirements and attendance can count in a negative way.  This TTh class meets only 19 times during this quarter.  Thus, if you miss only two classes, you miss more than 10% of the course.  In any discussion class, your fellow students miss something when you are not there.  Therefore, I will enforce the following policy on attendance:


One to three absences                                 No penalty

            Four to six absences                                    Final grade drops one letter grade

            Seven or more absences                             F for course


Note that attendance means “attendance for the whole class.”  If you arrive or leave during class you disrupt it, and you will be marked absent.


Other policies


Late work will be accepted, with the following provisions:


For written work due during the quarter: one point will be deducted from the grade for each weekday it is late, up to ten points.  After 10 days, the grade will be F. 


For the final paper: five points will be deducted for each weekday it is late. 


For the final exam: ten points deducted for one day late.  F thereafter.


Academic honesty is essential to the fair and successful conduct of class, and dishonesty will be punished.  Dishonesty includes various kinds of cheating,  "plagiarism" (defined as the use of the words or ideas of another as if they were your own), and the submission of a single assignment for credit in two classes without permission of both instructors.  Penalties for academic dishonesty can be severe; in most cases the work will receive a grade of zero and the plagiarist will be reported to the university’s Office of Judicial Affairs.  To avoid plagiarism, be sure to document all uses of the words or ideas of another writer.  If you are not sure about the status of what you are doing, ask.


Electronic devices (beepers, cell phones, walkmen, etc.) should normally be turned off at the door.  If you have a situation where you must wait for a call, please let me know.


INSTRUCTOR:        Henry Limouze                     

            Phone:          775-2093 (my desk); 775-3136 (office)

            Office:            470 Millett

Hours:           MWF12-1; TTh 2-4  and by appointment

            Email:            <henry.limouze@wright.edu>


Glossary of Terms and Abbreviations:


Apocalypse  The Greek word for “unveiling” or “Revelation.”  It is the alternate title of the “Book of Revelation,” the last book in the Christian Scriptures.  Do not confuse this with Apocrypha. 


Apocrypha   Works of doubtful or uncertain authorship or authenticity.  The term refers to books of scripture that have not universally been accepted as canonical.  The largest and most well known group of “Apocrypha” are books written by Jews late in the Hellenistic period, after most of the canonical works of Hebrew scripture had been produced.  These books appear in the Greek translation of scripture, the Septuagint, but they did not survive (or exist) in Hebrew texts.  Some were originally written in Greek and Aramaic.  Examples: “Ecclesiasticus” (or The Wisdom of Jesus, Son of Sirach); The Wisdom of Solomon; The Book of Baruch; and the historical books of Maccabees (chronicling the Jewish revolt against Greek conquerors).  Less well known and more recent apocryphal books include works discovered among the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Gnostic-inspired “Gospel of Thomas” discovered in Egypt in 1945.  The traditional Jewish apocrypha were included in all Catholic and Protestant Bibles until the seventeenth century and included in most Bibles until the nineteenth century.  In Catholic Bibles these are called “Deuterocanonical” books.


Authorship  Traditional belief holds that the bible was inspired by God.  The Law was given directly to Moses by Yahweh.  Hebrew and Christian tradition ascribed the Pentateuch to Moses (since Deuteronomy describes his death and burial, this seems unlikely).  Later, the Prophets claimed divine inspiration.  The identity of the actual “authors” of different sections of scripture is a much more complicated and mysterious question.  Scholarly hypotheses like the Documentary Hypothesis ascribe parts of books to unnamed authors or groups of authors.  It is possible that books of prophets like Jeremiah and Isaiah go back to the prophets themselves, but they may have been written by schools of prophets working in the name and tradition of Jeremiah and Isaiah.  Actual authorship in ancient times is much more liberally interpreted than it is today.  In the early Christian era, actual letters written by Paul (Romans, Galatians, 1 Corinthians, Philippians) were supplemented by letters written in Paul’s name by later persons working in the Pauline tradition (Ephesians, Colossians, Timothy).  What today would be a scandalous deception was openly practiced and understood.  Other Christian books (e.g. the Gospels) were ascribed to persons like Mark and Matthew by later tradition.  Possibly they were written by these persons, but it is equally likely that they derived from oral and written sources, some of which may have been associated with Mark and Matthew.  (One intriguing early tradition is that the gospel of Mark, the shortest and earliest, actually transcribes stories Peter told during his final years in Rome.)  Late works like the Gospel of John and the Revelation of John seem likely to have been written by an early Christian “school” associated with oral traditions about the Apostle John.


Authorized Version  The “King James Version” of the bible, ordered by James in 1605 and printed in 1611.  While there is no surviving record of its having officially been “authorized” by the King or the government, the original title page indicates it was “appointed to be read in churches.”  It remained the standard English translation of the bible from the late seventeenth century until the early twentieth century.


AV  The “Authorized Version.”


Canaan   The area settled by the early Hebrew people, according to legends recorded in the Pentateuch.  Moses’ “land of milk and honey.”  Later it was the site of the united kingdom of David and Solomon and the divided kingdoms of Israel and Judah.  After the fall of Jerusalem, exiles returned to this area and founded historical Judaism.


Canon (or canonical books)   The books of the bible established as having special authority, as being part of the biblical “canon.”  These do not include the Apocrypha for most Christians and Jews.  The canons of both the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures were established over a long period of time.  After the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 CE, it became important for Jewish communities to find an alternative to worship and sacrifice in the Jerusalem Temple.  The role of the synagogue as a local place to read and study the scripture became central to the survival of Judaism.  Thus, Jewish scholars at the Council of Jamnia (90 CE) had to determine what the real scriptures were.  These and later scholars included the scriptures written in Hebrew that appeared to be older and represent more ancient traditions, and they rejected the scriptures written in Greek that clearly dated from more recent times.  (Oddly, the very late book of Daniel was included in the canon, while important wisdom books like Ecclesiasticus and Wisdom of Solomon were relegated to the Apocrypha.)  The canon of the Christian scriptures were similarly established over time.  Lists of books and letters by early Christian fathers show the scriptures were in flux over several centuries.  A few rejected scriptures (like the Gospel of Thomas) still exist or have been recovered.  They shed an interesting light on thinking in early Christian times.


Divisions of the Bible  The obvious division of the Christian bible is that between the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament) and the Christian Scriptures (New Testament).  Jews divide the Hebrew Scriptures into the Law, the Prophets, and the Writings (Jesus refers to “the law and the prophets.”)  Christians tend to divide their scriptures into the Gospels (with Acts as an adjunct to Luke), the Epistles, and Revelation.  The Epistles are sometimes subdivided into those addressed to particular churches (e.g. Romans, Corinthians) and the “Catholic” or general epistles addressed to the entire church.


Documentary Hypothesis  The idea, first argued by Wellhausen and widely accepted today, that the books of the Pentateuch can be shown to have been written or assembled by four distinct writers (or groups of writers): J (or the Yahwist), E (or the Elohist), P (the Priestly source), and D (the Deuteronomic source, mostly responsible for the later book Deuteronomy).  The most famous example of this hypothesis in action is the well known analysis of the multiple differing stories of creation in Genesis.  The Priestly writer has God creating the world in seven days, beginning with light.  Then the Yahwist tells how Yahweh created Adam from dust.  The two different narratives (or different oral traditions) were fused when the book was written down.  (Similar conflicting narratives can be found in the story of Noah and the flood.)  Though the overall view is accepted, the different strands of narrative are in practice remarkably difficult to unravel. 


Geneva Bible  The great translation of the bible produced by English-speaking scholars working in Geneva, published in 1560.  The translation was the most scholarly and accurate that had been produced up until that time.  Its notes were unabashedly Puritan, and became more so in subsequent editions.  This was the most widely used bible among Puritans throughout the seventeenth century; there are records of its use as late as the 1670s.  The Plymouth colonists carried the Geneva Bible with them.  Even more remarkably, some of the AV translators used the Geneva Bible throughout their careers in their sermons and writings, even after the AV was complete.  The AV introduction, “The Translators to the Reader,” written by Miles Smith, consistently quotes the Geneva translation, not AV.


Gospels  The four books of the Christian scriptures that describe the life and teachings of Jesus: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.  Of these, Mark is the shortest and earliest.  Matthew and Luke are based upon Mark.  These three are called the “synoptic” gospels.  John is an altogether different book, focusing on many stories and teachings not recorded in the other three.  It is thought to be the latest.


Israel  The Northern Kingdom which split from the Southern Kingdom of Judah after the death of Solomon and the end of the united Kingdom.  Its capital was Samaria.  It fell to the Assyrians in 721 BCE.


J  The abbreviation used to identify the author (or tradition) that produced the “J” strand of narrative in the Pentateuch.  The letter is used because the writer calls God “Yahweh” (Ger. “Jahweh”), using the divine name first first given to Moses in Exodus.  See Documentary Hypothesis.


Judah  The Southern Kingdom into which the united Kingdom was divided after the death of Solomon.  Its capital was Jerusalem.  It fell to the Babylonians in 586 BCE.  Then the Persians conquered the Babylonian empire.  In 539 BCE the new Persian ruler Cyrus issued an edict allowing captive peoples to return to their homelands.  A number of exiles from Judah returned to Jerusalem and the surrounding areas, rebuilt the city and the temple, and established historical Jewish worship.


KJV  “King James Version” or AV


Law  The “Torah,” or Law of Moses, contained in the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Hebrew Scriptures.  The Law includes the ten commandments, but it also includes the many rules governing diet, sabbath, sexual relationships, and social responsibilities contained in the books of Leviticus and Numbers, among other places.  The Law was one of the three main divisions Jews used as they describe the Hebrew scriptures.  The other divisions are the Prophets and the Writings.


LXX  The Roman numeral that signifies “seventy.”  It refers to the Septuagint, the great Greek translation of the Hebrew scriptures completed at Alexandria in Egypt around 250 BCE.  The translation was supposed to have been completed by seventy learned scholars.


New Testament  The common term for the Christian scriptures, mostly written between 70 and 120 CE, that record the life of Jesus and the establishment of the early Christian churches.  The name refers to the “new covenant” established between God and humanity by means of Jesus’ sacrifice.


NT  New Testament.


Old Testament  The common Christian term for the Hebrew scriptures, written over a period of several hundred years (and representing oral and literary traditions going back more than a thousand years), which record the relationship of Israel with the god Yahweh.  The name refers to the Christian idea that the Jews lived in an “old covenant” with God, which was to be replaced by the “new covenant” of Christ.  The term is not used by most Jews, and the neutral terms “Hebrew scriptures” and “Christian scriptures” are more accurate as well as more sensitive.


OT  Old Testament.


Pentateuch  The first five books of the bible, also known as the “five books of Moses.”  These contain the Law and they also contain the early narratives about the creation, the patriarchs, the captivity in Egypt, the exodus, the wanderings in the desert, and the approach to the Promised Land.  The books are Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. 


Prophets  The second traditional division of the Hebrew scriptures (the others are the Law and the Writings).  The prophets include the books by writers like Jeremiah, Isaiah, and Amos.


Q  The hypothetical source (from German “Quelle,” meaning source) of portions of the gospels of Matthew and Luke that those books share with each other, but not with Mark.  The standard hypothesis about the composition of the gospels is that Mark is the earliest.  Matthew and Luke both used Mark, among other sources.  At various points, however, Matthew and Luke echo each other in texts that have no source in Mark.  Scholars hypothesize the existence of a lost collection of the “sayings” of Jesus, which they call “Q.”  Several have attempted to reconstruct this lost book, but such attempts are extremely uncertain and probably unreliable.


RSV  The Revised Standard Version of the bible, the most successful attempt by American protestant churches to update the AV, completed in 1952.  NRSV refers to the New Revised Standard Version, a revision of the RSV completed in 1989.


Septuagint  The great Greek translation of the Hebrew scriptures completed at Alexandria in Egypt by Greek-speaking Jewish scholars around 250 BCE.  The translation was supposed to have been completed by seventy learned scholars. 


Talmud  The body of extensive rabbinical commentary on the Torah, produced over hundreds of years by Jewish scholars in Palestine and the diaspora.  The Talmud contains interpretations of the Law and applications of it to specific instances.


Torah  The “teaching” or Law of Moses, contained in the first five books of Hebrew Scripture (the Pentateuch).  In later Jewish spirituality and mysticism the Torah is more than simply teaching or law—it is God’s greatest gift to His chosen people.


Typology  A method of reading the Bible, based on medieval Christian theory, in which elements of scripture can be seen to be related to one another by foreshadowings or echoes across books and testaments.  Most frequently, OT characters are seen as foreshadowing Christ, and they are referred to as “types” of Christ.  For example, David is a “type” of Christ in his function as king; Moses is a “type” of Christ in his function as lawgiver and mediator; Aaron is a “type” of Christ in his function as high priest.  Christ is the “antitype” of all three when his actions fulfill or echo their actions.  Thus the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) presents Christ as a new Moses, delivering from the mountaintop a new law that fulfills or countermands the old law.  This method of interpretation (or “hermeneutic”) is very important in later British and American literature with its roots in the Bible, for writers often extend the patterns of types and echoes to their narratives and characters. 


Vulgate  The great translation of scriptures into Latin (the “common language” or “vulgar tongue”) by Jerome, who worked before and after the year 400 CE.  Jerome tried to replace the many “Old Latin” translations floating around with a single text, produced with scholarly attention to the original languages.  Thus Jerome translated the New Testament from the best Greek manuscripts he could find, and he lived in Palestine as a hermit and learned Hebrew so that he could translate Hebrew Scriptures from the original language as well as from the Septuagint.  At first it was unpopular, but subsequently Jerome’s Vulgate became the sole version in use in the Christian west.  It was the version early Protestants were rebelling against.


Wisdom Literature  The books of Hebrew Scripture that contain wisdom, often in the form of proverbs.  The most important wisdom books in the canonical OT are Job, Proverbs and Ecclesiastes.  Several of the books of the Apocrypha are important wisdom books, including “Ecclesiasticus” (or the Wisdom of Jesus, Son of Sirach), the Wisdom of Solomon, and the book of Baruch.  Wisdom literature was a popular and widespread form in the ancient Near East.  It is not surprising to find that an Egyptian manuscript contains many of the biblical proverbs or to find that Old Babylonian tablets of the Epic of Gilgamesh contain lines that later turn up in Ecclesiastes.  Portions of the New Testament, particularly the book of James and the prologue to the gospel of John, are also identified with the wisdom tradition.


Writings  The third division of Hebrew Scripture (the other two are the Law and the Prophets).  The writings include wisdom works like Job and Proverbs, books of poetry like the Song of Songs, and other works that are hard to classify as law or prophetic works.