Wednesday, 20 February 2008

Excellent Online Audio Introduction to the Tanakh

A while back I linked to the website of Yale Divinity School, where you can download both audio and video recordings of a brilliant introductory course to the Old Testament/Hebrew Bible hat tip to Deane). I've pretty much made my way through the 24 hours of material and I have to say that I find it very well done. Christine Hayes is extremely articulate and engaging; at the end of each lecture I find myself itching to hear more. It's worth noting the very Jewish tone of the presentation: Hayes is herself from the field of Talmudic studies, the translation and study Bible she uses are Jewish, and the majority of the scholars she calls on are Jewish (Kaufmann, Levenson, Greenberg, Weinfeld).

I found the opening lectures on the Pentateuch the most rewarding. The sections on the histories was pretty much standard historical critical fare, along with her treatment of the prophets. I am disappointed by the underlying aggression to the apparent "distortions" of later Christian tradition (e.g. she's happy to point out the mistranslation of parthenos in Isaiah, but then, a few minutes later, fails to point out how Isaiah' wrestling with the problem of sin and forgiveness are taken up in the New Testament. References to the New Testament are consistently negative). I'm also disappointed by the way that Childs does not even get a mention, despite the fact that his entire career was spent at Yale and that she mentions in the course outline that she's interested in "canonical approaches." It only gets a first mention in lecture 21, and there she seems to be using the term in the way that Sanders used it. This is fair enough, but given Yale's post-liberal heritage I'd have thought that she would have at least pointed out the interpretative options. It is also surprising that in the same lecture, after announcing her decision to read the Psalms from the perspective of canonical criticism, she goes on to interpret them in the classic form critical categories of Herman Gunkel. There is no mention of the theological shaping of the book nor of the midrashic nature of the Psalm titles.

All in all it's well worth a listen. For those on a time budget, two lectures are particularly worth listening to:

  1. The Priestly Legacy: Cult and Sacrifice, Purity and Holiness in Leviticus and Numbers (no#9; I was surprised to hear that she distinguishes between moral and cultic purity)

  2. Biblical Law: The Three Legal Corpora of JE (Exodus), P (Leviticus and Numbers) and D (Deuteronomy) (no#10; beautiful outline of main emphases and its ancient context).

NB. Awilum has posted his thoughts on this course here.

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