Faculty of Arts


Reading Sacred Texts 2

Please note: this is archived course information from 2018 for THEOREL 204.


This course develops students’ competencies in textual approaches to the study of religion through in-depth study of a text considered sacred within a religious community or communities. It considers the text’s history and context, as well as its major themes, world-views and reception, both within its interpretive traditions and cultural afterlives.

In 2016, the text we will focus on is the marvellous story of I and II Samuel from the Old Testament and Tanakh. This biblical tradition is packed with action, adventure, love, lust and tragic loss. We encounter some unforgettable characters such as the stern prophet Samuel, the tragic Saul, the loyal Jonathan, the flawed hero David and his much maligned "love interest" Bathsheba. And we follow them through a narrative that is filled with miraculous events, thrilling political subterfuge, sexual desire and sexual violence and these all too human foibles of jealousy, betrayal, grief and pride.

Throughout the course, we will read I and II Samuel together in class, examining the stories, plotlines, themes and characters encountered in this biblical text. We will explore its historical context, literary features and its long history of interpretation and reception in popular culture including music, literature and the visual arts. Particular attention will be paid to the themes of sin, sexuality and sovereignty, which interweave with each other throughout the course of the narrative.

By the end of the course, students will:

  • Have developed a more advanced understanding of textual approaches to the study of religion.
  • Be aware of the historical and religious background of the text under study, including its literary genre, intertextual influences and debates surrounding its dating and authorship.
  • Be able to discuss the text’s religious world-views, theologies and rhetoric and any debates or controversies surrounding these issues.
  • Demonstrate a knowledge of and ability to engage critically with a selection of the methodologies and hermeneutical approaches used to study this text within religious scholarship, focusing in particular on literary critical readings of the text.
  • Feel confident engaging in a critical discussion about the reception of the text across history and within popular culture.
  • Be familiar with some of the secondary scholarly literature written about this text by local, national and international scholars.
  • Have been shown some of the skills required in academic writing and guided through the process of composing an engaging, well-written and well-argued essay.

Availability 2018

Not taught in 2018


Coordinator(s) Dr Caroline Blyth


Robert Alter, The David Story: A Translation with Commentary of 1 and 2 Samuel (New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 1999).


THEOREL 204: 15.0 points


30 points at Stage I from BA Schedule 



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