Approaches to Biblical Studies (THEM122)

30 credits

The module will have three taught segments, each lasting for three weeks. Each segment will be on a different topic. Possible topics include (but are not limited to):

Cultures of age and aging in the Bible and beyond

What age and aging mean in different contexts is socially constructed. Different cultures imbue childhood, youth, maturity and so on with diverse cultural perceptions and values. Moreover, religious rites and rituals often play an important part in structuring transitions from one stage of life to another. We will investigate how selected biblical texts and traditions, and their interpretations throughout ‘the ages’, demonstrate conflicting views on ageing, longevity, lifespan, and life expectancies.

Ecological interpretation of the Bible

Problems caused by humanity’s impact upon the planet, visible especially in the climate crisis, are among the most pressing issues of the twenty-first century. These challenges have led to a range of new engagements with the Bible, and a range of different interpretative approaches – some of which claim to find ecological wisdom in the Bible, others of which are more critical of the Bible and its legacy, or find other priorities in the Bible’s teaching. This segment will enable you to engage with these various perspectives and to consider for yourself what an ecological interpretation of the Bible might entail.

Socializing (with) the dead

The ways in which humans deal with their dead not only reflect social and cultural preferences, but index wider constructs of ‘death’ as a social state of being – regardless of whether or not the deceased are imagined to transition into a type of postmortem existence or otherworldly realm. Mortuary practices and their associated activities not only re-socialize the body, but can variously trigger, extend or transform the sociality of the dead within the lives of the living. Juxtaposing selected examples of mortuary practice from ancient southwest Asian cultures (including those refracted in the Bible) and the contemporary world, we will explore how and why humans socialize (with) the dead, and ask what our own cultural and personal preferences about corpse management might reveal about us.