1. Contact Information
  2. Prerequisites
  3. Course Description and Credit Hours
  4. Required Texts
  5. Course Objectives
  6. Student Learning Outcomes
  7. Other Course Materials
  8. Outline Of Topics
  9. Exams and Assignments
  10. Grading Policy
  11. Policy on Missed Exams and Coursework
  12. Attendance Policy
  13. Custom Sections
  14. Statements on Academic Misconduct
  15. Statement On Disability Accommodations
  16. Severe Weather Protocol
  17. Pregnant Student Accommodations
  18. Religious Observances
  19. UAct Statement

English Bible As Literature

REL 311-001Spring 2017 | 3 Credit Hours


Theodore Trost

Contact Information

UA Campus Directory:


UA Course Catalog Prerequisites:

No prereqs found

Course Description

Course Description and Credit Hours

No description found

This course offers a critical study of the Hebrew Bible (TANAKH) and the Christian Bible as distinct but related literary and theological traditions.  Stories will be examined in light of their literary development and their cultural and historical contexts.  Emphasis will be placed on narratives and especially the literary qualities of the texts (for example: the uses of symbol, metaphor, repetition; typology and myth; dialogue, narrative technique, and type-scenes), though other approaches to the study of the Bible will be encouraged and explored throughout the semester.  

Required Texts

Required Texts from UA Supply Store:

Student Learning Outcomes

1] an appreciation for the significance of TANAKH as a literary and theological tradition

2] an understanding of how the Christian Bible is constructed

3] an understanding of the literary and theological relationship between the Old Testament and the New Testament

4] greater familiarity with some of the stories that have provided the foundation upon which Western Civilization has been constructed

5] the ability to engage Biblical texts as cultural artifacts, works of literature, and key texts in the lives of religious communities

6] the ability to demonstrate this engagement in well-written essays, written exercises, and in-class discussion.    

Other Course Materials

Recommended Texts

1]         Robert Alter, The Art of Biblical Narrative (New York:  Basic, 1981).

2]         Northrop Frye, The Great Code:  The Bible and Literature (New York:  Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1982).

Outline of Topics

The English Bible as Literature

Tentative Course Calendar

Subject to Change based on Seminar Interest and Time Constraints                       


January 11       The Syllabus 

January 16       No Class:  MLK Day 

January 18       What is the Bible?  What is the English Bible?  What does "as Literature" mean? 

I.  GENESIS:  Patriarchy, Family, the Fruits of Cleverness 

January 23       Stories of Origin:  Creation, Fall, First Family

                        Assignment:  Genesis 1-11 

January 25       Stories of Origin:  Violence, Flood, Tower

                        Assignment:  Genesis 1-11             

January 30       The Abraham and Sarah Cycle:  Prophet and Proliferation

                        Assignment:  Genesis 12-24 

February 1       The Jacob and Rebekah Cycle:  Cunning Salvation  

                        Assignment:  Genesis 25-36            

 February 6       The Joseph Cycle:  Siblings Again   

                        Assignment:  Genesis 37-50 

February 8       The Joseph Cycle:  Into the Land of Egypt

                        Assignment:  Genesis 37-50                                                            

February 13     So What Was Genesis About?  How is the Bible Constructed?

                        Assignment:  Genesis 1-50 in review

                        Lecture:  The Structure of TANAKH, the Christian Bible, and the role of Biblical Criticism 

February 15     Library Visit                       

II.  EXODUS TO CONQUEST:  Freedom, Law, Land        

 February 20     Moses and Joshua:  Pharaoh's Midwife Crisis

                        Assignment:  selections from Exodus, Deuteronomy, Joshua

                        DUE:  First Paper Assignment on "Genesis" (5-7 pages)      

 February 22     Moses and Joshua:  Succession and Conquest

                        Assignment:  selections from Exodus, Deuteronomy, Joshua        

 III.  JUDGES AND SAMUEL:  Anomie, Disorder, Kingship

 February 27     Book of Judges:  Of Concubines and Human Worth

                        Assignment:  selections from Judges 

March 1           Book of Kings:  Common Story:  How David Unites the Kingdom

                        Assignment: selections from Samuel

IV.  KINGS:  Decline, Fall, the Rise of the Prophet

March 6           The Elijah-Elisha Cycle

                        Assignment:  I Kings 17 to 2 Kings 8 

March 8           The Elijah-Elisha Cycle

                        Assignment:  I Kings 17 to 2 Kings 8

                        DUE:  Proposal for Final Paper (2-3 pages)                       



Mar 20             Trajectories:  Rebuilding the Temple

                        Assignment:  selections in Chronicles, Book of Daniel, Book of Malachi

Mar 22             Trajectories:  Preparing the Way for the Lord

                        Assignment:  selections in Chronicles, Book of Daniel, Book of Malachi      


March 27         Mark Among the Gospels:  Constructing the Kingdom of God

                        Lecture:  True Greatness, or A Gospel for Losers

                        Assignment:  Mark 1-16.8

March 29         Mark:  Building the Kingdom of God with Words and Transformations

                        Assignment:  Mark 1-16.8

April 3             Mark:  What about the Disciples?

                        Assignment:  Mark 1-16.8

April 5             Mark:  The Unnamed, The Confrontation with Power, The Way to Galilee

                        Assignment:  Mark 1-16.8



April 17           Revelation:  The Intolerable Present Wickedness and its Planned Destruction

                        Assignment:  Revelation 1-22

April 20           Revelation:  Reconstructing the New Jerusalem as Old Eden

                        Assignment:  Revelation 1-22


April 24

April 26

THE FINAL PAPER IS DUE ON OR BEFORE APRIL 26, the last day of class. Papers will be available for collection in the Religious Studies office (212 Manly Hall) during the month of May.

The English Bible as Literature


A.        Written Assignments

There are four types of writing assignments for this class.

1]         Short Critical Essay

One 5-7 page TYPED papers must be submitted.  A critical essay is not a book report or a plot summary.  You should find some aspect of the biblical story (or stories) that matters deeply to you, tell why this is significant to you, and try to convince your audience that it should be significant—perhaps even "religiously" so—to them.  Consider this distinction from John R. Trimble: 

                        The difference between a plot summary and a critical analysis is analogous

                        to the difference between (a) an account of the highlights of the Vietnam

                        War and (b) an explanation of how the United States happened to get into

                        it, why we stayed in it, and what its effects have been on us.  A plot

                        summary begins with no thesis or point of view; it merely recapitulates

                        the facts.  A critical analysis, on the other hand, takes a viewpoint and

                        attempts to prove its validity; its object is to help the reader make better

                        sense of something he [or she] is already familiar with (Trimble, 25-26).

2]         Prospectus

This two-page TYPED assignment should describe:  1) what you plan to do for the final paper; 2) why you chose this particular topic; 3) why this topic matters to you personally; 4) what resources you intend to use in addition to the required texts; and 5) what aspects of the required texts are most helpful to your paper.  The prospectus is due on March 8, shortly before or after which time you are welcome to make an appointment with me to discuss your proposal.

3]         The Final Paper

The final paper is your response to issues, ideas, problems, solutions, etc., that the course materials and your own research present to you. Topics for the final paper might involve (but are not limited to):  theological or literary themes; significant or "insignificant" (matriarchs, prophets, kings, the unnamed) characters in the Bible; uses of the Hebrew Bible in the New Testament; the role of women; relationships among canonical or non-canonical gospels; the eschatological trajectories of biblical narrative, etc.  Careful attention should be given to the choice of a topic in conversation with other members of the class and with the instructor. 

4]         The Reading Response Paper 

At various (i.e., "random") moments throughout the semester and sometimes with advance notice, you will be asked to comment upon various readings from the Bible with particular reference to their inter-relationships.  These brief, in-class compositions will explore such matters as:  Who are the characters in a particular story and why are they important?  What happened? Where did the events occur?  Why does this story matter?  What problems does the story pose or resolve?  How and where are the concerns of this story developed elsewhere in the canon?

B.        General Notes on Written Work

* All writing except for in-class response papers should be TYPED and double spaced.

* Recommended fonts include Courier, Palatino, Times, Bookman, and Century Schoolbook.

* Type size should be 10, 11, or 12.

* Margins on the paper should be 1 to 1 1/2 inches on the sides and 1 inch at the top and bottom.

* Papers longer than one page in length should have page numbers.

* A cover sheet should be stapled with the body of your paper.  It should contain the following information:

            1) title of paper

            2)  your name

            3) the date

            4) the course name and number

5) the professor

For example, in the middle of the page:

Worse Off Ruthless:

The Significance of the Book of Ruth

in Relation to Biblical Canon

and in the lower right corner of the page:

Terri Mysteria

April 26, 2017

REL 311:  The English Bible

Professor Trost

* Papers with more than six spelling or grammar errors will be returned for revision prior to evaluation.  Please use the spellcheck function on the computer and review your work to make certain that properly spelled words are in fact the words you intend to use (for example:  be careful about the difference between "there" and "their" or "its" and "it's").

* Papers with major construction problems will be returned for revision prior to evaluation.  At the very least, make certain that your sentences are complete sentences (they have a subject and a verb) and that they express one (but not more than one) complete thought.  There should be no run-on sentences.

* If you have writing composition problems, you should consult one of the specialists at the Writing Center on the third floor of Lloyd Hall (room 322).  Your tuition pays for this kind of assistance.

* Even if you have a facility with words, you may wish to sharpen your writing skills. In addition to the services of the Writing Center, I recommend: 

            1) John R. Trimble, Writing With Style:  Conversations on the Art of Writing, 3rd Edition (2010). 

            2) Laurie G. Kirszner and Stephen R. Mandell, Patterns for College Writing:  A Rhetorical          Reader and Guide, 11th Edition (2009).

These books are available from <amazon.com> among other booksellers.

Please feel free to raise questions about these assignments at any time. You may do this in class—so that others might benefit from your inquiry; or come see me during my office hours.  Have fun!

Exams and Assignments

See Outline of Topics for Exams and Assignments.

Grading Policy

Course Requirements

This course is limited to 15 participants. Religious Studies 311 will be conducted primarily as an advanced undergraduate seminar with occasional lectures by the instructor and brief research presentations by the seminar participants.  Each participant will contribute actively to the on-going, in-class conversation.  Written work will include four (or more) 1-2 page reading response papers written in relation to assigned readings; one 5-7 page paper (to be critiqued, graded, and returned by the instructor before mid-semester); one 2-3 page proposal for the final essay; and one 8-10 page term paper—which may be a research paper, a work of literary criticism, or an interdisciplinary essay (e.g., "The Depiction of Mary in Western Painting and Song.")  Final grades will take into account these factors:  Class Participation 10%; Before and/or In-class Response Papers 20%; Prospectus 10%; Short Essay 25%; Final Paper 35%.

WRITING PROFICIENCY IS REQUIRED FOR A PASSING GRADE IN THIS "W-DESIGNATED" COURSE.  Papers will be evaluated according to the standards of excellence established in the first-year sequence of composition classes at the University of Alabama.  You are encouraged to discuss writing issues with me during my office hours and by appointment.  Additional recommended resources include the University's Writing Center and the MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers, 7th Edition (2009). 

Policy on Missed Exams and Coursework

If attendance is a problem for you for whatever reason, you should not take this course.

Attendance Policy

Attendance Policy

This course engages a community of scholars in active, in-class learning.  Because the unfolding classroom drama is essentially unrepeatable, and because your classmates are depending upon you for support, criticism and feedback, individual absences from class will diminish the learning experience of all.  After three absences, the student's final grade will be reduced by one increment for each additional absence.  In other words, if your grade average was A at the end of the semester but you had five absences, your final grade for the course would be B+.   If attendance is a problem for you for whatever reason, you should not take this course.

Statement on Academic Misconduct

Students are expected to be familiar with and adhere to the official Academic Misconduct Policy provided in the Online Catalog.

Statement On Disability Accommodations

Contact the Office of Disability Services (ODS) as detailed in the Online Catalog.

Severe Weather Protocol

Please see the latest Severe Weather Guidelines in the Online Catalog.

Pregnant Student Accommodations

Title IX protects against discrimination related to pregnancy or parental status. If you are pregnant and will need accommodations for this class, please review the University’s FAQs on the UAct website.

Religious Observances

Under the Guidelines for Religious Holiday Observances, students should notify the instructor in writing or via email during the first two weeks of the semester of their intention to be absent from class for religious observance. The instructor will work to provide reasonable opportunity to complete academic responsibilities as long as that does not interfere with the academic integrity of the course. See full guidelines at Religious Holiday Observances Guidelines.

UAct Statement

The UAct website provides an overview of The University's expectations regarding respect and civility.