S501-Tanakh: The Beginnings of Judaism and the Jewish People

Instructor: Rabbi Joshua Brumbach
Dates:  October 15 – December 17, 2023
Sundays at 10:30 AM – 13:00 PM EST
Location: Populi (https://mjti.populiweb.com)

This course examines the Tanakh as the story of the Jewish people and as the foundation of Jewish thought, life and traditions. The course covers early Jewish history focusing on the role of the Jewish people in the canonical narrative. The function of key writings and events in the formation of religion and culture in ancient Israel, as well as in the ongoing life of the Jewish people, will be addressed. Special emphasis is given to the historical, social and cultural setting of the Tanakh in the Ancient Near East.

This is a first-year foundational class, as such it introduces key theological points and ethos of MJTI. It is a core course required for all graduate programs and certificate tracks.

The Tanakh contains the foundational narratives of the Jewish people and is central to the development of Jewish thought, life and traditions. It also serves as the theological foundation for Christianity. Therefore, understanding its development and interpretation is essential for any student of the Bible. Equally important is Israel’s covenantal role and responsibility within the Canonical Narrative. This course responds to the need for individual and communal understanding of the Tanakh, especially as the foundational witness to the relationship between God and Israel. In order to address this need, we study core Tanakh texts from the Torah, the Prophets, and the Writings concerning this tumultuous relationship in dialog with Jewish interpretative tradition and reflect on them in light of the Apostolic Writings in order to know and respond to God more deeply in the present moment.

There are no prerequisites for this course, but basic familiarity with Hebrew is helpful.

The student must have a computer, headset, and high-speed internet access. For assistance with Populi, please contact Rabbi Michael Hillel admin@mjti.org.

Online webinar and asynchronous online discussion.


  • Full participation in video conferences, online discussion threads, a midterm exam, and a final paper.
  • Each week I may also assign each student the responsibility of presenting some of the day’s assigned reading to the class.
  • Please have your JPS Hebrew-English Tanakh available for each class.


  • JPS Hebrew-English Tanakh. Philadelphia: The Jewish Publication Society, 1999.
  • Alter, Robert. The Art of Biblical Narrative, Revised Ed. New York: Basic Books, 2011.
  • Brettler, Marc Zvi. How to Read the Bible. Philadelphia: The Jewish Publication Society, 2005.
  • Shanks, Hershel, ed. Ancient Israel: From Abraham to the Roman Destruction of the Temple, 3rd ed. Washington, DC: Biblical Archaeology Society, 1999.
  • Tullock, John H. and Mark McEntire. The Old Testament Story, 9th ed. Boston: Prentice Hall, 2012.


  • The Student Bible Dictionary, Eds. Karen Dockrey, Johnnie Godwin, and Phyllis Godwin. Uhrichsville, OH: Barbour Publishing, 2000.
  • The Jewish Study Bible, 2nd ed. Eds. Adele Berlin and Marc Zvi Brettler. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014.
  • Heschel, Abraham Joshua. God in Search of Man: A Philosophy of Judaism. New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1976. Especially Parts 2 and 3.
  • Rudolph, David and Joel Willitts, eds. Introduction to Messianic Judaism: Ecclesial Context and BiblicalFoundation. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2013.
  • Zetterholm, Magnus. The Messiah: In Early Judaism and Christianity. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2007.
  • Wyschogrod, Michael. The Body of Faith: God and the People of Israel. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield, 1996.


  • Robert Alter, The Wisdom Books: Job, Proverbs and Ecclesiastes. New York: W.W. Norton, 2010.
  • Dever, W.G. What Did the Biblical Writers Know and When Did They Know It. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans, 2001.
  • Dunstan, William E. The Ancient Near East. Belmont: Thomson/Wadsworth, 1998.
  • Frank, H.T., ed. Hammond’s Atlas of the Bible Lands. Union, NJ: Hammond World Atlas, 2007.
  • Friedman, Richard E. Who Wrote the Bible? New York: Harper San Francisco, 1997.
  • Heschel, Abraham J. The Prophets. New York: Perennial/HarperCollins, 2001.
  • Kugel, James L. How to Read the Bible: A Guide to Scripture, Then and Now. New York: Free Press, 2008.
  • Miller, J. Maxwell and John H. Hayes. History of Ancient Israel, 2nd edition. Philadelphia: Westminster John Knox, 2006.
  • Newsome, James D. Jr., ed. A Synoptic Harmony of Samuel, Kings and Chronicles: With Related Passages from Psalms, Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezra. Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock, reprint, 2006.
  • Pritchard, J.B. The Ancient Near East: An Anthology of Texts and Pictures, vol. 1. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1973.
  • Schniedewind, William M. How the Bible Became a Book. Cambridge: Cambridge Press, 2004.
  • Soulen, R. Kendall. The God of Israel and Christian Theology. Minneapolis: Fortress, 1996.
  • Walton, John H. Ancient Near Eastern Thought and the Old Testament: Introducing the Conceptual World of the Hebrew Bible. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2006.


Classes will be held once a week on Sunday mornings at 10:30 ET. We will meet via Zoom for a live two and a half (2.5) hour interactive webinar.

Full participation in video conferences, online discussion threads, and a final paper. I may also occasionally assign each student the responsibility of preparing and presenting some of the day’s assigned reading to the class.

There will be a final paper around 3,000 words. The assignment will be posted on Populi on Thursday, December 3rd and must be uploaded to Populi no later than Sunday, December 17th by 11:59pm ET. If you have any questions, please feel free to e-mail me at rebyosh@simchatyisrael.org.

Not yet an MJTI Student? 

Apply Today

Get started with our hassle-free application process.


Scholarships are available for students.

Academic Forms

Access MJTI Catalog and All Forms.

Pin It on Pinterest