S501 Tanakh: The Beginnings of Judaism and the Jewish People (MJS, MRS, IMJS Certificate)

Instructor:  Rabbi Joshua Brumbach
Location: https://mjti.populiweb.com
Dates: October 18–December 20

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. This is a required core course for all graduate programs.

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 will introduce students to the world out of which the Tanakh emerged, traditional and critical modes of interpretation, and
provide opportunities to analyze biblical texts in Hebrew at the intermediate level (or in translation depending on the student’s skills). It will also encourage and equip students to grow in their relationship with God through a deeper engagement with the biblical text.


This is an online video-conference course. The student must have a computer, headset, and high-speed internet access. Please contact Joyce Klayman, our IT assistant, for technical help at jbklay@gmail.com.

Online webinar and asynchronous online discussion.

Full participation in video conferences, online discussion threads, 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. The Old Testament Story, 6th ed. Upper Saddle River: Prentice Hall, 2002. – Please especially note the edition of this text, as it will save you money.


  • 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, R.E. Who Wrote the Bible? New York: Harper San Francisco, 1997.
  • 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.
  • 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.
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