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HIST3187 The Bible and History

Module Overview

This module will explore the role, significance and impact of the Bible in different historical contexts over time and up to the present day. The module will begin by providing an introduction to the Bible itself including its nature as a religious, literary and historical document, the approaches and impact of translations of the original text, and its transmission and reception. The module will then examine key, often controversial, themes arising from the biblical texts that have impacted on society in the West and the development of history in the ancient, medieval, early modern and modern periods. This will include topics such as creationism, iconoclasm, adultery, homosexuality, witchcraft, monarchy, women’s rights, antisemitism, war and genocide. The module will introduce you to the use and reception of the Bible in different historical contexts and invite you to assess and debate the relevance of the Bible throughout history and for today’s society.

Aims and Objectives

Module Aims

• Introduce the Bible as an historical source • Examine the origins, transmission and reception of the Bible in a range of historical contexts • Evaluate the Bible as a medium through which wider political, social and cultural issues can be investigated • Examine the impact of the Bible through key case studies, which may be drawn from the ancient, medieval, early modern and contemporary world • Investigate the role of the Bible in the historical development of ethical issues • Understand the historical factors that have affected the interpretation and influence of the Bible in the West

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

Having successfully completed this module, you will be able to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of:

  • Debates on the role and significance of the Bible in specific historical contexts
  • How the use of the Bible contributes to historical evidence about political, ideological and cultural assumptions
  • The use of the Bible in debates on major historical controversies such as creationism, iconoclasm, the institution of monarchy, witchcraft and magic, laws about gender and sexuality, and slavery.
  • Changes in attitudes and approach to the Bible over time amongst different denominations within Judaism and Christianity, in secular society and in scholarly circles
  • How to understand the Bible and its reception in the study of History
  • The historical development of ideas about the Bible and its reception
Subject Specific Intellectual and Research Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Assess the impact of the Bible on key historical controversies
  • Analyse the relationship between interpretations of the Bible and their political, social and cultural contexts
  • Make connections between the study of the Bible and the study of History
  • Evaluate interpretations of the Bible as providing an insight into the study of History
  • Analyse the relevance of the Bible to modern contemporary debates
  • Discuss key turning points in the reception of the Bible from Antiquity to the present day
  • Critically analyse a range of primary and secondary material on ethical themes
Transferable and Generic Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Organise and structure material to write and present confidently
  • Participate actively in group discussions and debate
  • Communicate a coherent and convincing argument in both oral and written formats
Subject Specific Practical Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Draw connections between different historical periods
  • Analyse critically a diverse range of primary material
  • Identify and critically assess scholarly views and arguments


The module will be divided between: • Introductory sessions: concepts and approaches • Case Studies (these may vary from year to year, but will typically include sessions on the Bible and Creationism; iconoclasm; laws regulating gender and sexual relations; capital punishment; slavery; witchcraft).

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

Teaching methods include: • Lecturer-led introductory workshops • A weekly two-hour seminar focusing on examination and discussion of primary and secondary source material Learning activities include: • Participation in group and seminar discussion • Individual study and research • Preparing and delivering presentations Discussion in seminars will help development of ideas on a topic, to analyse a range of source material and to articulate a critical argument.

Independent Study276
Total study time300

Resources & Reading list

Marsden, R. and A. Matter (eds) (2012). The New Cambridge History of the Bible: From 600 to 1450. 

Carleton Paget, J. and J. Schaper (eds) (2013). The New Cambridge History of the Bible: From the Beginnings to 600. 

Rogerson J.W. and J.M. Lieu (eds) (2006). The Oxford handbook of biblical studies. 

Barton, J. (ed.) (1998). The Cambridge Companion to Biblical Interpretation. 

Pelikán, J (2005). Whose Bible is it?: a history of the Scriptures through the ages. 

Collins, J.J (2007). A short introduction to the Hebrew Bible. 

Hauser, A.J. and D.F. Watson (eds) (2003). A history of biblical interpretation. 

Saebo, M. (ed.) (2000). Hebrew Bible/Old Testament. 

Alter, R. and F. Kermode (eds) (1987). The Literary Guide to the Bible. 

Kling, D.W (2004). The Bible in history: how the texts have shaped the times. 

Lieb, M. et al (eds) (2010). The Oxford Handbook of the Reception History of the Bible. 

Mulder, M.J. and H. Sysling (eds) (1988). Mikra: Text, Translation, Reading and Interpretation of the Hebrew Bible in Ancient Judaism and Early Christianity. 

Barton, J. and J. Muddiman (eds) (2001). The Oxford Bible Commentary. 


Assessment Strategy

Assessments designed to provide informal, on-unit feedback  informal seminar presentations  2,000 word non-assessed essay  one-to-one consultations with tutor The seminars will introduce you to the key aspects in the critical study of the Bible and History. As a result of the module being team-taught, you will be introduced to case studies from a wide range of historical and cultural contexts and to different interdisciplinary approaches. The seminars will provide a forum to discuss a range of perspectives on the theme of the social and cultural significance of the Bible through history. They will also allow for the development of interpersonal skills; through the use of class presentations you will be able to develop your knowledge and understanding of particular subject areas and to enhance your oral communication skills. The 2,000 word, formative assignment will contribute to the development of writing and analytical skills and will help to prepare you for the longer, 4,000 word assessed essay. The essay and exam will test your knowledge and understanding of the subject matter, your capacity to deploy interdisciplinary approaches and to develop a coherent written argument.


MethodPercentage contribution
Essay  (4000 words) 50%
Examination  (2 hours) 50%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External

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