Old Testament Exegesis

The Old Testament (or Hebrew Bible) has for the past two millennia been read as a holy text both within Judaism and Christianity. This collection of texts is, in addition, important for an understanding of Islam – a significant number of figures and stories can be found both in the Hebrew Bible and the Koran. Cultural importance can be added to the religious. The influence of the biblical texts on western art, literature and film can hardly be overestimated. There are, therefore, many good reasons for studying Old Testament exegesis.

Within Old Testament exegesis a wide variety of types of text, which were created over a period of maybe a thousand years are studied. Here there are captivating stories of love and friendship, of betrayal and intrigue and of sudden death. The stories are clearly marked by having come to being in a patriarchal culture. Still, it can be noted that a number of women play important roles, for example, Sarah, Hagar, Ruth and Esther. The Hebrew bible also has elevated poetry, joyous hymns of praise and expressions of the deepest human despair to offer. The wisdom literature contains one of the classics of world literature, namely Job, but also the pessimistic philosophy of life of Ecclesiastes. The Prophetic literature spans a wide spectrum from societal criticism to visions of a future society where peace will reign.

In order to be able to interpret texts from a world so different from our own it is important not only to possess detailed knowledge of the content of the Bible and the cultures of the ancient near east. Studies of the Hebrew text in its original language are invaluable. (Those who wish to build on the introduction to the Old Testament given during first year studies without learning Hebrew can choose courses in biblical studies without languages, but only as far as C2 level).

Many different methods are used in the research discipline of Old Testament exegesis. The classic-historical methods compete today with more modern methods taken from literature studies, history and sociology. Language studies and archaeology are important tools for anyone studying the Old Testament texts, but naturally the content of the texts, their theology, is also studied. Ideology-critical methods with, for example, feminist or post-colonial approaches, are an important part of contemporary exegesis.

Research in Old Testament exegesis can therefore, in practice, mean a variety of different things. The discipline is defined by the material, not by a particular method and is therefore to a high degree interdisciplinary! Each person can find a direction which suits him or her. One can conduct narrative analysis or metaphor studies. It is possible to focus on grammatical structures or their rhetorical function. Those who are interested in archaeology or history can work with such questions. The theology of texts and their ideology can be analysed from many angles, including feminist and queer perspectives amongst others. The interpretive history of the texts has, in recent years, increasingly been focused upon.

Welcome to Old Testament Exegesis, this multifaceted and fascinating discipline!