St. Peter's Seminary
  Academics >> Course Descriptions >> Theology >> Pentateuch 5102b >> 2011 2012 >>

Theology Section 570, Biblical Studies 5102B
The Pentateuch

Winter 2012

WEDNESDAY 9:30 - 11:30 AM
THURSDAY 9:30 - 10:20 AM

Room 108, St. Peter's Seminary

INSTRUCTOR: Fr. Richard Charrette, BA, BTh, STL, STM or
Office Hours by Appointment


An investigation into the five books of the Pentateuch from a literary perspective, from the cultural perspective of its first readers in the ancient Middle East, and from a historical perspective, particularly concerning its formation.



1. To acknowledge the importance of the Pentateuch in the Old Testament and the New Testament.
2. To review the background history of the Ancient Near East as pertinent to the Pentateuch..
3. To review the formation of the books of the Pentateuch in the light of its historical and religious background.
4. To investigate and note the main themes, content and plan of each book, as well as the literary forms in which they are expressed. .
5. To study in detail the more significant passages of each book and the meaning of the Pentateuch.
6. When appropriate, to point out the relationship of passages in the Pentateuch to the New Testament.


1. To enable the students to identify and use the important tools and resources available for the study of the Pentateuch..
2. To enable students to learn how to approach the Pentateuch in order to determine the meaning of given passages.
3. To enable students to identify the most significant passages in the Pentateuch.
4. To enable the students to relate the Scriptures to their use in Christian liturgy.


1.. To engender in the students a familiarity and love of the Pentateuch..
2. To foster a reverence and appreciation for the Pentateuch as the Word of God and God’s revelation.
3. To engender in the students a desire to know the Pentateuch and its usefulness in the study of Scripture, particularly the New Testament..
4. To engender a respect for the Pentateuch as useful in one’s personal and ecclesial life.


The final mark will be determined on three bases:

1) A written summary of between four and five pages of each of the five books giving in summary its plan or outline, contents and most important thought: 50% These will be due one week after the completion of the study of each book. Each summary is to include the following elements:
a) The structure and contents of each book in brief, summary form
b) Briefly its significance or place in the Pentateuch.
c) Students are to point out the importance and meaning of one significant passage in each book.
To help them accomplish this task, students are expected to consult the following two obligatory texts (see bibliography for details), namely the book, The Pentateuch, by Michael D. Guinan OFM, and the book Reading the Pentateuch: A Historical Introduction, by John J. McDermott, as well as class notes. The two following works are also especially helpful, namely, the book by Jean-Louis Ska, Introduction to Reading the Pentateuch, Chapter 2, pp 16ff; and the book by Joseph Blenkinsopp, The Pentateuch: Introduction to the First Five Books of the Bible, especially Chapter 2, pp 31ff. (See bibliography for details of books cited). Students may also consult any of the major commentaries on each book, as well as the New Jerome Biblical Commentary.
Note: Sources must be duly acknowledged. The standard form for all written materials in the course are found in, Alexander, Patrick H. et al. (eds.) The SBL Handbook of Style for Ancient Near Eastern, Biblical and Early Christian Studies, Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 1999, especially Chapter 7 on proper form for bibliographies

2) Class participation: 20% in all. Students are expected to attend class and to participate actively (10%/20). Depending on the number of students, this will include an oral presentation in class on one of the books chosen by the student in coordination with other students so that all do not choose the same book (10%/20). There will be a limit on the number of students who may choose the same book. This presentation will be subject to class discussion and questions. Topics (i.e. which book is assigned) and dates of presentation will be specified later.

3) A final written examination of three questions out of a choice of questions, given to the students in advance. 30%

In order to ensure that the written work submitted fairly represents the work of a student, the instructor reserves the right, on an individual basis, to have the student undergo an oral exam on the written work submitted. The oral exam, if applied, will help determine the grade assigned to the written work in question.


1 .Students will be required to have the following textbooks:

a) A contemporary English translation of the Bible which includes the Deuterocanonicals (also designated Apocrypha), such as the New Revised Standard Version (preferred), the New Jerusalem Bible or the New American Bible.
b) Guinan, Michael D., OFM. The Pentateuch. Collegeville, Minn.:Liturgical Press (A Michael Glazier Book),1990. This book will be available and distributed in class at a discounted price.
c) McDermott, John J. Reading the Pentateuch: A Historical Introduction. Mahwah, New Jersey: Paulist Press, 2002. Also available and distributed in class at a discounted price.
d) Students will be expected to read the entire Pentateuch through. They will also be expected to study the text books carefully so as to know their contents.

2. Two other books, found in the library, will be very useful for background and assignments because of their relatively recent analysis of the Pentateuch as to its content and formative and technical aspects.

Blenkinsopp, Joseph. The Pentateuch: An Introduction to the First Five Books of the Bible. Toronto: Doubleday, 1992
Ska, Jean-Louis. Introduction to Reading the Pentateuch. Winona Lake, Indiana: Eisenbrauns, 2006.
3. The following essays from The New Jerome Biblical Commentary. (Ed. Raymond E. Brown, SS, Joseph A. Fitzmyer, SJ and Roland E. Murphy, O Carm). London: Geoffrey Chapman, 1993 (Student Paperback Edition):
#1 Introduction to the Pentateuch p. 3 (Note: This essay is not entirely up-to-date in that it still espouses the Four-documentary Theory though it is aware of challenges to it); # 69 Modern Old Testament Criticism p. 1113; # 73 Biblical Geography p. 1175; # 74 Biblical Archaeology, p 1196; # 75 A History of Israel, p. 1219; # 76 Religious Institutions of Israel p 1253; # 77 Aspects of Old Testament Thought, p 1284. .


1. Importance and Meaning of the Pentateuch/Law/Instruction. (Topics # 1& 2 covered Jan 11 & 12, 2011)

Review of Basic Notions on the Pentateuch
Brief summary of the contents of each book
History of the Literary Criticism of the Pentateuch
Historicity, Purpose

2. Review of Background History

Review of the Catholic Approach to Scripture
Purpose of the Pentateuch
Global Nature of the Pentateuch
Sources - Final Authors

3. Summary and Structure of the Book of Genesis (Genesis covered week of Jan 11 & 18)

Detailed Study of Gn 1 and Gn 2
Comparison of Gn 1 and Gn 2
Primal Stories Gn 2-11
Excursus on Original Sin
Stories of Ancestors Gn 12-50 Summary Paper due Jan 26/12

4. Summary and Structure of Exodus (Exodus covered weeks of Jan 25 and Feb 8/12)

Name of God, Deliverance
Desert Wanderings Gn 14-18
Covenant - Book of the Covenant
The Tabernacle Ex 25-31 and 35-40
Covenant Broken and Restored Ex 32-34
Feasts of the Pentateuch Ex 12 and other texts
Aspects of Exodus
The Decalogue Ex 20 and Dt 5 Summary Paper due Feb 16/12

Conference Week Feb 19-25

5. Leviticus - Structure and Summary (Leviticus covered weeks of Feb 15 & 29/12)

Some Significant Texts
Observations (Lasting Value, Relation to NT) Summary Paper due March 8/12

6. Numbers - Summary and Structure (Numbers covered week of March 7 & 14)

Some Significant Texts
Observations on the Book of Numbers Summary Paper due March 22/12

7. Deuteronomy - Summary and Structure (Deuteronomy covered weeks of March 21 & 28/12)

Historical Background
Composition and Evolution
Form, Content, Style, Analysis
Significant Texts
The “Deuteronomic Code”
Teaching. Summary Paper due April 11, last day of class.

8. Oral presentations April 11/12.

9. Theologies of the Pentateuch (as time permits)

Summary Observations
Jesus’ Attitude to the Law
The Law in a Christian Perspective (Summary Observations)


Students are responsible for knowing the University’s academic policies and regulations and any particularities of their own course of study. These can all be found at the University’s website ( Ignorance of these policies is not an excuse for any violation thereof. The following policies are particularly important to note:

Submission of Assignments: It is the responsibility of the student to organize his or her work so that the assignments are completed on time. A penalty of 10% of the value of the assignment will be deducted for each day it is overdue without permission.

Plagiarism: Students must write their essays and assignments in their own words. When-ever students take an idea or a passage from another author, they must acknowledge their debt by quotation marks and /or footnotes. Plagiarism is a major academic offense. Students may be required to submit their work in electronic form for plagiarism checking.

Selection and Registration of Courses: Students are responsible for ensuring that their selection of courses is appropriate and accurately recorded, that all prerequisite course(s) have been successfully completed, and that they are aware of any anti-requisite course(s) that they have taken. 


1 Books of introduction to the Pentateuch or to the Old Testament and books on related topics. Note: Though they may still have, in some cases, great value in other ways, books dated before AD 1995 or even 2000 are unlikely to take into account the latest scholarship, particularly as to the deficiencies of the Four-documentary Theory.

Alexander, T.Desmond. From Paradise to the Promised Land: An Introduction to the Main Themes of the Pentateuch. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1995
Anderson, Bernhard W. Understanding the Old Testament. Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall Inc, 1975.
Artus, Oliver & Noël,Damien. Les livres de la loi: Exode, Lévitique, Nombres, Deutéronome. Paris: Bayard Éditions/Centurion, 1998.
Barthélemy, D. Dieu et son image. Coll Foi Vivante 148. Paris: Cerf, 1973.
Binz, Stephen J. The God of Freedom and Life: A Commentary on the Book of Exodus. Collegeville: Minn: Liturgical Press, 1993
Boadt, Lawrence. Reading the Old Testament: An Introduction. New York/ Mahwah, N.J.: Paulist Press, 1984
Butterworth, Robert, S.J. The Theology of Creation. (Theology Today no 5). Notre Dame, Ind.: Fides Publishers, 1969.
Coogan, Michael D. The Old Testament: A Historical and Literary Introduction to the Hebrew Scriptures. N.Y.,Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006.
DeVaux, Roland, O.P. Ancient Israel: Its Life and Institutions. London: Darton, Longman & Todd, 1961.
Doorly, William J. The Laws of Yahweh: A Handbook of Biblical Law. N.Y, Mahwah, N.J.: Paulist Press, 2002
Eichrodt, Walther. Man in the Old Testament (Studies in Biblical Theology 4). London: SCM Press, 1951.
Gelin, A. Les idées maîtresse de l’Ancient Testament. Coll Foi Vivante 30. Paris: Cerf, 1968.
Guinan, Michael D. OFM. Covenant in the Old Testament. Chicago: Franciscan Herald Press, 1975.
Harris, Stephen L. And Platzner, Robert L. The Old Testament: An Introduction to the Hebrew Bible. N.Y.: McGraw-Hill, 2003.
McDermott, John J. Reading the Pentateuch: A Historical Introduction. New York/Mahwah, N.J.: Paulist Press, 2002.
Malchow, Bruce V. Social Justice in the Hebrew Bible: What is New and What is Old. Collegeville, Minn.: The Liturgical Press, 1996.
Mettinger, Tryggve N.D. The Eden Narrative: A Literary and Religio-historical Study of Genesis 2-3. Winona Lake, Indiana: Eisenbrauns, 2007.
Michaud, Robert. Les Patriarches: Histoire et théolgie. Coll. Lire la Bible. Paris: Cerf, 1986.
McCarthy, Dennis J. S.J. Treaty and Covenant. Analecta Biblica 21. Rome: Pontifical Biblical Institute, 1963
McEntire, Mark. Struggling with God: an Introduction to the Pentateuch. Macon, Ga: Mercer University Press, 2008
McKenzie, John. A Theology of the Old Testament. Garden City,New York: Image Books (Doubleday & Co), 1976
Murphy, Roland W., O. Carm. Responses to 101 Questions on the Biblical Torah: Reflections on the Pentateuch. N.Y, Mahwah, N.J.: Paulist Press, 1996
Parke-Taylor, G.H. Yahweh: The Divine Name in the Bible. Waterloo: Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 1975.
Ratzinger, Cardinal Joseph. In the Beginning: A Catholic Understanding of the Story of the Creation and the Fall. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1990
Vogels, Walter, W.F. God’s Universal Covenant: A Biblical Study. Ottawa: University of Ottawa Press, 1979.
Von Rad, Gerhard. Old Testament Theology. London: SCM Press, 1975.
Westermann, Claus. Creation. London: SPCK, 1974
................................ Beginning and End in the Bible. Philadephia: Fortress Press, 1972.
Whybray, R. Norman. Introduction to the Pentateuch. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1995.

2. The following numbers in the series, Cahiers évangile, Paris: Editions du Cerf (various dates):

Abadie, Philippe. No 95, Le livre d’Esdras et de Néhémie. March 1996.
............................ No 87, Le livre des Chroniques. March 1994.
Artus, Olivier. No 106, Le Pentateuque. May 2007.
Buis, Pierre. No. 78, Le livre des Nombres. Nov 1991.
...................No 116, Le Lévitique: La Loi de sainteté. June 2001.
Collin, Matthieu. No 56, Abraham. May 2000.
Garcia-Lopez, Félix. No 63, Le Deutéronome: Une loi prêchée. March 1988.
................................. No 81, Le décalogue. Sept 1992.
Grelot Pierre. no. 4, Homme, qui est-tu? Les onze premiers chapitres de la Genèse, 1973.
Lohfink, Norbert. No. 140, Écoute Israël: commentaires du Deutéronome. June 2007.
Marx, Alfred. No 111, Les sacrifices de l’Ancien testament. March 2000.
Marguerat, D, Wénin A. Escaffre, B. No 127, Autour des récits bibliques. March 2004.
Noël, Damien. No 99, Les origines d’Israël. March 1997
Wiéner, Claude. No 54, Le livre de l’Exode. 1985
Wénin, André. No 130, L’histoire de Josèphe (Gn 37-50). Dec. 2004.

3. The following are from the extra editions of the above series, published in the same series, known as “Suppléments”, also published in Paris by Cerf.

Briend, Jacques, avec collab de Lebrun René et Puech, Émile, no 81, Traités et serments dans le proch-orient ancien. 1992.
Gounelle, Rémi et Noblesse-Rocher, Anne. No 144, Le Décalogue. June 2009.
Seux, M-Joseph, Gitton, Michel, Cunchillos, Jésus-Luis, Briend, Jacques. No 64, La création et le déluge d’après les textes du Proche-Orient ancien. 1987.

4. The Following are sources on Old Testament criticism:

AP-Thomas. A Primer of Old Testament Text Criticism. Philadephia: Fortress Press, 1966.
(In the Series Guides to Biblical Scholarship)
Habel, Norman. Literary Criticism of the Old Testament. Philadephia: Fortress Press, 1971.
Harrington. Interpreting the Old Testament: A Practical Guide. Collegeville, Minn.: Liturgical Press, 1981
Miller, J. Maxwell. The Old Testament and the Historian. Philadelphia: Fortress Press:1976.
Tucker, Gene M. Form Criticism of the Old Testament. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1971.
Rast, Walter E. Tradition History and the Old Testament. Philadephia: fortress Press, 1972.

5. The following are sources for the religious and cultural background to the Old Testament and for archeological discoveries:

Albright, William Foxwell. Yahweh and the Gods of Canaan: A Historical Analysis of Two Contrasting Faiths. Winona Lake, Ind.: Eisenbrauns, 1994.
Arnold, Bill T. & Beyer, Bryan E., ed. Readings from the Ancient Near East. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2002
Brown, Raymond E., SS. Recent Discoveries and the Biblical World. Wilmington Del.: Michael Glazier, 1983.
Curtis, Adrian. Ugarit: Ras Shamra (Cities of the Ancient World). Cambridge; Lutterworth Press, 1985.
Dalley, Stephanie (translator). Myths from Mesopotamia. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1989
Hooke, S.H. Middle Eastern Mythology. New York: Penguin Books, 1963.
Kramer, Samuel Noah. Sumerian Mythology. Philadelphia: U of Pennsylvania Press, 1972.
Matthews, Victor H. And Benjamin, Don C. Old Testament Parallels: Laws and Stories from the Ancient Near East. NewYork/Mahwah N.J.: Paulist Press, 1997.
Pfeiffer, Charles F. Ras Shamra and the Bible. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1962.
Sandars, N.K. The Epic of Gilgamesh. New York: Penguin Books, 1972.
Thomas, D. Winton, ed. Documents from Old Testament Times (Harper Torchbook). New York: Harper & Row, 1958.

6 Students can profit from consulting the classic commentaries on individual books of the Pentateuch and theologies of the Old Testament. As they were published some time ago, parts of these books are dated, but much of the original insight and scholarship remain valid. Two of the more important ones are the following:

Childs, Brevard S. The Book of Exodus: A Critical, Theological Commentary. Louisville KY: The Westminster Press, 1974.
Von Rad, Gerhard. Genesis: A Commentary. Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1972.