REL 340: "Creation in Genesis and the Ancient Near East"

Fall 2002

Tu 1:30-4:30

OM 102

Course Description

This course examines the accounts of creation in Genesis and in other ancient Near Eastern literature. Primary texts and iconography will provide the basis for studying the role of creation in the religious life and political systems of Israel and other Near Eastern societies. This study of creation will provide a window through which to better understand Genesis as a whole as well as large portions of the Hebrew Scriptures. Students will pursue independent interests related to these topics and this research will culminate in a final paper. Prerequisite: An Area B course or permission of instructor. Fall semester, even years. Writing Credit.

[ Goals and Objectives | Textbooks | Books on Reserve | Evaluation | September | October | November | December ]

 Dr. Andy Vaughn
Office: OM 105C
Office telephone: x7475
Home telephone: 625-2797 (before 9PM)
Office hours: MWF 10:30-11:30; W 1:30-2:30; AND by appointment

Required Texts:

Clifford, Richard J., Creation Accounts in the Ancient Near East and in the Bible. CBQ Monograph Series 26. Washington, DC: Catholic Biblical Association, 1994.

Hess, Richard A. and David T. Tsumura, I Studied Inscriptions From Before the Flood: Ancient Near Eastern, Literary, and Linguistic Approaches to Genesis 1-11. Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 1994.

von Rad, Gerhard. Genesis, A Commentary. Philadelphia: Westminster, 1973.

Highly Recommended Book

Meeks, Wayne, ed. The Harper Collins Study Bible (if you already own another NRSV translation, you may use this version; however, you are required to use the NRSV translation in order that we will all have the same text).

Books on Reserve in library:


General Studies, Monographs, and Collection of Essays
Texts and Translations
Bible Dictionaries in the Reference Section of the Library
Articles (photocopies on reserve or in collections in the reference section):

Anticipated Method of Evaluation:

Short, descriptive essays (25% of the course grade):
Many of the writing assignments during the beginning of the semester will be very short (1-3 pages). Most of these assignments will serve the goals of 1) helping all of us identify and reflect on the critical issues that are being presented in the assigned readings, and 2) help the student hone his or her writing skills (especially the ability to provide support for a coherent and focused thesis statement from primary resources. In this process, the student will summarize the arguments that are being made, but the written response will also move beyond summary into a critical analysis of what the author is saying. The grades will be more heavily weighted on the essays turned in later in the course, and the student may "drop" the 2 lowest grades. The first few short essays will use the following format:

Class Participation (20% of the course grade):
Since this class will be a seminar with only one meeting per week, it is extremely important that students attend every class. The class is also structured to allow students to teach each other and participate actively in the learning process. Thus, if a student has even one unexcused absence, his or her grade will be effected. Please do not take this policy as an admonishment, but rather as a friendly encouragement to come and participate in class. Students will be given an assessment from the professor of their participation close to the mid-term period, and self-assessment by the student will also be taken into account.


Sep. 10: Course description and introductory lectures
Sep. 17: History of Research and the Priestly Account of Creation
Sep. 24: Myth and Creation in the Old Testament; The J Account of Creation in Genesis 2-3
Oct. 1: Nobel Conference (individual meeting this week instead of class): Topic: Developing an exegesis paper
Oct. 8: Sumerian Creation Texts
Oct. 15: Akkadian (and related) Creation Accounts
Oct. 22: The themes of J in Genesis 2-9
Oct. 29: recap: summary of the course so far and the take-home exam
Nov. 5: Examination of the J Narratives and Ugaritic and Phonecian Accounts of Creation
Nov. 12: Examination of the Final Redacted form of Gen 1-24 with a study of P and E features.
Nov. 19: The Jacob Cycle
Nov. 26: Professor at SBL conference (work on papers)
Dec. 3: The Joseph Cycle
Dec. 10: Putting it all together-- the idea of national myth.
Final Paper due before due before the end of the exam period. The Professor will appreciate some paper being turned in before the last day of the exam period.