Week 12: Covenant! (Genesis 12-50)

April 26-May 2 2016: Covenant

“Covenant” is so prominent in the Hebrew Bible that Walther Eichrodt organizes his entire 2-volume OT Theology around the concept of “covenant.” What kinds of covenant does the Hebrew Bible take for granted, and what are their features? Here is a beginning list of “Big Ideas and Essential Questions” relating to the Pentateuch.



Read Bandstra’s second chapter, Genesis 12-50: The Ancestral Story and Chapter Three Part 3 Sinai: Covenant Traditions. Or, in Stanley or your Introduction of choice, read on the ancestral narratives, the Sinai pericope (Exod 19-26), and anything on “covenant.”

Recommended Reading:


View or listen to the two-part lecture, “Covenant”:

“Make” of the Week

Pick one of the following options for this week’s “make,” sharing it on your blog, remembering to tag your post with our tag, “ootle17.” (Garrett students: Remember that your work is assessed according to the course rubric. You may need to add analysis or other elements that will allow you to include each element of the rubric. Remember too that you must have commented, thoughtfully and substantively, to at least three [3] other OOTLE-ers on Covenant/Genesis 12-50 or on Emergence by Sunday evening.)

Make Option 01: At the end of Bandstra’s Chapter Two, he proposes five discussion questions. Choose one of these questions, and respond to it in about 1000 words.

Make Option 02: Write a Saga

The ancestral “cycles” (e.g., Abraham Cycle, Gen 12-25; Jacob Cycle, Gen 25:19 to 35:29) each comprise a collection of relatively independent sagas. For example, see Gen 16:1-16; Gen 17:1-22; Gen 22:1-19; Gen 29; Gen 34.

Sagas are typically short: about 550 words.

Sagas are typically simple:

  • there is a single plot (no sub-plots), with a single rising tension or conflict, resolution, and denouement.
  • there is a small cast, and usually only two parties are in dialogue with each other at any one time.
  • there is no “backdrop” or thick background: it is as if the narrative took place against a plain white frame, so to speak, and a saga does not depend upon the action of any prior episode.
  • sagas are not moralistic: they do not “have a moral.” However, they are a means by which we describe “who we are.” (We are wily tricksters because our ancestor was a wily trickster; we are enemies with our neighbors because our ancestor was wronged by our neighbors; we are honorable in victory as our ancestor was honorable in victory; etc.) Sometimes “who we are” is not pretty.

Instructions: Choose any figure from the past whom you identify as part of your “tradition” (national, ethnic, ecclesial, political, academic, familial, or what have you). Write this figure into a short saga, using the formal features above as a guide. This should be a fictional episode; while it presumably takes place in that figure’s historical context, that context should be largely “invisible” behind and around the events of the saga. Again, this is historical fiction: don't recreate an episode, but rather invent one.

Ask yourself: what do you want this saga to say about who your group is? About your group's characteristics or aspirations? About your group's relationship to some other group? Does it aspire, or gloat, or does it tell “hard truths” about your group? Again: How does your fictional episode tell your group "who they are"?

As necessay, follow up with a paragraph of analysis allowing you to engage course materials, demonstrate some brief exegesis, etc.

Have fun!

Activity of the Week: Tweet your Big Ideas and Essential Questions

Back to Twitter!

You will remember that, for each Unit, the instructor has proposed a list of Big Ideas and Essential Questions for that Unit.

A “big idea” is an enduring understanding that animates the subject matter at hand, at least as far as your instructor is concerned. (“If they don’t get anything else out of this class, I hope that they see that...”)

An “essential question” is an open-ended question by which the instructor invites you to engage those ideas. Essential questions do not have “right” answers that can be researched. The purpose of an “essential question” is to generate new questions, and to provoke discussion, disclosure, and discovery.

My Twitter “cover photo” is a white board with “essential questions” written all over it. It is from my son’s 8th-grade literature classroom.

Instructions: This week, Tweet your own “big ideas and essential questions” for Introduction to the Old Testament/Hebrew Bible. Imagine that you are preparing your own adult-education modules or seminary class on the Hebrew Bible. What Big Ideas ("enduring understandings") do you want your learners to “get”? What Essential Questions would you like to introduce as an avenue toward open-ended discussion, disclosure, and discovery?

Note: You do not have to “match up” Big Ideas with Essential Questions. Feel free to generate them independently. Maybe somebody else’s Big Ideas will spark Essential Questions for you, and vice versa!

Remember to use the course hash tag, #ootle17.

Zoom Office Hours

Look for invitations for a noon Zoom meeting on Tuesday April 25th! (EDIT: My mistake: I meant May 2nd.)