Why should people study the Old Testament

Old testament

Anyone who wants to study the Old Testament and thus the Hebrew Bible must carefully examine texts that were created over centuries in ancient Israel and then edited and handed down. During the course of study, therefore, the historical distance to the world of the Bible becomes again aware. Those who openly embrace this perspective will be richly rewarded, because he or she looks into a fascinating mirror of the search for God and man. It is true that the biblical texts are very old and in some cases strange; But their meaning points - recognizable by the long history of their impact - beyond their time of origin to the present. The aim of the course is to acquire exegetical and hermeneutic competence. In later everyday professional life in pastoral and diaconal service, this skill is of great importance in order to connect the current questions about God and people in society with the potential meaning of the biblical texts.

The basic requirement for the professional use of the sources is the acquisition of philological knowledge in the ancient Hebrew (or Aramaic) language. Hebrew is the gateway to the world of the first part of the Christian Bible. Just learning the Hebrew language opens up another world, because in this way students not only get to know a different world of ideas, but also learn that theological meaning is necessarily tied to a certain language. In practical terms, theology is always: translation work. Basic knowledge of Hebrew is taught in the basic Hebrew module. In-depth knowledge is made possible through reading courses on changing text areas (in-depth module Hebrew and Greek). The Old Testament department offers the extended Hebrew language test (Hebraicum) at least every two years.

An essential basic skill that is acquired during the course is of course first of all the ability to navigate safely in the extensive text cosmos of the Old Testament (biblical studies). Building on this, it is a matter of classifying and evaluating the texts and books of the Old Testament in terms of literary history, (social) history and theology. Knowledge of the external conditions of the region such as climate, geography and archeology, as well as an overview of the history of Israel, which has developed in connection with the history of the Egyptians, Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians and Greeks, among others, help.
Two basic modules serve as an introduction to the scientific study of the Old Testament. The basic module Old Testament I consists of the courses “Biblical Study of the Old Testament” and “History of Israel”. The basic module Old Testament II combines the two courses “Introduction to the Theology of the Old Testament” and “Proseminar Old Testament”. Through the courses offered in these modules, students acquire the ability to deal independently with scientific literature and various research positions. The introductory seminar familiarizes students with a variety of method steps for the development of texts and prepares students to independently write an exegetical term paper.

In the further course of the course, lectures are offered on the one hand that give an overview of larger book complexes of the Old Testament, and on the other hand, seminars that enable deepening on a more specific topic. On the basis of a 6-semester plan, six different topics are offered as lectures and six more as seminars over three years. In the master’s program, students attend reading courses in the Hebrew and Greek specialization module every semester in order to deepen the language skills they have acquired and to combine them with new content-related issues. Most of the time, text excerpts are dealt with that play a role in the lectures or seminars of the respective semester.

Interdisciplinary seminars, which combine the study of the Old Testament with the perspective of other specialist disciplines, are an integral part of the range of offers. Topics in the past were e.g. prophetic social criticism and modern social criticism (with Ralf Dziewas, Diakonik), biblical anthropology (with Uwe Swarat, dogmatics) or the history of the interpretation of Old Testament texts (with Martin Rothkegel, church history).

Those who choose to focus on “Biblical Studies” in the master’s degree can set a special focus in the Old and New Testament through written elaborations on topics and biblical texts of their choice. As part of the master’s tutorial, the drafts of the term papers and the final master’s thesis are presented and the steps involved in dealing with the topic are discussed.
In addition to the courses at the Elstal Theological University, external learning locations are also sought out: The proximity to the museums in Berlin enables regular excursions, for example to the Near Eastern Department of the Pergamon Museum or the Egyptian Museum, as well as the Jewish Museum.