Bible Overview: Hebrew Scriptures
Prepared by Tom Thorpe, April 2008

About the Course
This course uses the term Hebrew Scriptures in place of the more commonly used term Old Testament. Overview of the Hebrew Scriptures introduces the rich history of the Hebrew Scriptures, known in Hebrew culture as Tanakh, and provides a framework for future study. Learners will explore the history and development of the Hebrew Scriptures through stories, exploration of events, and discussion of the perspectives from which the books of the Law (Torah), the Prophets (Nevi'im), and the Writings (Kethuvim) were written. The course identifies the main story lines and historical periods of the Hebrew Scriptures. It begins with the allegories of Genesis and traces the history of the Hebrew people from the call of Abraham through the Patriarchal period, the Exodus, the period of the Judges, the United Kingdom, the Divided Kingdom, the Exile and the post-Exile period.

Overview of the Christian Scriptures will be a companion course to Overview of the Hebrew Scriptures. The classroom version of Overview of the Christian Scriptures will be offered beginning in July 2008. The online version will be offered beginning January 2009. It will not be necessary, although it will be helpful, for students to complete Overview of the Hebrew Scriptures before taking Overview of the Christian Scriptures.

Learning Objectives
On completion of the course students will be able to:
  • Identify parts and origins of the Hebrew Scriptures.
  • Compare time periods in the Hebrew Scriptures and explain their significance.
  • Explain how the the Hebrew Scriptures present the story of the evolution of the consciousness of humankind.
Course Presentation
Overview of the Hebrew Scriptures is designed to be completed at the student's own pace. Students may begin course work at any time and take as long as six months to complete the course. Each of the eight lessons begins with a Learning Guide explaining the main themes of the lesson, assigned readings from the texts and from the Hebrew Scriptures, and questions for reflection. A video message from the instructor will accompany each lesson's Learning Guide. An optional discussion forum will be available for students who wish to engage in conversation about their learning experience with others in the course. Learners may communicate with the instructor by e-mail or telephone.

Each lesson will include a multiple-choice quiz. At the conclusion of the course, learners will be required to pass a final multiple-choice examination and submit a short essay.

As with all SEE courses, Overview of the Hebrew Scriptures will be graded on a Satisfactory/Unsatisfactory/Incomplete basis. Grading will be based on successful completion of all quizzes and the final essay.

Required Course Materials
  • Bible (New Revised Standard Version required. New Interpreter's Study Bible, published by Abingdon, highly recommended.)
  • Reading the Bible Again for the First Time, by Marcus J. Borg, published by Harper San Francsico
Book of Interest (will not be a required text but will be helpful to those interested in more detail.)
  • Don't Know Much About the Bible, by Kenneth C. Davis, published by Perennial, a division of Harper Collins
Summary of Lessons
  • Lesson 1
    • What is the Bible? What is your view of the Bible? Is “Hebrew Scriptures” or “Old Testament” the more correct name? What did original Bible texts look like? Who wrote the Bible? Tanakh (Torah, Nevi'im, Kethuvim—the divisions of the Hebrew Bible)
  • Lesson 2
    • Overview of the historical periods of the Hebrew Scriptures—the “big picture”
  • Lesson 3
    • The Allegories of Genesis.; the Patriarchs—Abraham, Isaac and Jacob
  • Lesson 4
    • From Bondage in Egypt to the Conquest of Canaan as chronicled in the Torah
  • Lesson 5
    • From the Judges through the United Kingdom. Wisdom Literature: Psalms and Song of Solomon
  • Lesson 6
    • The Kingdom divides, the Northern Kingdom is conquered, the Southern Kingdom is endangered, and major prophets emerge—Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel
  • Lesson 7
    • The Exile and the return to Jerusalem. Ecclesiastes and Proverbs
  • Lesson 8
    • The Wisdom Literature, continued: Job, Ruth, Esther

More Information
See class schedule or register now.
Tuition is moderately priced.

Also, make sure you read the technical requirements for this course and review our online learning FAQs.

For information, call Customer Service toll-free at 1-800-248-6489, Monday through Friday, 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. (CT). You may also e-mail us at

We invite you to explore our other study programs, including online self-study or the Spiritual Education and Enrichment (SEE) programs held at the Unity Village campus.




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