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Department of Theology, Reinbolt Hall, One Camino Santa Maria, San Antonio, TX 78228

TH 6314, The Law of Moses

Changes to the syllabus following transition to online and campus closure, March 23, 2020

  1. Section DL is unaffected.
  2. Section A will meet by way of Zoom at the normal classtime, as was sometimes the case before spring break.
  3. There are no office hours on campus. Office hours are by way of Zoom (see email or Canvas for link) Mondays through Thursdays 4:00-5:00 pm and by appointment.

Spring 2019, Tuesdays 6:30–9:15 pm, Reinbolt 002 and Zoom

Dr. Todd Hanneken,, 210-431-8050

Office hours: Online via Zoom by appointment and Reinbolt 303a, Tuesdays 9:00–noon, Wednesdays noon–3:00, Thursdays 9:00–noon, and anytime the door is open, which is almost always.

Course Description

This course focuses on the Torah, the first five books of the Hebrew Bible / Old Testament from the perspective of law and government. The Torah participates in the legal and cultural traditions of the Ancient Near East, and introduces radical innovations. Unlike its ancient counterparts, the Israelite Law continues to influence social thought not only in Judaism and Christianity, but the secular systems that developed in the Christian world. That influence is mediated, however, by the various traditions of interpretation in Judaism and Christianity. This course seeks appreciation of the Law of Moses in four contexts: the original context of its development in the Ancient Near East, the history of interpretation in Judaism and Christianity, contemporary ethical and religious questions, and the relationship between the principles of biblical law and American law. While much of the Torah is recognizable as “law” in the modern sense, the entire Torah, including narratives and exhortations, will be studied with respect to underlying questions of how a society orders itself around common understandings of national identity, duty to God and neighbor, and principles of justice inherent in creation.

Required Texts

At least one scholarly study Bible based on the NAB, NRSV, or JPS Tanakh translation.

Martha T. Roth. Law Collections from Mesopotamia and Asia Minor. Second edition, Writings from the Ancient World 6. Atlanta: Scholars, 1997.

John J. Collins. A Short Introduction to the Hebrew Bible. Third edition. Minneapolis: Fortress, 2018. (earlier editions also acceptable)

Joseph Blenkinsopp. Wisdom and Law in the Old Testament: The Ordering of Life in Israel and Early Judaism. Revised ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995. (This is available electronically through the St. Mary’s library website.)

James L. Kugel. The Bible As It Was. Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap, 1997 (paperback 1999).

Additional readings will be available from the course website.


By the end of the course the student will be able to:


Informed participation begins with coming to class having thought about the readings and being prepared to discuss difficulties and key points. Besides offering answers, participation includes asking questions and participating in discussion. Each student should draw from his or her academic and professional background to offer insights on the topic at hand. Each student’s contribution will be unique. Since the class meets only once per week missing more than one class meeting becomes a cause for concern.

The final exam will focus on objective knowledge and synthesis of information across the course.

A final paper is required for graduate credit (not auditors or undergraduates). The final paper should demonstrate the ability to do scholarly research in the study of the Pentateuch and its legacy in traditional interpretation and modern social issues. The paper should be grounded in the themes of the course and take account of information and arguments encountered in the course. Additionally, the paper should make a more advanced argument on a focused topic, based on research in primary and scholarly sources. Students who do not have experience writing graduate-level research papers in the humanities should be especially prepared to ask for help from the instructor, librarians, and other resources. The rough expectation is 15 pages of original argument (excluding block quotations, title page, bibliography, appendices, etc.), and engagement with several reliable and recent scholarly treatments. The instructor is open to proposals for alternative final projects that may fit the goals of the student more than a traditional research paper. Such proposals should be discussed well in advance.

A short presentation on work in progress on the paper will exercise oral presentation skills and facilitate peer feedback on topics and research skills.


34% Participation

33% Exam (May 5)

33% Paper (due May 7)

University Policies

All university policies apply to this course, including the following:

Grading Scale
GradeQuality PointsNumerical Ranges (%)
F0.00below 60

This course adheres to St. Mary’s University’s academic policies and procedures.
This course adheres to St. Mary’s University’s attendance policy.
This course adheres to the policies for academic dishonesty and misconduct, as described in the Student Code of Conduct (see especially section V).
This course adheres to the policies for study days and final exams. Namely, There will be two study days (April 29 and 30) during which students prepare for final exams. No classes will be scheduled on study days; optional review sessions can be held. The final exam schedule can be found at under Related Links.

St. Mary’s University is committed to providing a safe, equitable, and fair environment where students can pursue academic excellence. Policies and procedures have been developed to foster and sustain such an environment and apply to all courses offered at the university. Students need to be aware of these policies and procedures, which can be found in Gateway ( and within the “University Policies” tab of your course assigned Canvas page ( Please become familiar with these important policies and procedures, which include:


January 14, Introductions and Start Decalogue (Exodus 20:1–18 and Deuteronomy 5)

January 21, The Decalogue and Its Status in Interpretation

January 28, The Covenant Code, Hammurabi

February 4, The Covenant Code, Life, Personal Status and Slavery

February 11, Deuteronomy

February 18, Deuteronomy, Family and Inheritance Law

February 25, Deuteronomy, Premodern and Feminist Interpretation

March 3, Holiness Code

March 10, Spring Break (no class meeting)

March 17, Holiness Code, Conflict Resolution

March 24, The Priestly Source, Purity and Social Order in Daily Life

March 31, The Priestly Source, Hierocracy

April 7, Narrative as Law, National Identity

April 14, Narrative as Law, Fraud and International Relations

April 21, Narrative as Law, The Meaning of Life (Primordial Etiology)

April 28, Research Reports

May 5, Final Exam

May 7, Final Paper Due

Updated 12/31/2019