THE2173 - Life and Death in Israel and Judah

2022/3 Module description

StaffProfessor Francesca Stavrakopoulou - Convenor
Credit Value30
ECTS Value15
NQF Level5
Duration of Module Term 2: 11 weeks;

Module description

All cultures deal with the rhythms of life and death differently. In this module, we will explore the social, religious, and cultural dynamics of life, death, and post-mortem existence in ancient Israel and Judah, and consider their reflections and refractions in the Hebrew Bible. Drawing on anthropological, archaeological, iconographical, and literary-critical approaches, we will examine various socio-religious practices and cultural preferences relating to a range of bodily and social experiences, including pregnancy and birth, puberty and sex, body modification and personhood, mortuary practices, and encounters with the dead. We will also consider the legacy of these ancient perspectives and practices within early Jewish and Christian communities.

Module aims

This module will enable you to better understand the ancient societies in which the Hebrew Bible emerged and to consider the ways in which the bodily dynamics of lived experience intersected with notions of the otherworldly. You will learn how to read literary, visual, and archaeological material with critical eyes, and consider the ways in which materiality, sociality, power, gender, age, sexuality, class, and place are bound up with ancient and modern responses to this material.

ILO: Module-specific skills

  • 1. Demonstrate critical awareness and knowledge of the religious, socio-cultural, and historical contexts of selected biblical texts pertaining to life, death and post-mortem existence
  • 2. Relate the iconographic and archaeological artefacts considered to their wider social, political, and religious contexts, both past and present
  • 3. Reflect critically on our own ‘locatednessÂ’ as we gaze at the past

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

  • 4. Demonstrate knowledge of, and critical reflection on, contrasting scholarly, historical, and social perspectives
  • 5. Make careful use of historical-critical, visual-critical, and social-scientific critical methods in biblical and artefactual interpretation
  • 6. Reflect upon the diversity and legacy of ancient worldviews

ILO: Personal and key skills

  • 7. Communicate clearly and imaginatively in written and/or oral form
  • 8. Construct logical and lucid arguments using appropriate methods
  • 9. Engage respectfully, generously, and sensitively with methods, viewpoints and opinions which may be contrary to your own

Syllabus plan

Whilst the content may vary from year to year, it is envisioned that it will cover some or all of the following topics:

  • Personhood and identity in ancient Israel and Judah
  • Death and burial: archaeological and biblical perspectives
  • Post-mortem existence, ancestor cults, and otherworldly encounters
  • Pregnancy, childhood, and kinship
  • Body modification and sociality
  • Child sacrifice and ritual bodies
  • Sex and eroticism
  • Aging and the elderly
  • The rise of resurrection

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled Learning and Teaching 33Lectures and workshops
Guided Independent Study267Private study

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Draft work on portfolio1000 words1-9Written feedback

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Portfolio1006000 words in total1-9Written feedback

Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
PortfolioPortfolio1-9Referral/deferral period

Re-assessment notes

Deferral – if you miss an assessment for certificated reasons judged acceptable by the Mitigation Committee, you will normally be either deferred in the assessment or an extension may be granted. The mark given for a re-assessment taken as a result of deferral will not be capped and will be treated as it would be if it were your first attempt at the assessment.

Referral – if you have failed the module overall (i.e. a final overall module mark of less than 40%) you will be required to submit a further assessment as necessary. If you are successful on referral, your overall module mark will be capped at 40%.

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

  • King, P.J., and L.E. Stager, Life in Biblical Israel (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox, 2001).
  • Niditch, S. (ed.), The Wiley Blackwell Companion to Ancient Israel (Chichester: John Wiley, 2016).
  • Stavrakopoulou, F. (ed.), Life and Death: Social Perspectives on Biblical Bodies (London: T&T Clark, 2021)
  • Stavrakopoulou, F. and J. Barton (eds), Religious Diversity in Ancient Israel and Judah (London: T&T Clark, 2010).
  • Suriano, M.J., Death in the Hebrew Bible (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2018).

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Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

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Key words search

Bible; antiquity; birth; death; Judaism; Christianity

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