THE3218 - The Invention of God

2022/3 Module description

StaffProfessor Francesca Stavrakopoulou - Convenor
Credit Value30
ECTS Value15
NQF Level6
Duration of Module Term 1: 11 weeks;

Module description

In this module, you will explore the ways in which the character, forms, and functions of the God of the Hebrew Bible emerged from the ancient polytheisms of southwest Asian societies. Drawing on archaeological, anthropological, historical, iconographical, and literary-critical approaches, students will encounter key aspects of the religious and cultural contexts of the biblical texts and the societies in which they were produced. You will examine the ways in which biblical writers recycled and adapted older mythologies and religious practices, and interrogate the ways in which ideologies of power and subversion contributed to the creation of the biblical God. There are no pre-requisites for this module, but modules THE1101 and/or THE1104 are recommended preparatory pathways. 

Module aims

This module will enable you to better understand and critique ideas about the emergence of monotheism (‘one-god’ religion), aniconism (imageless worship), and constructs of the divine in the societies that gave rise to the Hebrew Bible and related early Jewish and Christian writings. You will learn how to read literary, visual, and archaeological material with critical eyes, and consider the ways in which power, gender, sexuality, materiality, class, and place intersect to shape 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
  • 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 ‘locatedness’ 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. Demonstrate the careful and critical use of historical-critical, visual-critical, and social-scientific critical methods in biblical and artefactual interpretation

ILO: Personal and key skills

  • 6. communicate clearly and imaginatively in both written and/or oral form
  • 7. Construct logical and lucid arguments using appropriate methods
  • 8. Participate appropriately within group work
  • 9. Generously engage with methods and people who may represent opinions and viewpoints different from your own

Syllabus plan

Topics may include:

  • What is a god?
  • Heaven, the underworld, and the in-between
  • Divine bodies and human bodies
  • Sex, death, and power
  • Creator gods, divine warriors, and monsters
  • Royal gods and temples
  • The life, death, and resurrection of Mrs God
  • Inventing the aniconic God
  • Inventing the monotheistic God
  • Persistent polytheisms


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 Teaching2211 x 2 hour lectures
Scheduled Learning and Teaching1111 x 1 hour workshops
Guided Independent Study267Private study

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Artefact analyss1000 words1-7, 9Written feedback and general discussion in class

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
Portfolio1007000 words in total1-7, 9Written feedback

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

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
PortfolioPortfolio1-7, 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

  • Niditch, S., The BlackwellCompanion to Ancient Israel (Oxford: Blackwell, 2017)
  • Romer, T., The Invention of God (New Haven: Harvard University Press, 2015)
  • Smith, M.S., The Early History of God (Grand Rapids: Eisenbrauns, 2002)
  • Stavrakopoulou, F. and J. Barton (eds), Religious Diversity in Ancient Israel and Judah (London: Bloomsbury, 2010)
  • Zevit, Z., The Religions of Ancient Israel (London: Continuum, 2001)

Module has an active ELE page?


Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date


Key words search

Religion, Bible, god, goddess, archaeology, monotheism, polytheism

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