Sample Questions

These are samples of the sort of questions you should be able to answer after taking this course. Many of these questions will appear in your quizzes and in the final examination, although there will be others. If you cannot come up with your own topic for your papers most of these questions can be adapted to essay length replies.

Quiz #1 will cover material from sections one through nine.

Group One - Bible Studies

Section 1. General Biblical Content

Discuss the origins and development of the Old Testament into its present form(s). Consider particularly the question of the number of books in the Bible.

Modern Jews call their scripture the Tanakh. What is the origin of this word? How does the Tanakh relate to Christian Old Testaments?

What categories of literature are found in the Old Testament? Give some examples.

Section 2. Textual Criticism of the Bible

What is the point of a "critical" study of the Biblical Text? What does such a study hope to achieve and what are its methods and possible advantages?

Describe and discuss the various types of Biblical Criticism.

Four sources of literary tradition appear to compose the Pentateuch (Torah). They are usually referred to as J, E, D, and P. What are the identifying characteristics and major emphases of each? Which is oldest?

Section 3. Canonization/Translation

How and when did the books of the Bible come to be collected together? What is this process called?

Discuss the origins and development of the Old Testament into its present form(s). Consider particularly the question of the number of books in the Bible.

Which is the oldest collection of writings in the Old Testament? What evidence do we have for our conclusions?

Why are there slightly different versions of the Bible in English? How did they come to be written?

Section 4. Literary, Religious, and Theological Developments in the Biblical Text

What were the probable general features of the Hebrew ancestral religion?

Discuss the main difficulties in learning the religious features of Hebrew culture in the ancestral period and in the time of Moses (see FMR pages 113, 106, 115).

What can be said about the nature of Hebrew religion during the period of the settlement of Canaan?

What are the main theological developments during the United Monarchy in Israel? Discuss the possible dating of these developments.

Describe and explain the building of the first Temple in Jerusalem.

1 Kings 12 through 2 Kings 25 is the primary source for our knowledge of the divided kingdom period. What are its particular theological emphases?

Group Two - Old Testament Studies

Section 5. Critical Analysis

What is the point of a "critical" study of the Biblical Text? What does such a study hope to achieve and what are its methods and possible advantages?

Four sources of literary tradition appear to compose the Pentateuch (Torah). They are usually referred to as J, E, D, and P. What are the identifying characteristics and major emphases of each? Which is oldest?

There appear to be two separate accounts of the creation of the world in the book of Genesis. What are the differences between them and what do these differences imply?

Section 6. Geography

Most of the events in the Old Testament take place in the area between the Nile to the South West and the Tigris/Euphrates valley to the East. Describe this region using sketch maps.

What is the significance of the geographical location of the land of Canaan?

Section 7. The Exodus and the Conquest of Canaan

The Jewish festival of Pesah (Passover) commemorates the release of the Hebrew people from the domination of Egypt. What were the historical circumstances of that transition?

The authors of the books of the Old Testament were Hebrews. Who were these “Hebrews,” and what was their relation to the Habiru or Khapiru? What may have been their history?

What were the probable general features of the Hebrew ancestral religion?

Discuss the main difficulties in learning the religious features of Hebrew culture in the ancestral period and in the time of Moses

The Book of Joshua paints a rather different picture of the "conquest" of Canaan from the Book of Judges and from passages in the Book of Genesis (Gen 34:9-10, 21, 49:13-17). How might these differences be explained?

Discuss the crossing of the "Red Sea" in Exodus 14.

Explain the terms "etiological" and "eponymous" with examples from the Pentateuch. How do you think these concepts might affect our reading of the Bible?

When did the Hebrews begin to worship God by the name of Yahweh? How could the different accounts in Exodus 6:2 and Genesis 4:26 be explained?

Section 8. Hebrews in Canaan

The authors of the books of the Old Testament were Hebrews. Who were these “Hebrews” and what was their relationship to the Habiru or Khapiru? What may have been their history?

What can be said about the nature of Hebrew religion during the period of the settlement of Canaan?

How may the Hebrews have expressed their independent cultural identity in the land of Canaan?

Section 9. The Rise and Fall of the Hebrew Monarchy

When and for how long were the Hebrew people an independent political unity?

Discuss the accounts of the selection of Saul as the first king of Israel.

What were the reasons for the establishment of a Hebrew monarchy? What were the reasons for its eventual division?

What are the special features of the "Throne Succession Story" in 1 Samuel 9-20 and 1 Kings 1 and 2?

What was the attitude of the priests and prophets of Yahweh towards the monarchy?

What are the main theological developments during the United Monarchy in Israel? Discuss the possible dating of these developments.

1 Kings 12 through 2 Kings 25 is the primary source for our knowledge of the divided kingdom period. What are its particular theological emphases?


Quiz #2 will cover sections ten through thirteen.
Section 10. Exile

What happened during the Exile in Babylon? What was its effect on the culture and the religion of the Hebrew people?

"By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, yea we wept, when we remembered Zion. We hanged our harps upon the willows in the midst thereof. For they that carried us away captive required of us a song; and they that wasted us required of us mirth, saying, Sing us one of the songs of Zion." (Pss 137:1-3) What were the historical events reflected in this Psalm?

What responses to the devastation of Jerusalem and the Exile in Babylon can be seen in Biblical Literature?

Where and what is Mesopotamia? What role did this land play in Biblical history?

Give a brief outline of the history of the Israelites from their entry into Canaan (or from the division of the monarchy) to their exile in Babylon.

Section 11. The Post-Exilic Period

What do we know of the events which followed Cyrus the Great’s edict allowing exiled peoples to return to their homes. How may this have affected the development of Hebrew literature and religion after the Exile?

What components of the faith and practice of the Jewish people of the Restoration period helped to provide the enduring shape of Judaism?

How and why was Solomon's Temple in Jerusalem destroyed in 587 BCE and rebuilt seventy years later?

The narrative of the first six chapters of the book of Daniel are set in Babylon during the Exile. Do you think the setting is contemporary with the writing of this book? Explain your conclusions.

"The prophet (Isaiah) depicts the return from exile in the category of a new exodus parallel to the original exodus out of Egypt but far more glorious and wonderful." In what ways did the return from Babylon resemble the Exodus? In what ways did it differ?

Section 12. The Prophets.

Who were the prophets? What does the word mean? What did they do? What kind of material does the Prophetic Literature contain? When and where did they operate and when was the Prophetic Literature produced?

What particular elements of the theology of the prophets of Post-Exilic Israel seem to have influenced early Christianity?

What are the three factors which contributed to the rise of the prophets?

There are generally three types of material in the prophetic books. What are these and what does their inclusion reflect?

What are the major features and elements of Prophetic Literature? Give examples.

Compare the message of the prophet Jeremiah with that of Ezra. Why are the differences so marked?

What are the central messages of Amos and Hosea?

Discuss the symbolic language and activities of Prophetic literature with particular reference to the writings of Hosea and Ezekiel.

What is the significance of the "New Covenant" of Jeremiah 31:31 and of the suffering servant narratives in Deutero-Isaiah?

Describe the structure, divisions, and content of the Prophetic Book of Isaiah.

Section 13. Wisdom literature.

Which books of the Bible are identifiable as Wisdom Literature? What is Wisdom Literature? Where may it have originated? Which virtues and values does it encourage? What values does it question?

Discuss the Hebrew Psalms, with some emphasis on their relationship to Wisdom Literature.

One can identify three types of Wisdom literature practical, theological/ philosophical, and skeptical. Describe them with examples. Which types would you associate particularly with which books of the Bible?

How does the Book of Job deal with the problem of theodicy (divine justice)? What mistaken concepts does it seek to correct? What conclusions does it reach?

Discuss the Book of Ecclesiates/Qoheleth. What do we learn from it about Hebrew religious belief and theology?

Quiz #3 will cover sections fourteen through eighteen.

Section 14. Apocalyptic literature.

What are the characteristics of Apocalyptic literature? How are these characteristics inter-connected?

What historical circumstances surrounded the composition of the Book of Daniel? How would these circumstances explain the symbolism and the cryptic (concealed) references in this book?

Apart from the Book of Daniel what sections of the Old Testament might be identified as Apocalyptic Literature?

Can the development of the doctrines of resurrection and messianism in Apocalyptic Literature can be seen as a bridge between prophetic literature and the New Testament?

Group Three - New Testament Studies

Section 15. The Quest for "History"

There are certain specific problems connected with the attempt to reconstruct the factual history of the Gospel narratives. What are these problems and how does this affect Christian faith? (See FMR p. 303 ff.)

What are the ipsissima verba and the ipsissima vox? What criteria have been applied in the attempt to recover them? (See FMR p. 305 ff.)

"Any attempted reconstruction of the historical Jesus and his preaching must satisfactorily fulfill three basic goals. It must understand Jesus in the context of first century Palestinian Judaism. It must explain the reasons for his death . . . what led to his crucifixion? It must explain why he attracted a following . . . and why this following took root [after his death]" (John Hayes, Introduction to the Bible, p. 336). Are these reasonable goals? Are they possible goals? To what extent have they been achieved?

Section 16. The Gospels

What is the synoptic problem? How might it be explained? (See FMR p. 322 ff.)

In what ways do the gospels differ one from another?
(One could consider differences among the Synoptics and/or difference between the Synoptic Gospels and John's Gospel, but for quiz #3 we have not done John in any detail yet and so it would be better to concentrate on the Synoptics.)

Describe the structure of Mark's Gospel. How does it compare to that of the other gospels? (See FMR p. 328 ff.)

Section 17. The Gospel Narratives

Mark's gospel emphasizes Jesus' preaching of the Kingdom of God. Although the divine kingship of God was an ancient Jewish idea it had recently been modified by Apocalyptic thought. What was new about this idea and how did Jesus describe the Kingdom in this gospel?
(This requires some research in the texts. For example, in Matthew's beatitudes at Mtt. 5:3, 10, 19, 20, or Mtt. 8:11, 9:35 and so on, to see what is said about the "kingdom of God." There are some 18 Marcan references, including those at Mk. 1: 14, 4:10, 26, 30, and 9:1, 47, 10:14-15, 23-25, and 11:10, 12:34, & 14:25.

What is the significance of the "cleansing of the Temple" in the Gospels? Both for the followers of Jesus and for twentieth century students of the Bible?
(This is best answered with reference to the alternative timing of the cleansing in the gospel of John.)

"The basic issue is not so much how exactly the events of the resurrection occurred, but rather the existential truth conveyed in the resurrection story: through Jesus mankind triumphed over sin and death" (Greeley, Unsecular Man, 247). Does a close reading of the resurrection narratives in the New Testament bear out Greeley's conclusion?
(The simple answer is, yes, it does, but this requires an inspection of several points. For example, the distinction between gospel and biography (FMR 321), the dating of the gospels (FMR 322, 337, 344), their authorship (FMR, 326, 343), the content of Q (FMR 323), the shorter ending of Mark (FMR 330), the distinctions between the three synoptic gospels (FMR 338, 345, 348), the distinction between the Synoptics and John (FMR, 324, 350ff.), Marcion's attempt to harmonize the texts (FMR 326). Together all of these and other things add up to an attempt to communicate an "existential truth" rather than an historically accurate record of how events occurred.

What questions are raised by the accounts of the resurrection of Jesus in the New Testament? How might these questions be resolved?
(This raises similar issues to the previous question but is more focused on a single event. As well as the previous references students should consult this document).

Section 18. The Gospel of John

In what ways does the Gospel of John differ from the synoptic Gospels? (FMR 324, 350ff.)

"In the beginning was the word and the word was with God and the word was God." (John 1:1) Discuss the introduction to John's Gospel, particularly the significance of the Logos. (FMR 352-3).

Discuss the last supper and the crucifixion as related in John's gospel. How does this differ from the synoptics? (See Mtt. 26:17-29; Mk. 14:12-25; 15:25; Lk, 22:7-38 and compare these to Jn. 6:41-59 and Jn. 19:13-18.)

Section 19. The Acts of the Apostles

What evidence is there for identifying the author of the Acts of the Apostles with the author of Luke's Gospel?

The Christian Church has traditionally identified the author of the third gospel with a traveling companion of Paul called Luke. Is this identification justified?

The author of Luke/Acts gave his intention in Luke 1:3 as writing an “orderly account” of the work of Jesus and the early Church. How does he order his account in the Acts of the Apostles?

What is the significance of Pentecost as related in Acts? What is the meaning of the name and why would the Apostles have been gathered together on this particular day?

Quiz #4 will cover sections twenty through twenty-two.

Section 20. Paul and the Church in The Roman Empire

How did the Pax Romana, the protracted period of peace under Roman rule established by the emperor Augustus (28 BCE - 14 CE) contribute to the spread of Christianity? What other contributory factors were involved? (FMR 379-80, 385-389)

What is Paul’s understanding of the resurrection and the Parousia (second coming)? (FMR 398-99, 403).

Describe the five headings under which Paul’s major ideas can be discussed. What are the major themes of his epistles? (FMR 412).

What two misunderstandings about resurrection appear to have evoked Paul’s response in the first letter to the Corinthians? (FMR 405).

Choose one of the major themes of the letters of Paul. Describe and explain it in as much detail as you can. (FMR 412 and 398ff.)

Describe the seven images or metaphors that Paul uses to describe the new possibilities opened by the death and resurrection of the Christ. How can people receive these benefits? (FMR 414-15).

What particular ideas did the early Church derive from pre-Christian Judaism and from Greco/Roman culture?

In what ways and to which specific people might Christianity have presented an attractive alternative religious faith?

Describe the changing relationship of Early Christianity and Judaism.

Apart from the Epistles themselves our main source for knowledge of Paul is the Acts of the Apostles. Discuss the inconsistencies and agreements between Paul and the author of Acts.

Section 21. The General and Pastoral Epistles

What are the general epistles and why are they so called? What do they reveal to us about the early Church?

What attitude to the Parousia (second coming) is generally shown in the General Epistles?

Discuss the disagreement over justification by works between Paul and the letter of James. How serious do you think this is?

What arguments have been raised against Pauline authorship of the Pastoral Epistles (1 and 2 Timothy and Titus)? What features of the letter to the Ephesians also have caused that letter to be regarded as the writing of someone other than Paul? Assess these arguments and their effect on the validity of the books.

The Pauline Epistles and the later New Testament Epistles reveal at least three controversies active in the Church of that period. These concern circumcision, faith vs. works, and certain specific heresies. Briefly state the central points of these controversies.

Section 22. The Revelation to John

Where and when was the Revelation to John written? What was the major stimulus which provoked its writing?

Compare the Revelation to John to the Book of Daniel. In what ways do they differ, in what ways are they alike?

What was the primary purpose of the Book of Revelation? How does John communicate his message?



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