Your Word is a Lamp for my feet and a Light for my path."Introduction to the Sacred Scriptures"

Prof. Felix Just, S.J.
Saint Ignatius Institute
University of San Francisco

Class Meetings: T/Th 3:30-5:15 p.m., LM 365   USF Course Number: 0125-160-02
Office Hours: by appt.    Office: CAT 6 (Welsh Field trailers are now closed; email or call me to make an appointment)
Email: fnjust—at—    Home Phone: 415-422-5302

Click here for the Detailed Schedule of Readings

Syllabus - Spring 2006

Course Description and Learning Outcomes:

This core course is intended to enliven your understanding and appreciation of Christianity, overall, by studying some of the social, historical, cultural, literary, and theological dimensions of the Bible, both the Old and New Testaments, in particular. We will consider the original meaning of the Bible in its ancient contexts, as well as its modern significance and application for our own lives and communities. As a result of this course, the student will be expected:

1) To have a basic familiarity with the content and literary genres of the whole Bible:
- we will read much of the 46 OT and 27 NT books, which include many different literary genres.
- we will learn how these ancient texts differ from one other and from modern literary works.

2) To be able to read the Bible critically, in the light of its social, historical, cultural, and religious contexts:
- we will learn some highlights of Ancient Near-Eastern, Judeo-Christian, and Greco-Roman history.
- we will investigate some important aspects of ancient cultures, which are vastly different from our own.

3) To know the presuppositions of Catholic biblical interpretation, esp. applying the "both/and" approach:
- we will read some key official ecclesial documents that explain the Catholic approach to the Bible.
- we will consider the literal and spiritual meanings of texts, and apply several different exegetical methods.

4) To have improved basic academic skills, including critical reading, research, writing, and discussion skills:
- we will practice raising questions that challenge unspoken assumptions and explore new areas.
- we will endeavor to look for multiple answers, rather than being satisfied with simplistic solutions.

5) To understand the academic study of theology as an essentially inter-disciplinary enterprise:
- we will incorporate insights from the fields of history, archaeology, literature, language, art, science, etc.
- we will also ask about the specifically theological meaning and religious relevance of the texts.

6) To appreciate the continuing relevance of the Bible, Christianity, and religion in general in our world today:
- we will consider how biblical texts are applicable to spirituality, prayer, liturgy, politics, and social justice.
- we will discuss the interplay between religious texts, personal faith, community praxis, and ecclesial structures.

For the official "learning goals" of USF's Core Curriculum, see also

Required Textbooks and Instructional Materials:

  1. The Catholic Study Bible: New American Bible (ed. D. Senior; Oxford, 1990).
  2. A pack of 3x5 Index Cards, for writing brief questions and reflections for each class day.
  3. Use of email and web-based resources (see and

An "Educational Covenant":

The process of teaching and learning requires attention to several basic principles:

a) respect for one another;   b) respect for the subject material;   c) respect for the learning process.

To make these principles concrete:

I, the professor, promise to: You, the student, promise to:
· be well-prepared for each class
· be serious and enthusiastic about the course
· be respectful of your views and experiences
· be attentive to your struggles and progress
· be available to you outside of the classroom
· not eat or drink or use cell phones during class
· bring all materials needed for instruction
· explain the format and content of exams
· let you know ASAP if class must be cancelled
· start and end class on time each day
· be well-prepared for each class
· be serious and enthusiastic about the course
· be respectful of my and other students' views
· be responsible for your own work and progress
· participate fully in class activities and discussions
· not eat or drink or use cell phones during class
· always bring your Catholic Study Bible to class
· study carefully and thoroughly for all the exams
· inform me if you have an unavoidable absence
· be on time, and remain for the whole class

Course Work and Expectations:

  1. Attendance: On-time attendance each class day is essential, and thus required, for this course. Please let me know in advance (personally, by phone, or by e-mail) if you absolutely must miss, be late, or leave early for any class. Unexcused absences and tardiness will count against your "class participation" score.
  2. Participation: Always come prepared to summarize the readings, to take notes, to ask questions, to suggest answers, and to challenge ideas and assumptions (your own and those of others - but always respectfully!).
  3. Required Readings: All reading assignments (see the attached "Detailed Class Schedule") should be completed before class each day, so that you can better understand the lectures and contribute to the discussions. Along with the biblical texts, read the corresponding "Introductions" and "Reading Guides" in your Study Bible, and any assigned webpages.
  4. Index Cards: For each day, prepare a 3x5 index card with at least two questions, one based on the biblical readings and one on the secondary readings. These could be simple questions for clarification, more complex issues for discussion, or personal struggles and reactions! Write down honest and thought-provoking questions. Put your name and the date on the top right corner, and one question on each side of the card.
  5. Office Hours: Please visit or call me at any time during the semester to discuss any questions or problems. In addition to the scheduled office hours, you can make appointments to see me at other times. To help me get to know you more quickly, please see me during the first week of the semester to introduce yourself briefly (sign-up sheet in class).
  6. Quizzes and Examinations: We will have a short quiz almost every week (ca. 10 min. each), one midterm (on the OT), and one final exam (on the NT). No make-ups will be given for any quiz you might miss, but everyone's two lowest quiz scores will be dropped, so only your top ten out of twelve count towards your final grade.
  7. Extra Credit: Throughout the semester, pay attention to "The Use of the Bible in U.S. Society." Where/how is the Bible used in news, politics, TV, movies, ads, music, etc.? Bring in some "show & tell" materials (news clippings, magazine articles, flyers, etc.), and you can receive up to 40 "extra credit" points total.
  8. Disabilities or Special Needs: If you have a physical impairment, learning disability, or any other special need that requires extra accommodations for your assignments and/or examinations, please let me know as soon as possible so we can make appropriate arrangements.
  9. Academic Honesty and Integrity: I strongly encourage you to study together, learn from one another, and make use of outside sources (books, people, websites) to help you learn even more than you would from our textbook or me alone. All written work, however, must obviously be your own, unless you are citing directly from sources that you have properly documented and credited. Copying from any person, book, website, etc., without properly documenting your source (even if you change a few words!), is a serious offense (plagiarism), which will result in a failing grade for the exam or the entire course! See the USF "Fogcutter" (p. 100) for more info about plagiarism and academic honesty.
  10. Course Grades: Final letter grades will be based on a total of 600 points possible in this course:
    * Attendance & Participation: 150 points (25% of the total; incl. absences; readings; index cards; etc.)
    * Weekly Quizzes: 150 points (10x15 pts; 25% of the total; your lowest two quizzes will be dropped)
    * Midterm Exam: 150 points (25% of the total)
    * Final Exam: 150 points (25% of the total)



This syllabus may be modified slightly during the semester, as announced in class and on the course website.

Affirmation of Acceptance:

We, the undersigned student and teacher, agree to abide by all the aforementioned stipulations of this syllabus, including the "Educational Covenant" and the "Course Work and Expectations," to the best of our ability.

Student's Name (print): ___________________________________ Date: ___________________________________

Student's Signature: ______________________________________ Instructor: _______________________________


See also the Detailed Schedule of Readings

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