The most important book of Western civilization consists of several books by several different authors written at several different times. Within various religious traditions, the Bible differs significantly in composition, order, and emphasis. Christians and Jews share what Christians call the Old Testament, which in Judaic tradition combines the Torah, Nevi'im, and Ketuvim (the Law, the Prophets, and the Scriptures). Ancient in origin, very few of the Bible's earliest manuscripts survived the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in 70 CE. The New Testament was compiled-not without controversy-largely in the 4th century CE from various manuscripts in Greek. Early in the 5th century, Jerome organized and translated into Latin the first canonical Christian Bible, though books would be added or subtracted until the Council of Trent sought to establish a definitive edition in the 16th century. The Protestant Reformation soon would change that.
In this program, we'll study the evolution of the Bible, tracing its myriad sources and the influences on its composition. We'll discover the role of the Apostolic Fathers in the process of composition and discuss how and why some books were included while others were not. We'll follow the church's influence on Christianity's evolving canon and the often controversial efforts to determine scriptural authenticity through translation and interpretation of ancient texts. We'll learn how the Bible came into a new distillation through the translation sponsored by King James, the version that articulated what many Christians regard as the most beautiful and inspiring "Word of God."
Despite the enduring mysteries of its origin and composition, the Bible has remained the single-most influential book in our Judeo-Christian heritage. To illustrate the pervasiveness of this influence, we'll explore how the Bible has both shaped and challenged Western thought from the Middle Ages through the Enlightenment and how it continues to resound in our culture to this very day.
Serving as faculty for the program are Amir Orly, from Israel, and W&L faculty Alexandra Brown of the religion department, Marc Conner of the English department, and David Peterson of the history department.