Introduction to the Hebrew Scriptures

Our present quarterly study group begins an overview of the Old Testament, utilising some excellent online lectures and materials from Christine Hayes at Yale University. These lectures provide a solid introduction to the OT as a whole as well as an introduction to critical historical work done on the OT over the last two centuries.

The full lecture series is quite long — 24 sessions! — so we will break it up into a number of parts over the next year or so, with pauses in between.

The whole series and its associated resources can be found here. The ‘Sessions’ tab brings up the full list of lectures, and clicking on each brings up the video, text and any other resources (occasional handouts, etc.) relating to that session.

To make things slightly more straightforward, however, the material for each week is given below.

A book companion to the series as a whole, which at least group leaders and perhaps group members might consider buying, is The Jewish Study Bible: Second Edition. It is not exactly cheap – being around $AU65 new. As well as providing a non-Christian reading of the Hebrew Bible, it has a great deal of comment in the margins of each page as well as introductory essays to each of the Old Testament books and scholarly articles on history, interpretation, and so forth. It is a book which will likely serve purchasers well for a long time. A look at the ‘Look Inside’ feature for the book on Amazon might be worthwhile, if you’re considering getting a copy. See here for a range of online sources for this book.


There are two groups running ; feel free to shift around between groups as you need to! A Wednesday group will meet at 7.45pm via Zoom until we are able to meet again in person, and the Friday group at 1.30pm (while isolation remains in place, moving to Friday mornings once we are able to meet again in person). If you are not already on the reading group list or have not otherwise received the meeting link, you can request it here: Meetings will be open a few minutes before the start time for you to check your connection. For info about setting up Zoom, see here.

Preparing for the discussions

Prior to each session, watch the lecture via the links below, or read the transcript. There is also an audio-only version of the lectures available on the course homepage under the ‘sessions’ tab — click on the session you want and the audio can be downloaded at the bottom of the session page. There is also a section of biblical text which it would be helpful to read in conjunction with Hayes’ lectures, and usually a reference to the Jewish Study Bible (JSB) which will assist those who have a copy.

A version of the transcript Yale is also provided, with added paragraph numbers for reference in our discussions.

  • 1. Wed May 6 / Fri May 8 – Video 1; lecture transcript
  • 2. Wed May 13 / Fri May 15- Video 2; lecture transcript
  • 3. Wed May 20 / Fri May 22 – Video 3; lecture transcript
  • 4. Wed May 27 / Fri May 29 – Video 4; lecture transcript
    • Bible: Genesis 5-11
    • JSB: Introduction to the Torah, pp1-7
    • AND a very brief overview of the book of Genesis — the main book treated in this first selection from the lectures — can be found here (part one) and here (part two). This is presented from a theological perspective quite different from that of Hayes in her lectures, but the overview of the content of Genesis is useful.
  • 6. Wed June 10 / Fri June 12 – Video 6; lecture transcript
    • Bible: Genesis 12 – Exodus 4
    • JSB: Introduction to Exodus (JSB pp. 102-107); “Historical and Geographical Background to the Bible” (JSB pp. 2048-2052); “Inner-Biblical Interpretation” (JSB pp. 1829-1835)
  • 7. Wed June 17 / Fri June 19 – Video 7; lecture transcript
    • Bible: Genesis 12 – Exodus 4
    • JSB: Introduction to Exodus (JSB pp. 102-107); “Historical and Geographical Background to the Bible” (JSB pp. 2048-2052); “Inner-Biblical Interpretation” (JSB pp. 1829-1835)