Introduction to Biblical Studies
Most Helpful Review
This is my second class with Professor Smoak and I loved it just as much if not more than his Jerusalem class. This is a brand new class, and it is just so unique and innovative and frankly some of the most compelling material I have ever studied. It is almost entirely a course about the Old Testament since that is Smoak's specialty and because UCLA is a public school and teaching NT and theology is a sticky business (as of 2021 there are no theology scholars here). The course looks at the methodologies of Hebrew Bible scholarship and the implications of biblical interpretation both in antiquity and in our contemporary 19th-21st century scholarship of the bible. I'd say half the class is learning about Kugel's four assumptions and the beginnings of biblical criticism, archeology, and research (documentary hypothesis and so on) and the other half is discussing politics and different schools of biblical thought in the current field of biblical studies.
The class has weekly in-focus assignments (you're allowed to miss 2), midterm, final, and an 8-page final paper. The midterm was much harder than the final, but Smoak is a really understanding professor who I think is quite a lenient grader. I only took this P/NP b/c I started the quarter knowing I was going to have my hands tied with family matters and I knew that my time would be limited for this course, so indicated that immediately when I enrolled in it.
Smoak does a wonderful job with this material. His lectures are informative and legitimately interesting if you like "the history of the bible". I learned awesome bits of information. There's also a fair amount of discussion in this class unlike his lower divs, which is incredible because I think Smoak is the perfect guy to moderate discussion, not being too assertive but speaking when necessary. We had a couple of senior citizens in the class which was rather fun. Shouts out to Holly for always having a question or three. What I thought was probably the most profound was Smoak who sort of introduced the class to his school of biblical thought, taught that no reading of the bible is free from ideological influence or social location, and that interpreters of the bible (whether scholars, theologians, or preachers) have a moral obligation to be aware of the political and social interests and that the interpretive task is in favor of liberating marginalized groups. That take on the bible was very new to me and comes to show how Smoak grounds his work on ancient history and literature with the effects/importance it has on the present and vice versa.