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Scripture and Justice

Course Level: Advanced

Course Summary

This is an ADVANCED level course and should not be attempted without sufficient grounding in the basics of the Catholic faith.

Catholic Social Teaching is the fruit of a rich tradition of ecumenical council documents, papal encyclicals, bishops' conference documents and more, all of which are rooted in the sacred texts of Scripture. The story of the Old Testament is, at its heart, the story of a people striving to achieve and maintain a life-giving community. The writings of the New Testament indicate an emerging Christian community's dawning understanding of Jesus' life, death and resurrection as the culmination of God's plan for the world. This course examines the biblical vision of community, ordered above all toward justice and cooperation, and the way in which both Old and New Testaments provide the framework for living justly in today's world.

This course is part of the Social Justice Certificate Program.

Successful completion of this course earns 2.5 CEU's. Click here for more information about CEU's.

General Course Objectives

  • Identify the social, economic and political forces that lay behind the emergence of biblical texts.
  • Develop a method for understanding how appeal to the Bible is made to advance and justify decisions and directions.
  • Understand the necessity to apply a hermeneutic of suspicion to the interpretation of biblical texts.
  • Understand the political, social and economic realities that gave rise to the biblical texts of the Judeo-Christian tradition.
  • Develop the ability to read biblical texts from the perspective of the poor.
  • Recapture the wider political, economic and social function and meaning of the biblical notion of covenant.

Course Materials

  • Required Book: Malchow, Bruce V. Social Justice in the Hebrew Bible The Liturgical Press, 1996 ISBN: 0814655238; ISBN-13: 978-0814655238
  • Required Book: Barbara E. Bowe. Lanhan, MD Biblical Foundations of Spirituality: Touching a Finger to the Flame Rowman and Littlefield, 2003. ISBN: 074253157-0: ISBN-13: 978-0742531574
  • Course Materials available at the VLCFF Amazon Store.

Course Structure and Highlights

  • Week 1: A Fresh Look at Ancient Israel
    • Name the primary methods of biblical criticism, their advantages and limitations.
    • Explain the influence of sociological studies in the interpretation of key biblical texts on justice.
    • Explain the difference between proof-texting and intertextuality in the context of biblical texts on justice.
    • Understand the need for the hermeneutical privilege of the poor and the hermeneutic of suspicion in reading and interpreting biblical texts.
    • Explain the socio-economic conditions of the Ancient Near East that led to the emergence of pre-monarchic Israel.
  • Week 2: The Monarchy and the Rise of Prophecy
    • Name the principal covenantal stipulations that formed the ethos of the Israelite community.
    • Explain the economic conditions leading to Amos’ and Hosea’s criticisms of the society.
    • Explain the role international politics played in the conditions confronted by Isaiah.
    • Identify the shifts of perspective discernible in texts that have evidence of multiple editors/authors.
  • Week 3: Doom, Exile and Restoration
    • Identify the biblical roots of the struggles and obstacles that typically afflict a prophet
    • Understand the religious and political power plays which plagued the Jerusalem community of Jeremiah's day
    • Explain the influence – in Jeremiah and the Wisdom literature - of differing class-based perspectives on the same situation, and how they result in different evaluations and different actions to confront the situation
    • Explain the identity crisis caused by the displacement of the people during the Exile and their subsequent return to Jerusalem
  • Week 4: Jesus and Justice
    • Identify the differences and commonalities in the evangelists’ portrayal of Jesus’ prophetic role.
    • Understand the religious and political circumstances which affected the Palestine of Jesus’ times and the communities of the New Testament.
    • Explain the significance of imminent eschatology and realized eschatology.
    • Explain Matthew’s and James’ concerns for faith translated into action.
    • Identify the dilemma concerning pronouncements about wealth in the Lukan writings.
  • Week 5: A Spirituality that does Justice
    • Identify the principal Pauline reflections relating to the corporate identity of believers.
    • Explain what the Pauline concept of “life in the Spirit” can mean for communities today.
    • Identify the ways in which the book of Revelation can offer a foundation for a contemporary spirituality of justice.
    • Identify some internal challenges the Church faces in its attempts to stay true to biblical justice.