Love and Sex in the Biblical World
TCU, Department of Religion, Spring 1999
Professor David Gunn
Beasley Hall 207; tel: 257-7441 or 257-6130; email:
*Please note that this syllabus is preliminary only and its details
are subject to change. It does provide, however, a representative view
of the course.
A study of human relationships in the Bible, in the ancient social world
in which the Bible was composed, and in present day north American society.
Among questions to be asked:
Does the Bible connect these two experiences in the same way we do today?
What is "love" and what does it have to do with "sex"?
Which aspects of our sexual morality come from the Bible and what have
we changed to fit our changed circumstances?
Why do we have the particular kinds of sexual controls (morality) we do?
How do I decide what's right and wrong?
What does the Bible tell us about gender relationships, and how do we relate
to its views?
What else besides sex does our sexual morality control?
What role does (or might) the Bible play in our striving for loving relationships
in a just society?
What is working - and what is not working - about the way we practice love,
sex, and gender relations? What needs to change in order to have a society
that is just and equal for men and women?
Class Schedule (tentative outline only)
To understand the connection of ideas about "love" and "sex" to larger
issues of gender relations.
To understand the interaction of gender relations with other cultural factors
in a given society; specifically, to understand why the Bible presents
sexuality in the way it does.
To learn to analyze critically the Bible's varied literary and religious
characterizations of women, women's social roles, and women's sexuality.
To reflect critically on the significance of the Bible for sexual norms
in gender relationships today.
To engage with the critical perspectives offered by feminist biblical scholarship
regarding the preceding issues.
To develop the art of writing a critical analysis of your reading and oral
January 19: Introduction to the course
January 26: Love, sex, and the Song of Songs (Song of
February 2: Love
February 9: Marriage and household
February 16: Sex outside marriage
February 23: Rape
March 2: God, sex, and gender: Jeremiah and Ezekiel
March 9: Wise women, strange women: Jezebel
March 23: Creation and Fall: Eve
March 30: Purity, gender, and homosexuality
April 6: Paul and sex
April 13: Jesus, the Gospels, and sex
April 20: Workshop planning
April 27: Workshop
May 4: Workshop
Selected biblical texts and secondary sources (drawn from books, articles,
and films) will be assigned for each class. Keeping up with this schedule
of reading/viewing will be essential for satisfactory progress in the class.
Arrangements will be made in class for obtaining and viewing videos (which
will be viewed outside class times). Required books are:
L. William Countryman, Dirt, Greed, and Sex: Sexual Ethics
in the New Testament and their Implications for Today (Fortress Press,
Danna Nolan Fewell and David M. Gunn, Gender, Power, and
Promise: The Subject of the Bible's First Story (Abingdon Press, 1993)
Assessment will be based on:
An electronic journal giving (i) a report of reading (of relevant books,
articles, films, etc.) in preparation for the class; (ii) preparatory reflection
on the material being discussed; and (iii) reflection after the class on
the discussion as a whole or some selected item of particular interest
arising from the class discussion. Pre-class entries must be completed
before class and no later than 10:00am Tuesday. Post-class entries must
be completed no later than 10:am of the following Tuesday. A final entry
will be a critical review of central issues raised in the class over the
semester. [Worth 50% of final grade]
A formal paper, which may be revised and re-written after first submission,
on a topic chosen in consultation with the class and instructor. [Worth
20% of final grade]
A workshop (designed in consultation with the instructor). This will involve
cooperation in a small group to present some aspect of the course for the
whole class. Presentation may take various forms, including oral presentations,
distribution of written reports or documentation, visual or other art.
Creativity encouraged. [Worth 20% of final grade]
Class participation, including attendance (this class cannot work well
without sustained participation). [Worth 10% of final grade]