PG 481 - Liberation and Law: Approaches to the Book of Exodus

Module Level


Time Allowance

Seminars 20 hours; Weekly readings and preparation 60 hours; Reflection paper 20 hours; Long essay 60 hours


Reflection paper [= comparing interpretations of a short passage] = 2000 words; Long essay [= close reading of one passage or analysis of one theme from Exodus] = 5000 words

Module Aims

MODULE AIM: To enable students to engage in a close reading of the stories of liberation and lawgiving in Book of Exodus, and to discover the narratives as a resource for faith and imagination today.  

BACKGROUND: Within both Judaism and Christianity, the Book of Exodus has been one of the most influential texts. The narrative provides the exemplary story of liberation within both religious traditions, while the legal sections (especially the Decalogue) have influenced ethical discussions right until the present, and theologies of Passover and covenant have marked Jewish and Christian life. Through story and teaching the book offers insight into the character of God, who is revealed yet mysterious. To understand a rich text like Exodus, the reader needs many diverse reading strategies, some of which will be explored in this module.


• Introductory survey of methods of biblical interpretation according to the Pontifical Biblical Commission’s 1993 document The Interpretation of the Bible in the Church

• Historical-Critical Method (Sources & Forms); Literary Analysis (Rhetorical, Narrative); Approaches Based on Tradition (Canonical Approach, Recourse to Jewish Traditions, History of the Influence of the Text); Approaches from the Human Sciences (Sociological, Cultural-Anthropological, Psychological); Contextual Approaches (Liberationist, Feminist).

• Stories of the revelation of God as Israel’s mysterious liberator.

• Passover and exodus from Egypt.

• Law and ethics in the Decalogue.

• Female characters: Miriam, Zipporah and the Hebrew midwives.

• Moses typology in the New Testament.


For each session, each student is asked to prepare a one-page handout summarizing one assigned reading on the allocated Exodus text, noting the main insights and also raising questions.




  • Alter, R., The Art of Biblical Narrative. New York: Basic Books, 1981. [221.66 ALT]
  • Dozeman, T. B., Exodus. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2009. [222.1207 DOZ]
  • Fischer, I., Women who Wrestled with God. Collegeville: Liturgical Press, 2005. [221.9 FIS]
  • Gowan, D. E., Theology in Exodus. Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 1994. [222.1207 GOW]
  • Kugel, J. L., Traditions of the Bible. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1998. [Ebook]
  • Pontifical Biblical Commission, The Interpretation of the Bible in the Church. Boston: Pauline Books, 1999. [220.6 PBC]
  • Propp, W. H. C., Exodus. Anchor Bible 2, 2A. New York: Doubleday, 1999, 2006. [220.52 ANC 2A]
  • Sarna, N. M., Exploring Exodus. New York: Schocken, 1987. [222.1206 SAR]
  • Ska, J. L., Introduction to Reading the Pentateuch. Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 2006. [222.1061 SKA]


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