Cracking Biblical Codes: Prophecy, Apocalyptic and Wisdom - RSST6230

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Module delivery information

This module is not currently running in 2021 to 2022.


This module will explore the theme of 'Biblical Codes' from two angles.

Firstly, we will be exploring how different writers and groups (some of them inside the Bible, some of them outside it) have read the Bible as temporal or political code. For example, the biblical book of Daniel attempts to decode the book of Jeremiah, which had already become deeply mysterious to ancient readers. Similarly, the New Testament 'deciphers' biblical prophecy and motifs by applying them to Jesus or the Roman Empire. At the other end of the time spectrum, we find bestsellers like Michael Drosnin's The Bible Code (1997), Hal Lindsey and Tim LaHaye's attempts to decrypt biblical visions of the end of time by way of contemporary global politics, or recent readings of the book of Ezekiel as prophecies about UFO’s. Techniques of decryption are also built into central developments within Jewish and Christian traditions. In fact, what is often called the history of 'hermeneutics’ could also be described as the history of 'How not to read literally’. We will be looking at a range of examples of such developments by focusing on readers like Philo of Alexandria, Augustine of Hippo, or Jewish Kabbalah.

Secondly, we will undertake some in-depth readings of prophecy, apocalyptic, or wisdom texts—the ones that readers of the Bible find most difficult to ‘decode’. Texts to be studied will be taken from the Old Testament/Hebrew Bible, the New Testament, and the Pseudepigrapha. We will be exploring the contexts that produced these literatures and thinking about how to read (decipher?) them across the abyss of time.


Contact hours

Total Contact Hours: 30

Method of assessment

50% Coursework
50% Exam

Indicative reading

Indicative reading:

Frilingos, C.A. (2004). Spectacles of Empire: Monsters, Martyrs and the Book of Revelation. University of Pennsylvania Press
Hartman, L.F. (2007). Alexander A. Di Lella, Daniel. Anchor Bible Commentaries; Yale University Press
Pippin, T. (1999). Apocalyptic Bodies: The Biblical End of the World in Text and Image. London and New York: Routledge
Pyper, H. (2005). 'Reading in the Dark: Zechariah, Daniel and the Difficulty of Scripture', Journal for the Study of the Old Testament 29.4, pp. 485-504.

See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)

Learning outcomes

On successfully completing the module both Level 5 and Level 6 students will be able to:

- Demonstrate critical knowledge of and the ability to critically assess attempts (ancient and modern) to decipher the Bible as 'code';
- Demonstrate confidence when applying these critical skills in the close reading of biblical texts;
- Demonstrate detailed understanding and awareness of the principal academic methodologies in Biblical Studies and critical appreciation of the range of interpretative models in Judaism and Christianity;
- Demonstrate critical and analytical skills to analyse the interrelations between ancient texts, or 'mysteries', and contemporary worlds.

In addition, on successfully completing the module Level 6 students will be able to:

- Carry out and demonstrate understanding of additional research and critical thinking that shows an appreciation of the uncertainty, ambiguity and limits of knowledge within biblical studies;
- Demonstrate a systematic understanding of key aspects of the discipline, including a familiarity with the latest research within biblical studies;
- Demonstrate the ability to deploy accurately established techniques of analysis and enquiry within biblical and religious studies, including those currently at the forefront of the discipline (e.g. hermeneutics and deconstruction);
- Demonstrate the ability to undertake independent learning and to demonstrate this through the sophisticated use of refereed research in leading journals and other original materials within biblical studies;
- Demonstrate critical and analytical skills in their approach to key texts within biblical studies.


  1. ECTS credits are recognised throughout the EU and allow you to transfer credit easily from one university to another.
  2. The named convenor is the convenor for the current academic session.
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