HST2035: The Ten Commandments

20 credits (semester 1)

Module Leader: Dr Casey Strine



Pass in at least two of the Level One modules History Units HST112-121.


Module Summary

This module examines the Ten Commandments, perhaps the most well known `legal’ code in the world. Through the close study of key primary sources from the Hebrew Bible and the cultures that informed its writing, all readily available in modern English translation, the module explores the ancient Near Eastern context for these commands, the four texts in the Hebrew Bible that might be given the name Ten Commandments, and the role these texts played in the political, social, economic, and ethical aspects of ancient life.



This module aims to:

  • Familiarise students with the genre of ancient legal codes and to explore the most famous of those texts, namely, the Ten Commandments. Contrary to popular understanding, there is no single text in the Hebrew Bible that refers to itself as the Ten Commandments. Indeed, there are at least four passages (Exodus 20; Exodus 34; Leviticus 19; Deuteronomy 5) that might lay claim to this title.
  • Introduce the ancient practice of writing legal codes as context for the biblical instances of it.
  • Examine the four relevant texts from the Hebrew Bible in detail, and then explore the function of these texts in ancient Israelite society, politics, economics, and ethics.
  • Provide students with the tools to analyse the role of these legal codes in the ancient world.
  • Develop connections between the biblical and non-biblical texts themselves, and to think critically about the role they may or may not play in contemporary society.


Teaching and Assessment

Teaching and assessment guidance is provided in the module course booklet, available through MOLE.

Information on assessment can be found at: http://www.sheffield.ac.uk/history/current_students/undergraduate/assessment/level2


Intended Learning Outcomes
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