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Literature and Religion of Ancient Israel


Admission requirements

In addition to the general rules set out for admission, students are expected to have a good knowledge of Biblical Hebrew and Old Testament exegesis.


Participants reference and participant tracking in Biblical Hebrew narrative

Every story is made up of participants and their role in the narrative. But they can be referred to in different ways. In a context where Abraham speaks to his son Isaak, one could find “Abraham said”, “Abraham, his father said”, or just “he said” etc. At first sight the designations are arbitrary but a closer look reveals that the choice for one designation or another has syntactic and literary effects. It affects the cohesion and structure of a text (e.g. an explicit mention of an already known participant may be used to mark the start of a new paragraph) as well as the literary characterization of the participants. (It makes a difference whether the woman with whom David had intercourse is called ‘the woman’ [anonymous, agreeing with David’s point of view that she is no more than that], ‘Bathsheba’ [a proper noun giving her a certain independency and identity], or ‘Uriah’s wife’ [expressing the relationship that is most crucial to the story because it makes the intercourse a case of adultery].). In the case of pronouns or inflectional elements referring to participants mentioned earlier in the text (anaphora) the question arises how the identity of the participant is established (i.e. how the anaphora are resolved; e.g. in “Abraham said to Izaak, Listen! And he answered: I listen.”, there are several lexical and contextual clues that the “he” should be identified with Izaak. But other cases are ambiguous, e.g. Moses climbed Mount Sinai to see God “and He stood on the mountain”: Who is standing on the mountain, Moses or God? There is no consensus among scholars.)

In the seminar, several aspects of participant reference and participant identification will be addressed. In their papers and presentation students have a choice to focus more on the linguistic or more on the literary aspects of these phenomena. Optionally, they may also focus on computational approaches to participant reference and anaphora resolution.

Course objectives

Through a thematic case study, the students will get acquainted with major issues in Old Testament scholarship and current themes of biblical studies, such as the role of various approaches and subdisciplines (linguistics, rhetorics, discourse analysis and literary analysis) in exegesis. They will also be trained in trained in critically reviewing scholarly publications. ### Timetable

See Time table

Mode of instruction

Tutorial, including weekly meetings, reading assignments, presentations in class and a term paper.

Assessment method

The assessment will be based on:

  • Participation in weekly meetings (20%)

  • Reading assignments and short presentations (30%)

  • Major presentation (20%)

  • Term paper (30%)


Yes, see Blackboard.

Reading list

Longacre R.E., Joseph: A Story of Divine Providence. A Text Theoretical and Textlinguistic Analysis of Genesis 37 and 39-48 (Winona Lake: Eisenbrauns, 1989)

Regt L. J. de, Participants in Old Testament Texts and the Translator: Reference Devices and Their Rhetorical Impact, (Van Gorcum, Assen: 1999).

Regt, L.J. de, ‘Participant Reference in some Biblical Hebrew Texts’, Jaarberichten Ex Oriente Lux 32 (1991–1992), 150–172.

Runge, S.E., A Discourse-Functional Description of Participant Reference in Biblical Hebrew Narrative (PhD diss., University of Stellenbosch, 2007), available online at,%20S%20E.pdf?sequence=1

Other literature will be announced in class.


Via uSis.
In addition to the registration in uSis, students are also expected to self-enroll in blackboard a few weeks before the course starts.

Exchange and Study Abroad students, please see the Study in Leiden website for information on how to apply.

Contact information

Dr W.Th. van Peursen