Following our quarantine period, Political Studies fellows will convene for our first two courses, held over morning and afternoon sessions. Our afternoon session will explore the Biblical view of the human condition with readings from Genesis and Exodus. Fellows will bring together these Biblical stories with selections from ancient Greek texts to better appreciate the tensions — and affinities — between Athens and Jerusalem.

Image: Sébastien Bourdon, Adoration of the Golden Calf, 1616-71


Antón Barba-Kay

Antón Barba-Kay is Associate Professor of Philosophy at The Catholic University of America, in Washington, D.C. (He is also, at the moment, Visiting Professor of Humanities at Deep Springs College, in California.) He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Chicago’s Committee on Social Thought, with a dissertation on Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit. The bulk of his research has concentrated on the subjects of recognition and aesthetics in nineteenth-century German philosophy. He is also writing a book about the political and philosophical implications of the digital revolution.

Preview the Syllabus by Week/Session


  • Genesis 37–50 (broadly)
  • Exodus1–7:13 (closely)

 Discussion Questions:

  1. How does Israel come to be involved with Egypt? What are Egypt’s governing principles and laws? What are the origins of Israel’s (eventual) servitude?
  2. Who is Moses? Who is Aaron? In what ways do they occupy distinct but complementary roles?
  3. Who is the Lord? How does He declare Himself? How can Moses relate to Him?


  • Exodus 7:14–15:21
  • Psalm 105 (especially for Question 3)

 Discussion Questions:

  1. What are the Lord’s “signs and portents”? What do they exhibit and how, in each case and in their order?
  2. Why and how does Israel’s deliverance from Egypt help consolidate them as a people?
  3. How is Moses’ song (15:1-21) connected to the task of founding?


  • Exodus 15:22–20

 Discussion Questions:

  1. What does it mean for Israel to make a covenant with God? (Please revisit Genesis9, 15, 17 for comparison.) What is new here?
  2. What is a law or “commandment” in the context of Exodus 20?
  3. What can we see about God, man, Israel, and the relationships between these agents from this passage?


  • Exodus 21–31
  • Leviticus 18–19

 Discussion Questions:

  1. What does it mean for these laws to establish Israel as a “holy nation” (19:6)? What is “holy” and what is “national” here? (Please look at Leviticus18–19 too.)
  2. What are the laws in 21–24 – are they a sufficient, literal, conclusive body of regulations? Or are they exemplary and didactic (i.e., examples of the general kinds of statutes Israel should have)? Or should we read them in an altogether different way? What do they emphasize or not?
  3. What is the Lord’s relationship to the Tabernacle? Is the Tabernacle for Israel or for the Lord?


  • Exodus 32–40
  • Psalms 95 & 106 (especially for Question 2)

 Discussion Questions:

  1. How should we understand the people’s fashioning of the Calf? Why do they do it, and what is its connection to the fashioning of the Tabernacle?
  2. How should we understand the theme of rebellion and disobedience generally throughout Exodus? Is there a desire for slavery?
  3. How does the Lord’s Presence develop throughout Exodus (cf. 13:21–2, 24:15–18, 40:34–38)? How is this development related to the development of Israel as a people?

Concluding Questions:

  1. Why is the Lord involved with Israel and/or human beings at all? Is the Lord in history?
  2. Is Israel a people by the end of Exodus? What is a people? Does every people have or embody its own law? Or does Exodus manifest the connection between people and law in a unique or special way?
  3. What is the connection between a people and their foundation? Are there better and worse foundations? What is the relation between freedom, foundation, and law?

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