There are two basic approaches to interpreting the Bible, one that asks us to think in terms of what the text means to us in our time. This approach asks us how we can apply the teachings of the text to our daily lives and practices. The other interpretive approach asks us to think in terms of what the text meant to those who wrote it. How did the Bible help them navigate their world? What did its words mean to them, and how is it a reflection of the surrounding cultures of the ancient Near East? In this course, we will explore this second approach to understanding the Bible, from the question of who wrote it to comparisons between the biblical text and the texts of ancient Mesopotamia and Egypt.