RELG: Religious Studies

Winter 2019

RELG101 Introduction to the Western (Abrahamic) Religions: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam Sections

An overview of the three main western monotheistic (Abrahamic) religions, together with the concepts used in studying religion, The focus will be on the origins and representative texts along with some historical development and current experience of each religion.

Instructor(s): Gardner, Gregg KEDDIE, GEORGE ANTHONY
This course provides an overview of the three main western monotheistic (Abrahamic) religions—Judaism, Christianity, and Islam—together with key concepts and issues in the study of religion. The focus will be on the origins, scriptures, histories, and contemporary varieties of each religion. We will explore several dimensions of religion, including identity, ritual, history, and authority as well as features of the texts and social structures associated with each tradition. This course consists of lectures by the instructor on Mondays and Wednesdays, and discussion or tutorial sessions on Fridays led by the Teaching Assistants.

RELG201 Near Eastern and Biblical Mythology Sections

An introduction to the world of Near Eastern mythology, from the Gilgamesh Epic to the Book of Genesis and beyond.

Instructor(s): Milstein, Sara MONROE, MARTIN WILLIS
In this course we will probe the distinct but related corpora of biblical and ancient Near Eastern “mythologies.” The focus will be on Mesopotamian literature (i.e., literary texts that are the products of ancient Iraq), though we will also examine biblical texts, particularly those that demonstrate influence from Mesopotamia. Both sets of texts shed light on the cultures that produced them, and we will explore how these texts both reveal and conceal aspects of their respective cultures. We will also consider the ways in which media (i.e., the physical material that scribes used to write these texts) and context (e.g., literary, religious, archaeological, social, etc.) contribute toward our understanding of this ancient material. Although our main focus will be on what these texts might have meant to their ancient audiences, we will also reflect on their continued influence on modern beliefs and perceptions. Prerequisites: None

RELG203 Scriptures of the Near East Sections

An introduction to the scriptures of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.

Instructor(s): Peters, Kurtis
This course introduces students to the Hebrew Bible, the New Testament, and the Qur’ān—some of the foundational texts of both western and world culture, and the sacred scriptural basis for religious traditions originating in the Near East: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam—and, more broadly, the social processes, textual practices, performance modes, and ideological constructs that, in various modes of synergy, constitute the phenomenon of  ‘scripture’ in religious traditions. Through close, critical readings and discussions of primary literature (in English translation), this course considers each set of texts in terms of: its contents; confessional and historical-critical theories of its contexts, composition, and canonization; relationship to the other sacred texts; and reception in later religious traditions.  The culminating part of the course explores cultural issues surrounding the generation and promulgation of competing character profiles within the scriptures and interpretive traditions of these kindred religions; characters of prominent interest include: Adam, Eve/Hawwāʾ, Satan/Iblīs, Noah,...

RELG209 Eden to Exile: Introduction to the Hebrew Bible Sections

An overview of the Hebrew Bible ("Old Testament"), with emphasis on its ancient Near Eastern context; its competing religious perspectives; and its limits as a historical source.

Instructor(s): Peters, Kurtis
RELG 209 Eden to Exile: Introduction to the Hebrew Bible  A beginner's guide to reading the Hebrew Bible ("Old Testament") from an academic perspective, with attention to how and why it came to be in its current form.

RELG306 Archaeology and the Bible Sections

The impact of archaeological research on understanding the history and religion of ancient Israel.

Over the last two centuries, archaeologists (both professional and amateur) have extensively excavated the lands depicted in the Hebrew Bible and New Testament. Often digging with sacred texts in hand, they have uncovered a voluminous corpus of archaeological remains related to ancient Israel, early Judaism, and Christianity. This course introduces students to the comparative study of the material and literary production of the peoples who lived in ancient Palestine, from 1000 B.C.E. to 640 C.E. We will critically examine the ways that archaeological finds can - and cannot - contribute to our understanding of the Hebrew Bible, New Testament, Dead Sea Scrolls, classical Rabbinic Literature, and related texts. In addition, we will uncover the major interpretive issues that face scholars today. In each unit, following an overview of the period"s material culture, we will examine two sets of primary sources - one textual, one archaeological; critically evaluate modern interpretations and...

RELG307 Sex, Lies, and Violence in the Hebrew Bible Sections

An exploration of the Bible's "dark side," with emphasis on texts that center on sex, deceit, and murder.

Instructor(s): Milstein, Sara
For all of its accounts of angels and miracles, the Bible features a staggering number of texts that deal with “real life,” including literature that deals with sex, deceit, and murder. Most of these texts never make it into a synagogue or church sermon, though some of them are persistently (mis-)used to justify the oppression and/or exclusion of women and LGBTQ individuals. Together we will probe these texts within their own ancient contexts, emerging both with a deeper appreciation of the Bible’s “dark side” and with a more sophisticated sense as to what these texts might have meant to their original audiences

RELG317 The Origins of Christianity: Social, Religious, and Political Milieux Sections

The origins of Christianity as reflected in early Christian literature of the first and early second centuries (including the New Testament).

The books of the New Testament represent the diverse views of ancient authors writing in the first two centuries of our era, yet for two millennia they have empowered the thoughts and actions of individuals and communities far removed from their original historical settings. Was Jesus a liberal socialist revolutionary or a conservative tax-protestor? Was Paul Jewish or anti-Jewish? Did early Christianity empower women or marginalize them? Does the Book of Revelation vilify the Roman Empire, Nazi Germany, or contemporary globalization? These types of questions and their answers influence contemporary religion and politics, but often rest on shaky historical foundations. In this course, students analyze the books of the New Testament and other ancient Christian writings in their original social, religious, and political contexts in the eastern regions of the Roman Empire.

RELG330 The Origins of Judaism Sections

Surveys the history of Jews and Judaism in the Second Temple era, from the destruction of the First Jerusalem Temple (586 B.C.E.) to the beginnings of the rabbinic movement (200 C.E.).

Instructor(s): Gardner, Gregg
RELG 330 Origins of Judaism This course surveys the history and literature of Jews and Judaism during the Second Temple era. It covers the formative age of Judaism, from the destruction of the First Jerusalem Temple in 586 B.C.E. to the Babylonian Exile, through the Hellenistic and Early Roman ages, to the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 C.E., and ends with the beginnings of the rabbinic movement (c. 200 C.E.). This course will also provide a broad context for the emergence of early Christianity and the so-called “parting of the ways” with Judaism. We will read from an array of primary sources (all in English translation), including the Hebrew Bible, Apocrypha, Pseudepigrapha, the Dead Sea Scrolls, Hellenistic Jewish writings (e.g. Philo and Josephus), and end with a taste of early rabbinic texts (Mishnah). We will also closely examine archaeological finds from the era, including inscriptions, remains of ancient synagogues,...

RELG414 The Gospels and the Historical Jesus Sections

The canonical and apocryphal gospels and the life and teachings of the historical Jesus.

Instructor(s): Cousland, Robert
The Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke) are the historian's main source for his portrait of the historical Jesus. The focus of this course is the examination of various genres in the Gospels - parables, trial narratives, miracle stories, and so on, in order to understand the interplay of tradition and interpretation in the early decades of the Christian movement. The student will be encouraged to appreciate each Gospel as a unified composition, and to recognize each evangelist's principles of selection, arrangement and adaptation. A careful examination of the extra-canonical sources (Gospel of Thomas, Q, Apocryphal Gospels) to determine their relevance for historical Jesus research will be another feature of the seminar. Prerequisites: None

RELG475A Topics in Religion - TPCS IN RELIGION Sections

Consult the course registration information each year for offered topics.

RELG 475A/500A: "Apocalypse and Empire" In this course, students explore the origins of apocalypticism in the clash between subjected peoples and foreign empires in antiquity—especially, but not only, between Jews and Christians and the Persian, Hellenistic, and Roman empires. The first unit of the course will focus on the origins and definition of apocalypse as a literary genre and apocalypticism as an ideology while examining the views of empire in apocalyptic texts written under the Persian and Hellenistic empires (e.g., Zechariah, 1 Enoch, Daniel, Sibylline Oracle 3, and the Egyptian Potter’s Oracle). The second unit will turn to the logics and practices of the Roman empire and the apocalyptic texts it inspired (e.g., the Psalms of Solomon, Revelation, material from the New Testament gospels, 4 Ezra, Sibylline Oracle 5, and Shepherd of Hermas). The third unit will consider the reception and revision of ancient apocalyptic visions from late antiquity to the...