RELG: Religious Studies

Winter 2018

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.

This course provides an overview of the three main western monotheistic (Abrahamic) religions – Judaism, Christianity, and Islam – together with key concepts in the study of religion. The focus will be on the origins and representative texts along with historical development and current experience of each religion. The course will explore key aspects of religion, including ritual, history, hagiography, views of time and the world, as well as features of the texts and social structures associated with each tradition. This course consists of lectures by the instructor twice a week, and discussion or tutorial sessions on led by the teaching assistants. The TAs are graduate students in the Department of Classical, Near Eastern, and Religious Studies.
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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
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
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RELG203 Scriptures of the Near East Sections

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

Instructor(s): Soufi, Youcef
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,...
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RELG207 Classical Islam Sections

The history and culture, values, and achievements of Islamic societies from 700-1500; the interconnections between power, politics, gender, and the arts in Islamic societies. This course is highly recommended as a basis for all 300- and 400-level Islamic Studies courses.

Instructor(s): Soufi, Youcef
In 610 CE, an Arab man named Muhammad son of Abdullah claimed to have received the words of God. It was the beginning of the Islamic religion. Over the next years his few followers were mocked, beaten, and some, even killed. And yet somehow, 1400 years later, this man's movement has evolved into the second largest world religion with well over a billion followers. Moreover, the early Islamic legacy includes refined scholarly works examining varied topics such as human free will, the nature of God and his attributes, law and ethics, and the mystical path to spiritual union with the divine. In this course, we will explore the history of early Islam, focusing on the religion's beginnings, the Muslim conquests, the Sunni/Shi'a split, the canonization of the religion's foundational texts, and the development of the enduring Islamic intellectual sciences such as Shari'a law and Sufism.
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RELG208 Modern Islam Sections

The history and culture, values, and socio-political movements of the Islamic world from 1500 to the modern day; the interconnections between power, politics, gender, and the arts in modern Islamic societies. This course is highly recommended as a basis for all 300- and 400-level Islamic Studies courses.

Instructor(s): Soufi, Youcef
Islam permeates the landscape of our contemporary world events—whether in relation to immigration, women’s rights, or terrorism. In this course, we will examine the ways that Islam has changed in the last five centuries in order to gain a better understanding of Muslims’ beliefs and practices today. We will analyze the deep impact and transformative effect of events like colonization, Western science, and increased literacy on Muslim peoples. We will survey modern Muslim debates on how their faith should relate to democracy, gender, nationalism, violence, reason, and authority. Students will leave the course better understanding the contested ways Muslims have sought to shape their tradition in the modern world.
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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...
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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): Peters, Kurtis
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
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RELG308 Talmud, Midrash and the Rabbinic Imagination Sections

The Talmud, Midrash, and other late-antique (3rd - 7th centuries) rabbinic writings, focusing on biblical interpretation and narratives.

Instructor(s): Gardner, Gregg
Classical rabbinic literature (3rd–7th centuries C.E.) consists of a massive corpus of legal and exegetical texts (e.g. Mishnah, Talmud, and Midrashim) that comprise the foundations of medieval and modern-day Judaism. A rich area of study in its own right, rabbinic literature also contributes to the study of the Hebrew Bible and its interpretation, early Christianity and other religions of late antiquity, and the civilizations of the ancient Mediterranean and near east. This course introduces the major works of rabbinic literature and issues relevant to modern scholarship. It explores biblical interpretation, narratives, and legal texts from the rabbinic corpus. We will address topics such as authorship, historiography, and rabbinic literature’s relationships with early Christianity and Greco-Roman culture. All texts will be read in English translation. No prerequisites.
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RELG415 The Life and Thought of Paul of Tarsus Sections

The life and literature of Paul in the Roman imperial world: letter writing, patronage and power; Roman imperial iconography; Paul and community formation.

Instructor(s): Keddie, Anthony
Was the apostle Paul a Jew, a Christian, or something else? And more importantly, why does it matter? Why would Paul identify himself as a circumcised Israelite of the tribe of Benjamin and a Pharisee after experiencing a revelation of Christ? In this course, students answer these questions for themselves by engaging with historical evidence for Paul’s religious and ethnic loyalties as well as some of the most influential answers theologians and scholars have given to these questions over two millennia. We begin the semester by interrogating the reasons that the Holocaust functioned as a watershed in the discussion of Paul’s religion and ethnicity. Whereas before the Holocaust, authoritative definitions of Paul’s Christianity by theologians such as Augustine of Hippo and Martin Luther went unquestioned, after the Holocaust, intellectuals sensitive to the violent implications of eradicating Judaism from history proclaimed Paul a Jew. After this orientation to some of the...
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RELG475B Topics in Religion - TPCS IN RELIGION Sections

Consult the course registration information each year for offered topics.

Instructor(s): Soufi, Youcef
Islam and the Secular Modern. Why was a late 20th century Egyptian Muslim academic exiled for apostasy? Why did several young French Muslim men leave for Syria to join ISIS? And why have there been periodic tensions between Egyptian Christians and Muslims? A common assumption suggests that intolerance and violence in the Muslim world is due to its failure to properly secularize and divorce religion from politics. Of late, a great many Islamic studies scholars have argued otherwise. They have turned their critical gazes towards the unexpected and more sinister impact of modern secularization on Muslim states, institutions, and religious practices. This scholarship has reoriented foundational assumptions within religious studies. Our course will survey the most influential literature within this scholarly field, focusing on anthropological studies of Muslim populations in Egypt, Sudan, and France. Our texts paint a rich picture of the complex and varied ways that Islam is today intertwined...
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RELG475C Topics in Religion - TPCS IN RELIGION Sections

Consult the course registration information each year for offered topics.

Instructor(s): Cousland, Robert