RELG: Religious Studies

Winter 2020

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): KEDDIE, ANTHONY Gardner, Gregg
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.
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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): Schneider, Thomas
Myths – narratives in which gods and goddesses are the principal characters – provided an explanation for the human condition and the relationship between the divine and the human world. This class will provide a general introduction to the mythology of key civilizations of the ancient Near East – Egypt, Mesopotamia, Syria-Palestine – and the Hebrew Bible. The evidence for myths differs widely across this region – in Egypt, we have ample visual representations of myths and mythological motifs, Mesopotamia has left us extensive texts. Different again is the case of the Hebrew Bible – can we at all speak about a ‘biblical mythology’? Throughout the course, we will analyze in detail a number of myths and their purpose within religion and society – creation and flood myths, solar myths, myths about the underworld, myths about specific deities. We will discuss the problem of Biblical mythology and specific examples (myths...
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RELG203 Scriptures of the Near East Sections

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

Instructor(s): KEDDIE, ANTHONY
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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RELG306 Archaeology and the Bible Sections

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

Instructor(s): Schneider, Thomas
This class focuses on the impact of archaeological research on understanding the history and religion of ancient Israel and Palestine from the beginning of the Iron Age (ca. 1200 BCE) to the time of Jesus (1st century AD, and how archaeology relates to the information provided in the Bible. This relationship has been very controversial – early archaeological activity was triggered by the Bible and attempted to prove the “truth of the Bible”. Since the 1950s, the archaeology of Palestine started to detach itself from the dominance of Bible studies and has now emerged as a scholarly discipline in its own right. Biblical archaeology, as it is seen nowadays, neither proves the Bible nor simply illustrates biblical stories. Instead, archaeology helps to reconstruct the history of Israel/Palestine which is understood within the historical and cultural world of the ancient Near East. This class will give an overview of the main...
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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): 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
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RELG313 Modern Jewish Ethics in Historical Perspective Sections

Readings from key texts in English translation, tracing how Jewish approaches to ethical issues evolved from biblical times to the present.

Instructor(s): Gardner, Gregg
This course examines Jewish approaches to ethical issues, with special attention to how they evolved from ancient times to the present. In doing so, we will uncover the historical roots of contemporary Jewish ethics as well as follow the twists and turn in how these approaches developed. We will survey Jewish ethics broadly, as well as focus on ethical issues that have arisen from the ongoing pandemic. The topics that we will explore include responses to poverty and injustice, safeguarding life, human dignity, medical ethics, business ethics, humility, family relations, and numerous other issues. Our exploration of Jewish ethics through the ages will also include a broad survey of Jewish history and introduction to the key texts of the Jewish tradition – from the Hebrew Bible and classical rabbinic literature, to contemporary Jewish prayer books. This course also provides an entry into the study of religious ethics. All texts will be...
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RELG316 The Origins of Christianity: Literary Contexts Sections

The origins of Christianity as reflected in the New Testament and contemporaneous literature.

RELG335 Jewish Law Sections

History, sources, theoretical issues and current state of research about early Jewish legal traditions, focusing on close readings of classic primary texts in English translations.

Instructor(s): Gardner, Gregg

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
In 1 Corinthians 9:22, Paul declares, “I have become all things to all people that I might by all means save some.” Through careful analysis of Paul’s letters in the New Testament and his legacy among subsequent generations of Christians as well as some modern thinkers, we will discover just how true this statement was. During the term, we will engage with multiple, often conflicting, interpretations of Paul’s life and thought. This class thus serves as a historical introduction to Pauline thought and its development in early Christianity as well as a critical primer in the methods and politics of biblical interpretation. The course is divided into three units. In the first, we investigate some of the most prevalent portraits of Paul among scholars, paying particular attention to the question of whether Paul was a Christian or a Jew, and a Greek or a Roman. The second unit decenters Paul—that is,...
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RELG475B Topics in Religion - TPCS IN RELIGION Sections

Consult the course registration information each year for offered topics.

Instructor(s): Milstein, Sara
Humour in the Bible and the Ancient Near East. Although we might not think of biblical and Mesopotamian writers as humorous, there are some indications that certain texts were intentionally funny. What role did humour play in Near Eastern literature and cultures? What was the relationship between humour and politics, identity formation, and/or self-deprecation? Given that humour is culturally and temporally bound, how can we identify glimpses of it when we are so far removed from the ancients? In addition to using methodologies familiar to the field, this course will also investigate biblical and Near Eastern texts through the lens of humour theory and comedy theory.
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