RELG: Religious Studies

Winter 2017

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

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.

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): KEDDIE, GEORGE ANTHONY 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,...

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
The classical Islamic tradition (variously pegged between 650 and 1500AD) continues to influence and shape the modern Muslim discourse around the world. This course will examine the origins and development of the Muslim religion. We will grapple with the context of Muhammad’s life and preaching. We will discuss the reasons for Muhammad and his followers success in establishing an Islamic empire that spanned from Spain to the gates of India. Lastly, students will learn the core theological beliefs of different Muslim groups and the history of Islamic law (Shari'a) and the spiritual sciences (Sufism). Prerequisites: None

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.

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): Milstein, Sara
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.

Instructor(s): Cooper, Lisa
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).


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

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.

RELG448 Seminar in the History of the Religion of Islam Sections

A topic relevant to the study of Islam as a religion: e.g., the text and doctrines of the Qur'an; the Hadith (or Traditions) of the Prophet; Islamic Law; mysticism in Islam; the Shi'ah and the Isma'ilis. Not offered every year. Consult the departmental brochure for the topic to be offered.

Instructor(s): Soufi, Youcef
RELG 448 Shiʿa Islam Shiʿism is a branch of Islam that encompasses a number of Muslim communities collectively making up approximately 18% of the Muslim world. This course will examine the origins, doctrines, and practices of Shiʿi Muslims. Students will read recent monographs exposing them to the key academic debates in Shiʿi studies. The readings will cover the pre-modern and modern periods equally and will expose students to the methods of both history and anthropology. No prior knowledge in Islamic studies is needed but students are expected to come prepared to discuss the readings.

RELG475E Topics in Religion - TPCS IN RELIGION Sections

Consult the course registration information each year for offered topics.

Instructor(s): Milstein, Sara
RELG 475E/RELG 500B The Use and Abuse of the Bible in Modern Contexts An exploration of the Bible's continued influence in today's world, with attention to how and why the Bible continues to be recycled in so many different contexts.