Introduction to Religious Studies
This course introduces students to the academic discipline of religious studies. Our approach is comparative, historical, and analytical as we examine the development of major religious traditions over time, the variety of contingent human experiences they condition, and the diversity both among and within these traditions. This particular section focuses heavily on the so-called "Abrahamic religions" of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, though we also treat Buddhism, Hinduism, and atheism in a more limited way. Students will be asked to think critically about such issues as religious hybridity, gender and sexuality in religion, the formations and limits of authority, and the variety of ways in which sacred texts are interpreted and put to use in organizing people and their experiences.
Discovering the Apostle Paul
This course explores the life and letters of the apostle Paul, a Jew living in the first-century Roman empire whose writings are now the oldest texts in the Christian scriptures. We will read Paul’s letters in historical context, attempting to reconstruct his career and the circumstances that gave rise to his authorship. We will also trace the history of modern Pauline scholarship, particularly with respect to his relationship to Judaism, and we will discuss particular motifs in Paul’s thinking, including the law, women, Christ, and ethics.
Special Note on the Approach of this Course
Please note that this course does not approach the figure of Paul, or his letters, from a devotional perspective. Our academic stance is descriptive (rather than prescriptive), historical and analytical. Students from all religious backgrounds are welcome.
Jesus of Nazareth
This course examines varied portrayals of Jesus of Nazareth in literature, scholarship, and film, ranging from ancient gospels to contemporary scholarly and cinematic portrayals. Readings include canonical and non-canonical gospels from antiquity and modern scholarly reconstructions of the life of Jesus. Students will be introduced to the academic study of ‘the historical Jesus’ and will be asked to analyze critically what we can know about the life of Jesus and how we can know it. The final part of the course focuses on cinematic interpretations of Jesus.