Topic outline

  • Topic 1

    A1—September 11:  Introduction

    Review of syllabus, assignments, and grading. Discussion of the purpose of the academic study of religion: not to proselytize or to debunk but to develop empathic and critical understanding.

    • Topic 2

      A2—September 13: Judaism 1        ‘Israelite’ Religion: c. 1250 – 800 BCE

      The emergence of a people called "Israelites" and the evolution of an identifiable set of religious practices and ideas. This occurs amid ongoing contentions with neighbors without and rival religious cults within under a sequence of radically different socio-political regimes. Eventually, an alliance of king and priest solidifies in the temple cult.

                              READINGS: WRWT, 68-84; selections from the Pentateuch & Psalms

    • Topic 3

      A3—September 21:  Judaism 2   The Birth of Judaism: 800 BCE – 70 CE

      Rise of the prophetic tradition in the face of conquest by invading empires, exile, and return to the promised land. Emergence of ‘Second Temple Judaism’: a distinct religious tradition with a canon of authoritative scriptures and prescribed rituals. Rival parties emerge with different formulas for how that tradition was to be properly observed amid changing imperial regimes and internal rebellions.

                              READINGS: WRWT, 85-97; selections from the Prophets and Writings

    • Topic 4

      A4—September 23   Christianity 1       The Birth of Christianity: Jesus, Paul, and the Early ‘Fathers’

      From a reform movement within Judaism, “Christianity” emerges as a distinct way of salvation amid the Gentiles. Emergence of a distinct canon, cult, and clerical hierarchy.

                              READINGS: WRWT, 166-81; selections from the New Testament.

    • Topic 5

      A5—September 25  Christianity 2   The Imperial Church: 313 – 1054 CE

      Christianity achieves preferred, then established, status in the Roman Empire. There ensues a series of theological and political struggles that produces three ‘families’ of churches. Patterns of worship and religious festivals.

                              READINGS: WRWT, 181-91, 227-33; the Ecumenical creeds.

    • Topic 6

      A6—October 3          Christianity 3   The Latin West: 450 – 1450 CE

      The central institutions and practices of European Christianity in the Middle Ages: monasticism, papacy, parishes, cults of saints and pilgrimage. Analysis of Western Christian art and architecture as exemplified in the Gothic cathedral.  

                         READINGS: WRWT, 191-200, 234-38; Clowney, ­Exploring Churches, 12-23, 58-67

      • Topic 7

        A7—October 5          Judaism 3      Jewish Diaspora & the Rabbinical Tradition, 70 – c. 700 CE

        The destruction of the Second Temple and permanent diaspora from the promised land lead to greater regularity in doctrine and practice. The synagogue becomes the center of corporate worship; a growing body of interpretation of scripture aims to guide everyday life.

                                READINGS: WRWT, 99-113, portfolio of synagogues

        • Topic 8

          A8—October 12       Islam 1        The Origins of Islam: The Prophet and His Visions: 550 – 632 CE

          The contentious and seemingly corrupt ambience in which the Prophet received his revelations; the radical new order they prescribed; struggle and triumph in the Hejaz.

                                  READINGS: Ruthven, ch. 2; selections from the Qur’an.

          • Topic 9

            A9—October 14       Islam 2       Expansion and Struggles over Succession: 632 – c. 1000 CE

            The Arab wars of conquest, the establishment and ‘golden age’ of the Caliphate/s, and the legacy these all left for Muslims in subsequent ages and different global contexts.

                                    READINGS: Ruthven, ch 3; selections from the Qur’an

            • Topic 10


              A10—October 22      Islam 3       The Five Pillars and the Sunni Way: Theology as Law and Science

              The principles, schools, and leading figures of Islam’s largest tradition.

                                      READINGS: Ruthven, ch 4, Appendix; selections from the Hadith


              • Topic 12

                A12—October 27      Christianity 4   Christianity as a World Religion

                Western Christian mission efforts intersected with European colonialism beginning in the 16th century, but indigenous-driven evangelism exploded precisely as European empires receded following World War II. What it means and foretells that the majority of Christians today live in the global south and east.  

                                        READINGS: WRWT, 219-27; Jenkins, Next Christendom, 1-20

                • Topic 13

                  A13—November 3     Christianity 5   Reformations & the Rise of Protestantism: 1450-1650  

                  Numerous campaigns for reform in the Western church in the late Middle Ages culminated in the separation of Protestants from Rome with their own redefinition of doctrine, worship, and church organization.

                                          READINGS: WRWT, 200-04, 206-16; excerpts from Luther, On the Freedom of a Christian 

                • Topic 14

                  A14—November 5    Christianity 6   Protestant Proliferation: 1650-1900

                  Protestantism proves liable to continuous splinterings—and growth—under its distinctive principles. Consideration of pietism, revivalistic evangelicalism, and the momentum from Methodism to Pentecostalism.                    

                                          READINGS: WRWT, 216-19, 243-49; Charles Wesley hymns

                • Topic 15

                  A15—November 8       Judaism 4      Judaism under Christianity & Islam, 700-1700 CE

                  Judaism’s key doctrinal, philosophical, and cultural developments in the Middle Ages, and its comparative fortunes under Islamic and Christian regimes.

                                          READINGS: WRWT, 113-27

                  • Topic 16

                    A16—November 16     Judaism 5        Judaism as a Life 

                    Examination of Judaism's weekly and yearly rounds, emphasizing Sabbath observance and the cycle of festivals. How Torah is applied to daily life, individual and collective, under different interpretations from the more literal to more generalized ethical principles.

                                            READINGS: WRWT, 127-41

                    • Topic 17

                      A17—November 18       Islam 4         Islam: The Shi’a Way

                      The distinctive principles and practices of Islam’s largest variant tradition.

                                            READINGS: Selections from Manjun & Layla

                      • Topic 18

                        A18—November 20     Islam 5        Islam: The Sufi Way

                        The teachings and practices of mystical spirituality amid a tradition so emphatic about law and monotheism.

                                 READINGS: Ruthven, ch 5; Selections from Rumi.


                        • Topic 20

                          A20—November 26      Judaism 6      Judaism and Modernity: Liberation & Ordeal, 1700-1900 CE

                          The varieties of Jewish belief and practice—ranging from Hasidism to secularism—under the conditions created by modern science, Enlightened toleration, and nationalism. Emigration to the USA makes it a new center of world Judaism with a spectrum of Jewish ‘denominations.’     

                              READINGS: WRWT, 141-51; “Pittsburgh Platform”; excerpt from S. R. Hirsch, Judaism Eternal

                        • Topic 21

                          A21—November 28     Judaism 7      Judaism in the 20th Century 

                          The Holocaust generates new support for Zionism inside and outside Jewish ranks. In the new State of Israel, the secularist-traditionalist contest continues amid acute regional tensions. In North America, prosperity and acceptance intensify the question of assimilation.

                                                  READINGS:  WRWT, 151-57; Burge, Whose Land?, 37-62

                          • Topic 22

                            A22—December 1    Christianity 7    Christianity in the 20th Century

                            The catastrophic world wars reverberate in both Protestant and Catholic churches, issuing in a mixed package of reforms, retrenchment, and reassertions.

                                                    READINGS:  WRWT, 204-06, 239-42, 249-59

                            • Topic 23

                              A23—December 9      Islam 6         Islam: Colonization and Resistance  

                              FIELD WORK PROJECT DUE NO LATER THAN TOMORROW!

                              The forces of modernity that bore down on Judaism and Christianity came to Islam in the train of European colonialism. Examination of the menu of responses these triggered.

                                                      READINGS: Ruthven, ch 6; Iqbal, “The Principle of Movement”

                            • Topic 24

                              A24—December 16   I7       Islam since 1979 

                              The variety of Muslim ventures after decolonization. Here we will deal with the minor—though highly publicized—place of violent Islamist politics in that mix, and the significant—though typically overlooked—proposals for reform and pluralism.

                                                      READINGS: Ruthven, ch. 1