RELS 100 Introduction to Religion: Texts, Contexts, Practices 3 credits
This course introduces students to the critical study of religions and to the character of religious traditions as living, dynamic communities of interpretation with textual, ritual, moral, philosophical and practical dimensions. The course considers three different religious traditions through the lens of a topic or problem with which religions are concerned or through which they can be usefully analyzed. The topic and the traditions vary with the expertise and interest of the professor teaching the course, but one eastern tradition and one biblical tradition are always included. Attention is given to the nature and definition of religion and to methodologies in the critical study of religion.
RELS 220 Introduction to World Religions 3 credits
Introduction to World Religions is a thematic introduction to the study of religion and examines the multiplicity of ways in which humans throughout the world find and create meaning and value in their lives. Primary religious traditions of both the East and West, including ancient indigenous cultures and their contemporary expressions, are studied.
RELS 224 Religion and Culture 3 credits
Religion and Culture explores the relationship between religion and culture and the variety of ways in which they are mutually interactive in the construction of, for example, meaning, values, worldviews, practices, institutions, and artifacts. As part of that exploration, the course undertakes a critical analysis of the theoretical and methodological concerns associated with the academic study of religion.
RELS 229 Christianity 3 credits
This course begins with a brief examination of Jesus and the birth of the Christian movement; then focuses on the major institutional, theological and ritual developments that occurred in Christianity over the period in which Roman rule gave way to the Byzantine Empire. The second part of the course narrows its scope to Christianity in the west through a selective analysis of key periods and issues…[including] intellectual ferment and Christian interaction with Jews and Muslims in the Middle Ages; the 16th century Reformation; colonial expansion and inter-religious encounter; and Christianity and modernity.
RELS 231 Judaism 3 credits
This course will explore the origins of an ancient faith through a close examination of the early traditions and laws presented in the Hebrew Bible as well as the various cultural contexts of the ancient Near East that influenced them. The course utilizes the Hebrew Bible, portions of the Babylonian Talmud, and the Zohar to trace the development of these ancient traditions and practices into the various branches of modern Judaism and the foremost concerns and challenges faced by the modern Jewish communities.
RELS 235 Sex, the Body, and Religion 3 credits
This course examines the origins of attitudes and beliefs in the Judeo-Christian traditions concerning human sexuality and the human body. Focus is on the contribution of such beliefs in the evolving relationship between the individual and society. The course begins with an exploration of Levantine fertility cults and traces their influence on early Judaism. Moving toward the emergence and eventual spread of Christianity, discussion centers on the continued influence of Near Eastern fertility traditions on gender differentiation, the “fall” of humanity, and procreation. Topics such as marriage and divorce, birth control and abortion, asceticism and celibacy, and death and resurrection of the body will be discussed within the context of Judeo-Christian tests and traditions.
RELS 239 Hinduism 3 credits
Using both a thematic and historical approach, this course examines Hindu religious life, as it is embedded in both ancient and modern India and Bali as well as twenty-first century life in the United States. Course topics include the study of primary texts from the literary , devotional and philosophical strands of Hinduism, as well as study of such Hindu concepts as devotion, (bhakti), action (karma), knowledge (jnana), ethics, and the major schools of thought. Emphasis will be given to both the practice and religious ideas of Hindu participants.
RELS 241 Religious and Psychological Lenses on Social Justice 3 credits
In this cross-listed, interdisciplinary course, religious studies and psychological lenses are employed to examine issues of social justice, including factors which either promote or interfere with the creation of communities that value inclusion, diversity, and peace. Aiming to foster a concern for social justice, the course provides theoretical and practical tools to challenge injustice, including opportunities to think and work alongside local advocacy organizations. (This course may be taken for credit as PSYC 241.)
RELS 251 Death and the Afterlife 3 credits
Death and the Afterlife is a critical examination of literature from the ancient Near East including the Bible, that deals wiith death, dying, and the “next life,” an examination of the ways Western culture has attempted to address and understand these issues, and a comparative analyis of similar themes in a variety of non-Western traditions. The course examines ways in which various constructions of “heaven” and “hell” reflect the influence of ancient religious thought and literature on modern social structures, social values, and notions of justice.
RELS 259 Special Topics in Religious Studies 3 credits
From time to time, topics will be offered under this designation to address issues of particular currency, pursue topics of interest to students, or to make faculty research projects available for student learning.
RELS 270 Introduction to Hebrew Language I 4 credits
This course provides the student with a working knowledge of biblical and modern Hebrew. With the successful completion of this course, the student will be able to read selected passages of narrative in biblical and modern texts with the aid of a lexicon/dictionary, will gain knowledge of modern Hebrew in both written and spoken form and will strengthen her/his cultural understanding of ancient and modern Israel. Students will build a strong knowledge base in Hebrew vocabulary, verb paradigms, and grammar essentials. (This course may be taken for credit as HEBR 110.)
RELS 271 Introduction to Hebrew Language II 4 credits
This course provides further advancement of a student’s knowledge of biblical and modern Hebrew. Students will become adept in the usage of a Hebrew-English dictionary/lexicon for translation of texts in biblical and modern contexts and will improve their conversational skills in modern Hebrew. Students will continue to build a strong knowledge base in Hebrew vocabulary, verb paradigms, and grammar. (This course may be taken for credit as HEBR 120.)
RELS 301 Poetry, Prophecy, and (Poly)theism: A Critical Analysis of the Hebrew Bible 3 credits
This course is an historical-critical analysis of the books of the Hebrew Bible that emphasizes the historical, social, and ideological dynamics of various authorial traditions within this corpus. Additionally, these texts are analyzed within modern interpretive frameworks in order to recognize the ways in which themes from the Hebrew Bible continue to play a role in the construction of Western thought and culture.
RELS 305 Introduction to Biblical Archaeology 3 credits
This course is an introduction to the archaeology of the ancient Near East as it pertains to the Hebrew Bible. The initial phase of this course will explore basic archaeological field methods, terminology, and chronologies, and will offer a brief history of “biblical archaeology.” The second phase of the course examines a variety of major excavations throughout the Middle East and presents an overview of the archaeological data from these sites, ranging (in most cases) from the Late Bronze Age through Iron Age II.
RELS 311 Studies in the Gospels 3 credits
Studies in the Gospels is an introduction to methods of critical analysis in New Testament interpretation, highlighting the messages presented by the writers of the synoptic gospels. Students explore the ways in which both traditional and contemporary methods of exegetical analysis contribute to the discussion of the “historical” Jesus of Nazareth.
RELS 321 Myth, Symbol, and Ritual 3 credits
This course explores the relationship between ritual practices, symbols deployed in ritual actions, and the narrative and metaphysical elements of religious belief. Classical and contemporary formulations of this relationship will be considered. The course constitutes a critique of the popular reduction of religions to “belief systems” and gives special attention to the importance of ritual and the practices of the body in the construction of a religious worldview.
RELS 326 The World of Late Antiquity 3 credits
The World of Late Antiquity surveys the many different and competing elements of religious views found in ancient Greco-Roman culture through the first five centuries of the common era. Particular attention is given to the philosophical, sociological, theological, and political environment of ancient Mediterranean culture in an effort to understand the influence these views had on the Western tradition. (This course may be taken for credit as HIST 309.)
RELS 337 Religion and Philosophy in the Middle Ages 3 credits
The focus of this course is the development of religious and philosophical thought in the European Middle Ages, understood as the period from about the fourth to the fifteenth century. It addresses the roots of Medieval thought, the varieties of Medieval thought within and across the three European religions of the Middle Ages (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam), and of course Medieval religious practice, both authorized and otherwise. The course will explore the nature of intellectual and practical creativity, autonomy and authority during the period; key religious imagery (e.g. Jesus as mother); key philosophical trends and concerns (e.g. the problem of universals, mind and the active intellect, semiotics, the development of universities, etc.); and the inter-religious dialogue, tolerance, and violence. (This course may be taken for credit as PHIL 337.)
RELS 352 Islamic Civilization 3 credits
This course is a survey of the emergence of Islam during late Roman antiquity and the middle ages, highlighting the life of the prophet Mohammed and the development of Islamic religion, philosophy, and literature in the early Islamic empires. Also considered is the development of Islamic fundamentalism in the modern world and institutional, operational, and environmental factors which demonstrate differences between the Islamic and the Western worlds. (This course may be taken for credit as HIST 329.)
RELS 417 A History of Biblical Interpretation 3 credits
A History of Biblical Interpretation undertakes a detailed analysis of the socio-cultural, historical, political, ideological, philosophical, methodological, and theological dynamics involved in the interpretation of the Bible in Western culture with particular emphasis on the modern period. Topics include the nature and role of authority, epistemology, science and religion, institutions and power, the development and rise of the historical-critical method, and the role of the church in the interpretation of the Bible.
RELS 487-488 Independent Study 3 credits
RELS 490 Senior Project 2-4 credits
RELS 495 Comprehensive Exams
This course is an administrative placeholder used to record a student’s score on Comprehensive Exams (CR/NCR).