2011-12 Catalog

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Offering Description

Orthodoxies and Apostasies: Judaism, Christianity, Islam


Winter 2012 quarter

Richard Benton linguistics, Bible, religious studies
Fields of Study
community studies, cultural studies, literature, philosophy and religious studies
Preparatory for studies or careers in
comparative religion, cultural studies, literature, and the humanities.
Some amount of background in religious studies, philosophy, history, and/or literature preferable.  If you have any questions about the suitability of your background, please contact the professor.

For two thousand years Jews and Christians agree on some issues and disagree on others. For 1300 years, Muslims have entered into this discussion. What issues do these monotheistic religions agree on? What do they differ about? How do they identify the “orthodox” believer of their own faith, in contrast to the “unbeliever” of another faith? In this program, we will ask the following questions: What makes someone Jewish? Christian? Muslim? How have they interacted? Often these religions ask the same questions; their answers separate them from each other.

Each religion depends on writing as the divine expression of belief. Jews depend on Written Torah and Oral Torah. Christians hold the Written Torah, or Old Testament, as inspired, as well as the New Testament. Muslims proclaim the superior status of the Qur’an, while the Bible (Torah and Gospel) lie subordinate to it. Yet all of these writings refer to the other works. Moreover, each religion has produced a body of interpretation. Jews read Midrash, Christians, commentaries, and Muslims, the Hadith. These interpretations further develop the lines that distinguish the community of “true believers” from the “unbelievers” or “apostates.”

We will read and interpret the above sacred texts and their interpretations to develop literary and philosophical sensitivities. These texts lie at the basis of all the religious thought of these groups. Knowledge of and ability to interpret sacred texts provide the foundation of grasping the interactions of later periods. Students will also acquire knowledge and develop appreciation for how individuals understand their historical circumstances. We will read secondary literature that describes religious life in various historical contexts. Each student will develop a research project in which they learn how to interpret a religious text from the inside—from the point of view of the text—and learn how to distinguish text from personal interpretation.

Online Learning
Hybrid Online Learning < 25% Delivered Online
Greener Store
Offered During

Program Revisions

Date Revision
November 1st, 2011 New program added.