Jesus and the Gods: Christianity and the Religions of Antiquity|
Fall 2021 not offered
This course will focus on the politics and methods of comparison in order to reveal how thinkers have described the myths and practices of early Christianity as they relate to the religions of ancient Israel, Greece, and Rome. In reading carefully a wide range of ancient texts and modern scholarly discussions, we will be thinking on several levels at once. That is, we will learn about the gods and ritual practices of ancient Greece and Rome and also think critically about the agendas of the many writers-from Plato to Thomas Jefferson and beyond-who described them for their own purposes.
How did Jesus of Nazareth come to be understood as a god, who dies and rises, in a world brimming with gods? Why was he remembered as a philosopher and a martyr, like Socrates? How-and with what motives-did writers throughout history compare Jesus with the priests and kings of ancient Israel or with the gods and goddesses of the Hellenistic Mystery Religions? What is the place of Demeter, Isis, and Osiris in the history of religion? How did early Christians understand their rituals of death and resurrection in terms of rebirth, salvation, and martyrdom? Considering themes and theories of piety and sacrifice, purity and prophecy, wisdom and narrative, ethics and philosophy, mythmaking and cultural critique, we will ask how the politics of comparison and classification have shaped not only our understanding of Jesus and Judaism, ancient Greece and Rome, but also the construction of Judaism and Christianity as religions, and the very category of religion itself.
||Gen Ed Area Dept:
|Course Format: Lecture / Discussion||Grading Mode: Graded|
||Fulfills a Major Requirement for: (CGST-MN)(RELI-MN)(RELI)(SISP-Reli Conc)
Robert Dobbin, ed. and trans., EPICTETUS: DISCOURSES AND SELECTED WRITINGS (Penguin Classics, 2008)
Luther Martin, HELLENISTIC RELIGIONS: AN INTRODUCTION (Oxford University Press, 1987)
Jonathan Z. Smith, DRUDGERY DIVINE: ON THE COMPARISON OF EARLY CHRISTIANITIES AND THE RELIGIONS OF LATE ANTIQUITY (University of Chicago Press, 1990)
P. G. Walsh, trans., APULEIUS: THE GOLDEN ASS (Oxford World┐s Classics, 1995)
P. G. Walsh, trans., CICERO: THE NATURE OF THE GODS (Oxford World┐s Classics, 1998)
|Examinations and Assignments: |
Two short papers (6 pp.) and a final essay (10 pp.)
|Additional Requirements and/or Comments: |
This course fulfills the "Method & Theory" requirement for the Religion Department major.
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