Religion 204b


Scripture in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam


Spring 2008 MWF 9:30-10:20



Instructor: Jonathan Brumberg-Kraus, x3694, (H): 401-273-0536; e-mail: jkraus


Office Hours (Knapton 102): M 10:30-12:30, 1:30-2; W 10:30-12:00; F 10:30-12:30, and TuTh by appointment.


This course focuses on the religious function of sacred scriptures in the three Western religious traditions: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Attention will be paid to scripture as myth of origins, the relative importance of sacred story, prophecy, and law in the three traditions, authority, and the importance of interpretative traditions. We will also investigate the ritual functions of Scripture, artistic representations, and contemporary efforts to interpret the relevance of textual traditions.


Texts Required for Purchase:


John Corrigan et al., Jews, Christians, Muslims: A Comparative Introduction to Monotheistic Religions


Barry Holtz, ed., Back to the Sources


Oxford Study Bible


Michael Sells, Approaching the Qur'an:  The Early

Revelations (book and CD)


Samuel Proctor, How Shall They Hear?




William Graham, Beyond The Written Word: Oral Aspects Of Scripture In The History Of Religion


Amina Wadud-Muhsin, Qur’an and Woman


On Reserve:

Jo Milgrom, Handmade Midrash


N.B.: All required and recommended texts, as well as the texts in the Reading Packet, have been placed on 2 hr. reserve in the Library.  Asterisked (*)readings are optional, not required


Introduction: What is Scripture?


1/23 First  Day of Class


Scripture from a Comparative Perspective

Scripture as a "relational concept"


1/25 Friday: Read William Graham, "Scripture," Encyclopedia of Religion, ed. M. Eliade, v. 13:133-145


Unit I: Scripture in Judaism


A. The Torah: Sacred Story + Sacred Law


Biblical Narrative


1/28 Monday: Read Genesis 1-11; Jews, Christians, Muslims (JCM), 3-14]


1/30 Wednesday: Read Genesis 12-27


2/1 Friday: Read Holtz, BS, pp. 31-81


Biblical Law


2/4 Monday: Read Leviticus 1,6-8,9-11, 19-20; Holtz BS, pp. 83-103


2/6 Wednesday: Read Exodus 19-20; Deuteronomy 6-7, 26-28


B. The Oral and Written "Dual Torah" of Rabbinic Judaism


2/8 Friday Read JCM, 15-25; 282-294; See the video The Talmud and the Scholar (about Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz, spirituality of Torah study)


2/11 Monday: See the video Half the Kingdom (feminist perspective on women's roles in Judaism)


Read JCM, 215-226; *Vanessa Ochs, Words On Fire (RP Text F, pp. 29-68)



2/13 Wednesday: Read Holtz, BS, pp. 177-204; Lamentations, Lamentations Rabbah (RP-Text B)


2/15 Friday: Read Exodus 1-6; selections from Exodus Rabba; Lawrence Hoffman,"Sacred Myths: Pre-Modern Jewish Perspectives," Beyond the Text (RP-Text C)


Kabbalah (mysticism): Torah as the Name of God


2/18 Monday: Read JCM, 77-92; G. Scholem, "Revelation and Tradition..."(RP Text D); Selections from Sha'arei Orah ("Gates of Light") (RP Text E)


Midterm Study Guide


2/20 Wednesday: Read JCM, 92-104; 227-234


C. Contemporary Applications


1.Study = worship


2. Feminist appropriation of Torah;


2/22 Friday: Read Vanessa Ochs, Words on Fire (RP Text F, pp. 101-131)


Field trip to Synagogue. Specifics TBA.


2/25 Monday Midrash Assignment due

Review for Midterm Exam


Unit II: Scripture in Islam

A. The Qur'an


2/27 Wednesday: Read JCM, 52-72, 134-151; Sells, Approaching the Qur’an, pp. 1-35; NY Times article by Tariq Ramadan (on Blackboard)


2/29 Friday : Recitation of the Qur’an: Qur’an in Ritual


Read Sells, Approaching the Qur’an, pp. 145-183; W. Graham, Beyond the Written Word: Oral Aspects of Scripture, pp. 79-115; listen to recitations of the Qur’an on the CD in Sells.


3/3 Monday:

Midterm Exam


3/5 The Form and Style of the Qur’an

Read Sells, Approaching the Qur’an, 42-145 (selections to be assigned to different groups of students)


B. Classical Islamic Transformations


1.Visual Representation in Art and Architecture


3/7 Friday: Slide Presentation


Read JCM, 397-416; RP-Text U. Oleg Grabar, "The Symbolic Appropriation of the Land," and "Islamic Attitudes Towards the Arts," The Formation of Islamic Art


3/10-3/14 Spring Break – No Class


3/17 Monday: Calligraphy


Read the WWW site: Islamic and Arabic Arts and Architecture - Calligraphy



Islam assignment due 1)Hand in Basmalah calligraphy Monday 3/24


2) Make appointment to recite Fatiha during office hours 3/24 -3/28


2. Philosophical Transformations


3/19 Wednesday: Read JCM, 195-209; RP-Text T. Averroes, The Decisive Treatise, Determining What the Connection is Between Religion and Philosophy; W. Graham chapter on tafsir, Beyond the Written Word: Oral Aspects of Scripture, pp.?


Thursday Night 3/20 Field trip to Temple Emanuel in Providence, RI for Purim Services/Purimspiel. Specifics TBA.


C. Contemporary transformations: Modern Tafsir


3/21 Friday: Read Wadud Muhsin, Qur'an and Woman; Sells, pp.183-208


3/24 Monday: Read Wadud Muhsin, Qur'an and Woman


Visit to Islamic Center of New England Sunday morning  TBA


Unit III: Scripture in Christianity


3/26 Wednesday: Read JCM, 26-35, 105-112; Gospel of John 1-6


3/28 Friday: Read Gospel of Mark


Early Christian Attitudes toward the Jewish Bible: Christian Scripture as "Midrash" of the "OT"


3/31 Monday: Read Hebrews, Mt 1-3; Luke 23-24; RP-Text K. Rowan Greer, "Christian Transformations of the Hebrew Scriptures," Early Biblical Interpretation


Sunday Morning – Field Trip to Trinitarian Church, Norton TBA


Going "beyond the written word"


Early Christian Prophecy


Christian Antinomianism


4/2 Wednesday: Read Galatians, Eugene Boring, "The Prophet as Hermeneut," The Continuing Voice of Jesus (RP-Text G)


4/4 Friday: Read I Corinthians


Classical Transformations of Christian Scripture


1. Allegory and Typology


4/7 Monday: Read JCM, 35-51; RP-Text L. Origen, "The Prologue to the Commentary on the Song of Songs"


2.Transformations of Christian Scripture in Other Media


Visual Representations of Christian Scripture


Christ as nursing Mother, as Food


4/9 Wednesday: Read JCM, 368-396; View slides of Chartres Cathedral


Image of Christ as nursing mother


4/11 Friday: Read RP-Text M. Caroline W. Bynum, "‘...And Woman His Humanity’: Female Imagery in the Religious Writing of the Later Middle Ages," Gender and Religion


Scripture in Christian worship and ritual


Musical Representations of Christian Scripture


4/14 Monday: Read W. Graham, Chapter on Martin Luther, Beyond the Written Word: Oral Aspects of Scripture


4/16 Wednesday: Read Samuel Proctor - How Shall They Hear?


Guest Speaker: Susan Mansfield?


4/18 Friday: Listen to selections from Bach's St. John Passion; read JCM, 235-255; RP text N. Jaroslav Pelikan, "‘Meditation on Human Redemption’ in the St. Matthew Passion," Bach Among the Theologians


4/21 2nd Day of Passover – No Class

Read Samuel Proctor - How Shall They Hear?


19th -20th Century American Transformations of Christian Scripture


4/23 Wednesday Discuss "preaching assignment", Read Samuel Proctor - How Shall They Hear?


4/25 Friday



8:30-9:20 AM sessions in the Chapel to hear student preaching assignments


Modern Interpretation of Christian Scripture; Conclusion

4/28 Monday Read RP-Text P. David T. Shannon, "‘An Ante-bellum Sermon’: A Resource for an African American Hermeneutic," Stony the Road We Trod (Ed. by C.H. Felder); Wednesday RP-Text Q. Richard J. Mouw, "The Bible in Twentieth-Century Protestantism: A Preliminary Taxonomy," The Bible in America (Ed. by N. Hatch and M. Noll)


4/30 Wednesday: Conclusion - Scripture compared in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam


5/1 Friday Final Review Session

Final Exam Study Guide





Course Requirements


1. Preparation of Readings. Each student is expected to read the assignments.


2. Class participation. There will be class discussions each session based on the readings.


3. Web Blog: Short reflection writing assignments to be posted on individual blogs set up specifically for this class. See instructions on Blackboard. Students will "log" what they are learning throughout the term, and be able to comment on one another’s questions and insights. At the end of each class session, I'll ask you to jot down at least one brief comment summarizing the gist of the day's class, and one question prompted by the day's discussion - and any other questions or comments you want to add. Likewise, for each reading assignment, jot down at least one brief comment summarizing the gist of the reading, and any other questions or comments prompted by it. By the Thursday of each week, post a digest of your comments and questions on the readings and class discussions on your blog - not more than 1 page, single-spaced for each week’s posting. I'll ask you to do the same for each of our field trips. You should make at least 12 weekly posts. Finally, you must contribute at least ten comments to any of your fellow students’ blog posts during the course of the term. These are both for your own benefit - to get you to begin to think analytically, to focus your thoughts on what you're learning, and for the class as a whole - to stimulate class discussions.


(Preparation of the readings and class participation will be evaluated primarily on the basis of your contributions to your blogs, and count for 25% of the course grade)


4. 3 Scriptural Interpretation projects (each 10%) Each unit will culminate with a project engaging students in a type of scriptural interpretation typical of the Jewish, Christian, and Muslim religious traditions. These assignments are intended to allow students to "get inside" the three traditions, to think about Scripture as if they were experiencing it from within Judaism, Christianity, or Islam. It is a chance for you to use your creative imagination; I hope you have fun with them! It is not meant to try to convert you to any of the traditions. It is only an exercise that approximates what it is like to think and feel like a religious Jew, Christian, and Muslim, to help you understand what academic scholars of religion call the phenomenology of religious experience in these 3 traditions.


Therefore each project requires an additional 1-3 page reflection paper on what you learned and experienced as you did the project, as well as the actual product you composed. You will have to hand in both the composition and the reflection paper for each to get full credit. Your compositions will be evaluated on how well you executed your work according to the conventions of the genre.


a. Compose your own Midrash (Jewish)


i. Students will be given the a scriptural selection from  the Bible, Exodus 18-20. Students may choose which verse(s) from  this passage to hang their midrash on, nor are you restricted  to these verses. You can use any other Scriptural verse from  the entire Hebrew Bible (the"Old Testament"), provided  that you use at least one from Ex 18-20


ii. Use the assigned readings from Back to the Sources as resources


- for examples of midrash as formal models


- for hints about what features, ambiguities, gaps, etc. in the Biblical passage itself might be a good starting point for your midrash


iii. Alternatively, use Jo Milgrom's book Handmade Midrash (on reserve in the Library) as a guide for a midrashic art project


iv. The midrash (if written) should be no longer than 1-2 pages, typed double-spaced.


v. 1-3 page reflection paper




b. Memorize short passage from the Qur'an and Arabic calligraphy assignment (Muslim)


i. Use the Al-FatiHa pronunciation free software program to  memorize the 1st Surah of the Qur'an


ii. Read the Islamic and Arabic Arts and Architecture - Calligraphy  Web Site for overview, as resource information on Arabic Calligraphy


iii. Copy the letters of the Arabic alphabet and their names  from a chart to be provided


iv. Copy by hand, as best as you can, the basmalah phrase  (=the first verse of the Fatiha) in Arabic script. You may choose  one of the scripts demonstrated on the above mentioned Web Site.  You may also embellish it artistically - using the designs we've  studied as models


v. Hand in your copy of the basmalah.


vi. 1-3 page reflection paper on both your memorization and  copying of the Arabic Qur'an passages.


DUE MAR 24 -MAR 28: Make appointment to recite al-Fatiha during office hours, hand in basmalah, reflection paper


c. Compose and preach your own 10 minute sermon (Christian)


i. Use the guidelines spelled out in Samuel Proctor's How  Shall They Hear? to compose your sermon. Your sermon should  include each of the four points he says a good sermon should  have.


ii. You may choose any Scriptural passages you want from the  Old and/or New Testament to preach on.


iii. Time yourself so that speaking your sermon aloud lasts  no longer than 10 minutes


iv. Do sermon aloud during additional early morning (8:30-9:20)  sessions


v. Hand in a written text of your sermon


vi. 1-3 page reflection paper




Written text of your sermon DUE DAY OF FINAL EXAM


5. Midterm Exam (20%) Objective and essay


6. Final exam (25%) Objective and essay


Attendance Policy: For every 2 unexcused absences after the 1st week of class, you will be penalized 1/3 grade (e.g., from A- to B+ for 2 absences; A- to B for 4 absences, etc.) off your final course grade.


Additional class meetings:


1. There will be three local field trips to visit a local synagogue, mosque, and church to observe the use of scripture in Jewish, Christian, and Muslim ritual (Sunday mornings, and Jewish evening Purim services as noted).  Also, class will be invited for a meal at my home.


2. 4-5 early morning sessions Dec 4-8, 8:30-9:20 AM to hear, give final oral presentations.