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RELGH121b Varieties of Judaism in the Ancient World

Spring 2011 Tuesday-Thursday 11:30-1pm Hall 107

Naomi Koltun-Fromm Hall 104 ex 4975

This course traces the development of Judaism and Christianity from their shared biblical/Israelite cult/religion roots through the extra-canonical and other apocryphal literature that was composed between the destruction of the first Jerusalem sanctuary in 586 BCE and the destruction of the second in 70 CE. Its primary focus is probing the texts to better under stand the nature of ancient Jewish and early Christian identities in the Persian, Hellenistic and Greco-Roman milieus.


NRSV Bible with Apocrypha

Susan Indict: Ancient Israelite Religion

Timothy H. Lim: The Dead Sea Scrolls: A very short introduction

Readings on Blackboard


1. Prepare assignments for each class that may include reading and writing.

2. Open and eager participation in class discussions

3. 1 short (5 page) paper and one long (10 page)

4. Several one or two page response papers

Students who think they may need accommodations in this course because of the impact of a disability are encouraged to meet with me privately early in the semester. Students should also contact Rick Webb, Coordinator, Office of Disabilities Services (, 610-896-1290) to verify their eligibility for reasonable accommodations as soon as possible. Early contact will help to avoid unnecessary inconvenience and delays.


1. Tu Jan 18 Introduction

2. Th Jan 20 Biblical �Religion� and ancestral cults and traditions

READ: BB Geller, �Religion of the Bible�

3. Tu Jan 25 Biblical �Religion� and ancestral cults and traditions

READ: Indict: Ancient Israelite Religion, pp. 3-69

4. Th Jan 27 Biblical �Religion� and ancestral cults and traditions

READ: Indict: Ancient Israelite Religion, pp.70-124

WRITE: Two page response paper: What is biblical religion? Does it really exist?

5. Tu Feb 1 Bible, Canon; History, text: Exile and Return

READ: Bible: 2 Kings 24-25; Jeremiah 35-45; 2 Char 36; Haggai; Zechariah

6. Th Feb 3 Ezra/Nehemiah

READ: Bible: Ezra; Nehemiah

WRITE: one page response paper: What do you think the small city-state of Judea looked like in this period? Who lived there, what language did they speak? How did they self-identify? Did they have a �religion�?

7. Tu Feb 8 Hellenism

READ: BB: Lee Levine: �The Age of Hellenism�, from Alexander to Hadrian�; Katell Berthelot: Early Jewish Literature written in Greek.

8. Th Feb 10 Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha

READ: BB James Kugel: Early Jewish Biblical Interpretation; Loren Stuckenbruck: Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha

9. Tu Feb 15 1 Maccabees

READ Bible 1 Maccabees

10. Thu Feb 17 2 Maccabees

READ Bible 2 Maccabees

WRITE: two page response page comparing 1 and 2 Maccabees: who are these people? What are they fighting over? What is at state? Who wins and how?

Paper assignment 1:

Write a 5 page paper: How should one understand the texts and people behind these texts that we have read so far and their own understanding of self, community, tradition, law, God and religion? Substantiate your arguments with plentiful and critical reference to the texts we have read so far. Due Monday, March 14, 4pm by email.

11. Tu Feb 22 Individual meetings with me about papers

12. Th Feb 24 Reaction to Macs: Daniel

READ: Bible: Daniel

13. Tu Mar 1 Jubilees

READ: Bible Genesis 1-12; BB Jubilees

14. Th Mar 3 Judith

READ: Bible: Judith

Spring Break

Monday March 14th : Papers due to me by email by 4pm.

15. Tu Mar 15 Dead Sea Scrolls

READ: Lin: The Dead Sea Scrolls, A Very Short Introduction

16. Th Mar 17 Dead Sea Scrolls

READ: BB The War Scroll

WRITE one page response paper: What is this text about? Who are these people? What is at stake?

17. Tu Mar 22 Dead Sea Scrolls

READ BB the Community Rule

WRITE one page response paper: What is this text about? Who are these people? What is at stake?

18. Th Mar 24 Dead Sea Scrolls

READ: BB Pesher Habakkuk

WRITE one page response paper: What is this text about? Who are these people? What is at stake?

19. Tu Mar 29 Alexandria

READ: Philo: On Creation

WRITE one page response paper: Is Philo more a Jew or a Greek philosopher? How do you think he would self identify?

20. Th Mar 31 Letter of Aristeas and the Septuaginta

READ: BB Letter of Aristeas; selections of the LXX (to be posted)

21. Tu Apr 5 Paul

READ: Bible Romans

22. Th Apr 7 Paul

READ: Bible: Galatians; 1 Corinthians

WRITE Two page response paper: Who is Paul? How does he self-identify in his letters?

Paper assignment 2:

Write a 10 page paper attempting to answer: Who was a Jew in the Ancient world? You can go about this in two ways: 1) try to synthesis everything we have learned this semester into one cogent argument about the varieties and evolution of Jewish identity, using copious examples from our texts; or 2) chose one or two texts to study in depth or compare to show how there was variety and evolution in this period. Substantiate your arguments, talk about outside influences, place texts in contexts as well as analyze them for content.

Drafts due, last day of class

Final Drafts due last day of finals period

23. Tu Apr 12 individual meetings to talk about papers

24. Th Apr 14 Matthew

READ: Bible: Matthew

Passover no class Apr 19

25. Th Apr 21 Josephus

READ BB Antiquities

26. Tu Apr 26 Josephus

READ BB Against Apion

27. Th Apr 28 wrap up