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Department of Religion


Leora F. Batnitzky

Departmental Representative

Jessica Delgado

Director of Graduate Studies

Eric S. Gregory


Leora F. Batnitzky

Wallace D. Best, also African American Studies

Eddie S. Glaude Jr., also African American Studies

Eric S. Gregory

Martha Himmelfarb

AnneMarie Luijendijk

Elaine H. Pagels

Jacqueline I. Stone

Jeffrey L. Stout

Stephen F. Teiser

Judith L. Weisenfeld

Muhammad Q. Zaman, also Near Eastern Studies

Associate Professor

Jonathan C. Gold

Shaun E. Marmon

Assistant Professor

Jessica Delgado

Naphtali S. Meshel, also Judaic Studies

Seth Perry

Moulie Vidas, also Judaic Studies

Lecturer with Rank of Professor

John G. Gager Jr.


Eric R. Huntington, also Council of the Humanities

Information and Departmental Plan of Study


Any course offered by the department.

Early Concentration

A sophomore may apply for early concentration through consultation with the departmental representative.

Program of Study

Normally, each term juniors and seniors will take two courses offered by the department.

Concentrators are required to complete at least eight religion courses taught by department faculty (including visitors to the Department of Religion) by the end of their senior year. All students are required to complete Religion 222, which is considered one of the eight religion courses. In addition, students are encouraged, but not required, to take two approved cognate courses in other departments. The cognate courses will be calculated into departmental honors. The departmental representative must approve cognate courses.

Students will select at least one course from each of the following three areas:

1. Religions of the Ancient Mediterranean: Judaism and Christianity from Antiquity to the Middle Ages: 230, 251, 252, 340, 350, 352, 353, and occasional courses

2. Religions of the Americas: 258, 319, 357, 358, 360, 367, and occasional courses

3. Religion and Critical Thought: 242, 261, 311, 312, 313, 317, 346, 347, 363, 364, and occasional courses

Students will select two courses in the following area from two different traditions:

Islam and the Religions of Asia: 225, 226, 228, 229, 235, 236, 240, 322, 326, 328, 334, 335, 336, 338, 382, and occasional courses

Not all courses satisfy area requirements. A course may be counted toward one area requirement only. In any year it is offered, 373 Studies in Religion will be assigned to the appropriate area.

When registering for the first term of senior year, each student will decide upon a focus of study in consultation with the departmental representative. Possible focuses of study include Japanese religions, Chinese religions, Buddhism, Islam, philosophy of religion, modern Jewish thought, religious and philosophical ethics, social criticism, African American religious movements, gender, sexuality, and religion in the Americas, global pentecostalism, new religious movements, religion and American politics, visual, material, and popular culture in American religions, race and religion in the Americas, Biblical studies, ancient Judaism and Christianity, Rabbinic Judaism, and Gnosticism. Senior independent work will be in the student's focus of study, and two courses must be completed in the focus of study by the end of the first term of the senior year. All changes to the focus of study must be approved by the departmental representative.

Independent Work

Junior Year. During the fall term of the junior year, all department juniors will participate in a colloquium (see below for study abroad) with a member or members of the faculty. In addition to short assignments throughout the term that prepare majors to research and write a junior paper (JP), students are expected to produce a five to seven-page JP proposal. The JP proposal and colloquium participation constitute 40 percent of the junior independent grade. During the spring term, juniors will do independent reading and write a junior paper under supervision. The departmental representative, in consultation with the director of the colloquium, will assign advisers. The spring junior paper will constitute 60 percent of the junior independent work. At the end of junior year, students will review their work in the department and discuss with a faculty committee their plans for senior independent work.

Senior Year. Every senior will prepare a thesis under the supervision of a faculty adviser.

Senior Departmental Examination

At the end of the senior year, students will take an oral examination concerning their senior independent work, focus of study, and work in the department generally.

Study Abroad

The Department of Religion welcomes study abroad for departmental majors in their junior year. Those juniors who study abroad in their fall term will be exempt from the colloquium but will be required to write a fall junior paper under the supervision of a religion department faculty member. Juniors who study abroad in the spring term will write the required spring junior paper under the supervision of a religion department faculty member. Normally, students are expected to have junior year independent work completed before the start of the senior year. Students must consult with the departmental representative before leaving for their study abroad program.

Preparation for Graduate Study

Those students considering graduate work in religion are strongly advised to develop a reading knowledge of languages most appropriate to their focus of study, for example, Hebrew, Greek, Latin, Arabic, Chinese, Japanese, German, and French.

Religion and Special Programs. Students who wish to combine the study of religion with work in programs should consult the departmental representative. In recent years, religion majors have received certificates in African American studies, African studies, American studies, dance, East Asian studies, European cultural studies, Hellenic studies, Judaic studies, Near Eastern studies, theater, visual arts, and gender and sexuality studies.


REL 202 Great Books of the Jewish Tradition (see JDS 202)

REL 221 Choral Music (see MUS 221)

REL 222 Theories and Methods in the Study of Religion (also HUM 222)   Spring EC

An examination of thinkers (e.g. Pascal, Hume, Marx, Emerson, Freud) and filmmakers (e.g. Hitchcock, Kurosawa, Friedrich) who distinguish between a way of life they regard as sinful, oppressive, or deluded and a process of change in which the alleged defects are overcome. The course provides an introduction to modern debates over what religion is and how it affects individuals and societies, for good or for ill. The course also concerns film as a vehicle for ethical reflection and social criticism. Two lectures, one preceptorial, one film screening. Staff

REL 223 Introduction to Judaism: Religion, History, Ethics (see JDS 201)

REL 225 The Buddhist World of Thought and Practice   Fall HA

An introduction to the thought and history of Buddhism. Emphasis is upon the beginnings of the religion in India, the interaction between Buddhism and the various cultures of Asia, basic schools of Buddhist religious philosophy, the relationship between thought and practice, and the place of Buddhism in the modern world. Two lectures, one preceptorial. J. Stone

REL 226 The Religions of China (also EAS 226)   Spring EM

A thematic introduction to the history of Chinese religion. Topics include: cosmology, family, shamanism, divination, mortuary ritual, and women. Readings are drawn from a wide range of sources, including sacred scriptures, popular literature, and modern ethnography. Two lectures, one preceptorial. S. Teiser

REL 227 Tibetan Buddhism   Not offered this year EM

This course is a survey of the Buddhist traditions of Tibet, focusing on the doctrines and practices associated with the main schools of tantric ritual and meditation. Topics covered will include: the origins of the distinct forms of Buddhism in Tibet; Buddhist responses to historical challenges; the special relationship between politics and religion in Tibet; the role of Tibetan Buddhist scholars and scholasticism; Tibet through the lenses of the Chinese, and the West; and Tibetan Buddhist art. Required field trip to the Rubin Museum of Art in NYC. J. Gold

REL 228 Religion in Japanese Culture (also EAS 228)   Not offered this year HA

An introduction to Japanese religion from ancient to modern times, focusing on its role in culture and history. Representative aspects of Shinto, Buddhist, Confucian, and other traditions will be studied, as well as such topics as myth, ritual, shamanism, and ancestor worship. Two 90-minute classes. J. Stone

REL 229 Great Books in Buddhism (also HUM 229)   Not offered this year LA

Close reading of great stories in the formative period of Buddhism, 50 BC to 400 AD. Examines Buddhist literature against the background of religious doctrine and cultural history. Explores themes such as: previous lifetimes, rebirth and cosmology, genres of Buddhist narrative, parables, personal quests versus social justice, emptiness, and changing conceptions of the Buddha. Two lectures, one preceptorial. S. Teiser

REL 230 Who Wrote the Bible (also JDS 230)   Fall HA

The course will introduce students to the Hebrew Bible ("Old Testament") in its ancient Near Eastern setting. Key concepts often associated with the Hebrew Bible, such as God, damnation, sin, and history, will be scrutinized through a careful reading of a selection of Biblical texts including the Creation and Garden of Eden narratives in Genesis, the laws of Leviticus, the prophecies of Ezekiel and the poetry of Song of Songs. Particular attention will be paid to the transformations that the texts underwent through a continuous process of transmission and interpretation. Two 90-minute classes. N. Meshel

REL 235 In the Shadow of Swords: Martyrdom and Holy War in Islam (also NES 235)   EM

This course is an examination of the changing concepts of martyrdom, holy war, and suicide in both Sunni and Shi'i Islam. How are war and martyrdom presented in the sacred texts of these traditions? Historically, how have Sunni and Shi'i Islam constructed, idealized, and also questioned the concept of the Islamic martyr and/or the holy warrior? In what ways have modern religious revivalism, revolutionary movements, and struggles for nationhood created a new and still contested understanding of the Islamic martyr? Course materials include sources in translation, films, Internet sites, and journals. Two lectures, one preceptorial. S. Marmon

REL 236 Introduction to Islam (also NES 236)   SA

The doctrines and practices of Islamic communities from the Prophet Muhammad up to and including the modern period. Topics covered include the Qur'an; Sunnis and Shi'is; Islamic law and philosophy; Sufism; Islamic art and architecture; Islamic understandings of physical space and time; the structure of Muslim households; gender issues; Islamic education; modern Islamic "fundamentalist" movements. Materials include sources in translation, films, modern novels. Guest speakers representing diverse Muslim perspectives will be an important component. Two lectures, one preceptorial. S. Marmon

REL 240 Muslims and the Qur'an (see NES 240)

REL 241 Kabbalah: Concepts and History (see JDS 248)

REL 242 Jewish Thought and Modern Society (also JDS 242)   Not offered this year EM

What is the relation of Judaism and the individual Jew to the modern world? Is Judaism a religion, a nationality, an ethnicity, or a combination of these? This course explores various answers to these questions by examining various historical and cultural formations of Jewish identity in Europe, America, and Israel from the 18th century to the present, and by engaging particular issues, such as Judaism's relation to technology, the environment, biomedical ethics, feminism, and democracy. Two lectures, one preceptorial. L. Batnitzky

REL 251 The New Testament and Christian Origins   Spring HA

This course is a historical introduction to early Christian texts within and outside of the New Testament canon. We investigate how the Christian movement began, using ancient sources - Jewish, Greek, Roman, and Christian - about Jesus of Nazareth. We read the letters of the Apostle Paul and New Testament gospels, and the recently discovered gospels of Thomas and Mary. We will discuss the formation of the New Testament canon, views of Jesus, and attitudes toward gender, race and community. The course is accessible to students new to these sources, as well as to those familiar with them. Two lectures, one preceptorial. Staff

REL 252 Christianity: From Illegal Movement to World Religion   Fall HA

We investigate what is known about Jesus from earliest gospels, Roman and Jewish sources, and "gnostic gospels;" letters between a Roman governor and emperor telling why they had Jesus' followers tortured and executed; first hand accounts of conversion, trials and martyrdom's; how pagans saw Christians, and how the movement emerged from Judaism; debates over virgin birth, resurrection, sexual practices, gender roles; and how emperor Constantine's conversion-and the work of Augustine-transformed the movement. Two lectures, one preceptorial. E. Pagels

REL 258 Religion in American Society   SA

A broad survey of religion in American society from the colonial era to the present. Emphasis on religious encounter and conflict; the relationship between religious change and broader social and political currents; religious innovations and transformations; immigrant religions; secularization, resurgence, and pluralism. Mix of primary and secondary source readings. Two lectures, one preceptorial. Staff

REL 261 Christian Ethics and Modern Society (also CHV 261)   Fall EM

An examination of the meaning of Christian ethics through a study of selected contemporary moral and political issues: bioethics, capital punishment, sex and marriage, pluralism, race, class, gender, the environment, the morality of warfare, torture, and the role of religion in public life. Two lectures, one preceptorial. E. Gregory

REL 300 Topics in the Study of Gender (see GSS 302)

REL 302 Elementary Biblical Hebrew I (see JDS 302)

REL 303 The Wise Guys: Readings in Biblical Wisdom Literature (see JDS 303)

REL 309 Politics and Religion (see POL 309)

REL 311 Religious Existentialism   Not offered this year EC

An in-depth study of existentialist philosophies of, among others, Søren Kierekgaard, Martin Buber, Martin Heidegger, Jean-Paul Sartre, and Emmanuel Levinas. The course will focus on their respective arguments about the relations between philosophy and existence, reason and revelation, divine law and love, philosophy, religion and politics, and Judaism and Christianity. One three-hour seminar. L. Batnitzky

REL 312 Augustine and Aquinas   Not offered this year EM

A comparative study of the primary texts of Augustine of Hippo and Thomas Aquinas. Topics include: the problem of evil, human nature, the existence of God, freedom and grace, ethics and politics, and the relation of theology to philosophy. Attention also given to the legacy of these influential and contested thinkers. One three-hour seminar. E. Gregory

REL 313 Pragmatism and Religion: James and Dewey   Not offered this year EC

Examines the works of two important classical pragmatists, William James and John Dewey, and their views about religion. Focuses on questions such as: How do James and Dewey understand and respond to evil and death? Is a conception of God important to their thoughts about religion? Attention given throughout the course to the concepts of nature, experience, and piety. One three-hour seminar. E. Glaude

REL 316 Elementary Biblical Hebrew (see JDS 306)

REL 317 Recent Jewish and Christian Thought (also JDS 317)   Not offered this year EM

Explores recent Jewish, Christian, and postmodern thought, all of which seek to criticize universalist conceptions of reason and ethics while defending a view of Jewish, Christian, or philosophical particularity. Examines the historical reasons for and philosophical contents of these arguments and also their philosophical, ethical, and political implications. Seminar. L. Batnitzky

REL 319 Religious Encounters in the Colonial Atlantic World   Not offered this year HA

The encounter of Europeans, Africans, and native Americans in the world of the colonial Atlantic from the mid-15th to the 18th centuries constituted "America." This course will examine the religious dimensions of the encounter of these different peoples across time and space. One three-hour seminar. Staff

REL 321 Black Power and Its Theology of Liberation (see AAS 321)

REL 322 Buddhism in Japan (also EAS 322)   Spring HA

An examination of representative aspects of Buddhist thought and practice in Japan from the sixth century to the present. Possible topics include: major Buddhist traditions (Lotus, Pure Land, Zen, and Tantrism), meditation, ritual, cosmology, ethics, influence on literature, and interaction with other religions. Two 90-minute seminars. J. Stone

REL 324 Mind and Meditation   Fall EC

An examination of the philosophy, history, and methods of Buddhist meditation. Buddhist theoretical works will be studied in their traditional contexts and considered in the light of modern philosophy of mind and cognitive science regarding the emotions, the will, and the effects of meditation. Some coursework in Philosophy or Religion is expected. J. Gold

REL 326 Buddhist Literature   Not offered this year HA

An intensive reading and discussion of selected Buddhist texts from various cultures, from ancient times to the present. Readings may represent a range of genres, such as Buddhist scriptures, philosophical writings, sacred biography, narrative, sermons, poetry, drama, and fiction. Alternatively, we may study the reception across Buddhist cultures and time periods of a single significant text. Prerequisite: 225 or equivalent recommended. Two 90-minute classes. J. Stone

REL 328 Women and Gender in Islamic Societies (also GSS 328)   Fall SA

This seminar focuses on issues of gender and sexuality in Islamic societies, past and present. Topics include women's lives, women's writings, changing perceptions of male vs. female piety, marriage and divorce, motherhood and fatherhood, sexuality and the body, and the feminist movement in the Middle East. Course materials include a wide range of texts in translation, including novels and poetry, as well as contemporary films. One three-hour seminar. S. Marmon

REL 329 Topics in Ancient History (see CLA 326)

REL 334 Modern Islamic Political Thought (see NES 334)

REL 335 Moses and Jesus in the Islamic Tradition (also NES 356)   HA

The "monotheistic superheroes" in the Islamic tradition are the "brother prophets" who preceded Muhammad, the "seal of the prophets." These prophets include figures who have parallels in the Jewish and Christian traditions, such as Abraham, Moses, Solomon and Jesus. We will explore the history of the rich post scriptural Islamic tradition, both oral and written, that developed and expanded the "stories of the prophets" and made them into the "monotheistic superheroes" that they continue to be today. One three-hour seminar. S. Marmon

REL 336 Pilgrimage, Travel, and Sacred Space: Muslims, Christians, and Jews in the Land of Islam (also NES 336)   HA

Muslim, Christian, and Jewish travelers and pilgrims in the lands of Islam before the period of European dominance in the Middle East. The course uses original accounts (in translation) along with a range of contemporary scholarly literature drawn from history, religious studies, and anthropology. One three-hour seminar. S. Marmon

REL 338 Islam in India and Pakistan (also NES 340)   HA

India and Pakistan, home to nearly a third of the world's Muslim population, offer an unusually rich spectrum of the ways in which Islam has been lived, thought about, and transformed in recent times, both within this vast region and in the wider world. Our topics include: Sufism; the evolving relations between Sunni and Shi'ite Muslims; major trends in Islamic law, theology, and political thought; Islamic institutions of learning (madrasas); and Muslim and non-Muslim minorities. One three-hour seminar. M. Zaman

REL 339 Introduction to Islamic Theology (see NES 339)

REL 340 Ancient Judaism and the Dead Sea Scrolls (also JDS 340)   Not offered this year HA

A study of the history of Judaism in ancient Palestine from the emergence of the Torah as an authoritative document under Persian rule in the middle of the fifth century BCE through the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE, with an emphasis on the critical reading of primary sources. Much of the second half of the course is devoted to the Dead Sea Scrolls and their implications for our understanding of ancient Judaism. Other texts to be studied include 1 Enoch, the Wisdom of Ben Sira, 1 and 2 Maccabees, Daniel, Jubilees, and 4 Ezra. Two 90-minute classes. M. Himmelfarb

REL 346 Reason and Revelation in Jewish Thought (also JDS 346)   Not offered this year EC

A critical introduction to some of the classics of medieval and modern thought. Specific topics include prophecy, miracles, and the possibility of knowing the divine, with particular attention to the relation between modern and premodern conceptions of reason and Moslem, Christian, and secular philosophical influences on Jewish thought. Two 90-minute classes. L. Batnitzky

REL 347 Religion and Law (also JDS 347)   Spring EM

A critical examination of the relation between the concepts of "religion" and "law" as they figure in the development of Jewish and Christian law, as well as in contemporary legal theory. Particular attention to the ways in which, historically, theological debates play out in contemporary secular legal arguments about the value underlying law. One three-hour seminar. L. Batnitzky

REL 350 Demons and Angels, "the gods," God and Satan   HA

The seminar will investigate sources ranging from the Babylonian creation story and Homer's Illiad to passages from Genesis, Exodus, Job, the Hebrew prophets, the Dead Sea Scrolls, and the New Testament to see how stories of invisible beings (gods, demons, angels) construct group identity (who "we" are, and who are the "others"--and what characterizes each) and express group values. One three-hour seminar. E. Pagels

REL 352 Who Was or Is Jesus?   HA

This seminar investigates the earliest sources about Jesus--New Testament gospels, "gnostic" gospels, and Jewish and Roman historical accounts--to explore various views of Jesus in historical context, as well as contemporary interpretations in poetry, fiction, and film. One three-hour seminar. E. Pagels

REL 353 Inspiration, Revelation, and Conversion   LA

Exploration of some of the classics of religious experience from ancient through contemporary times, using where possible comparison of Eastern and Western sources. Sources range from Western writers as diverse as Augustine, Teresa of Avila, Thomas Merton, Simone Weil to the life of the Tibetan monk Milarepa, and the Hindu Ramakrishna. One three-hour seminar. E. Pagels

REL 357 Religion in Colonial America and the New Nation (also HIS 310)   Fall HA

Intellectual and cultural aspects of American religion from the 17th century through the early republic. Special attention to early Protestant traditions (Anglican, Puritan, Quaker, and Methodist, among others), the Great Awakening, the Enlightenment, and the transformation of religion through the Revolution and its shape in the new nation. Two 90-minute lecture/seminars. S. Perry

REL 358 Religion in American Culture since 1830   Not offered this year HA

The relationship between religion and society in the U.S. in the 19th and 20th centuries. Attention will be paid to Transcendentalism, the Civil War, the social gospel, Fundamentalism, New Thought, Pentecostalism, civil rights, immigration, and recent religious movements.Two 90-minute classes. Staff

REL 360 Women and American Religion (also GSS 360)   Not offered this year SA

An exploration of women's roles and experiences, and constructions of gender in diverse settings within North American religion. The seminar will examine female religious leaders and participants in such subcultures as Puritanism, evangelicalism, Catholicism, Judaism, African American Protestantism, native traditions, and American Islam. Emphasis on the dilemmas faced by women in religious institutions as well as the creative uses women have made of their social and religious "place." One three-hour seminar. Staff

REL 363 Religion and Ethical Theory   Not offered this year EM

This seminar will examine philosophical accounts of what it means to live well, focusing mainly on works written in the last half century that are relevant to issues in religious ethics: whether morality requires a religious foundation, the ethical significance of divine commandments, and the concepts of virtue, goodness, evil, horror, holiness, sainthood, faith, and the sacred. Among the philosophers to be discussed are Richard Rorty, John Finnis, Alasdair MacIntyre, Iris Murdoch, Stanley Cavell, and Robert Merrihew Adams. One three-hour seminar. J. Stout

REL 364 Love and Justice   Not offered this year EM

Analysis of philosophical and theological accounts of love and justice, with emphasis on how they interrelate. Is love indiscriminate and therefore antithetical to justice, or can love take the shape of justice? What are the implications for moral, political, and legal theory? The seminar also considers recent efforts to revive a tradition of political theology in which love's relation to justice is a prominent theme. One three-hour seminar. E. Gregory

REL 366 African American Autobiography (see AAS 325)

REL 367 The American Jeremiad and Social Criticism in the United States (also AAS 346)   Not offered this year HA

An examination of the religious and philosophical roots of prophecy as a form of social criticism in American intellectual and religious history. Particular attention is given to what is called the American Jeremiad, a mode of public exhortation that joins social criticism to spiritual renewal. Michael Walzer, Sacvan Bercovitch, and Edward Said serve as key points of departure in assessing prophetic criticism's insights and limitations. Attention is also given to the role of black prophetic critics, such as James Baldwin, Martin Luther King Jr., and Cornel West. Two lectures, one preceptorial. E. Glaude

REL 368 Topics in African American Religion (see AAS 368)

REL 373 Studies in Religion   Not offered this year EM

A study of a selected topic such as mysticism, scriptures of the world religions, or of particular religious movements, leaders, and thinkers. Staff

REL 382 Death and the Afterlife in Buddhist Cultures   Not offered this year HA

A study of Buddhist approaches to death, dying, and the afterlife with a focus on South Asia, Tibet, and East Asia. Topics may include: anthropological studies of mortuary rites; Buddhist cosmology and doctrines of karmic causality; Buddhism, the family, and rites for ancestors; Buddhist deathbed and funerary practices; accounts of afterlife journeys; placation of ghosts; and changes in contemporary Buddhist funerals. Buddhist doctrinal teachings and social roles with respect to death and the afterlife as well as interactions of Buddhism with local religious cultures are considered. Two 90-minutes classes. J. Stone

REL 390 God of Many Faces: Comparative Perspectives on Migration and Religion (see SOC 340)

REL 412 Anthropological Approaches to the Study of Religion (see ANT 412)

REL 435 The Madrasa: Islam, Education, and Politics in the Modern World (see NES 435)