Reception of Christian and Jewish Traditions (THEM123)

30 credits

In this module you will encounter different elements of the Jewish and Christian religious traditions – beliefs, practices, and reflection upon them, both ancient and modern. 

The module will have three taught segments, each lasting for three weeks. Each segment will be on a different topic. Possible topics include (but are not limited to):

Reason and emotion in early Christian preaching

In this segment you will learn how Christian preachers applied both theological and rhetorical skills to specific preaching situations. The module will cover the first few centuries of the church, with a particular focus on Latin and Greek sermons of the 4th and 5th centuries. All texts will be studied in English (although the convenor can advise about accessing texts in the original languages). You will analyse examples of Christian sermons with regard to their historical context, theological content and use of classical rhetorical and literary devices. You will use ancient and modern theories about public discourse to assess this material.

The first tourists? Helena, Egeria and the rise of Christian pilgrimage

This segment looks at the origins of Christian pilgrimage from the finding of the True Cross by St. Helena in the early fourth century through to the establishment of a wholly Christian topography overlaying the Eastern Mediterranean by the end of the sixth century as Christians ‘discovered’ such pivotal sites as the Oak at Mamre and the burning bush of Moses. We will look at how early Christians evolved an itinerary of sacred sites that appropriated earlier religious observances and locations and brought them entirely within the parameters of this new faith.

Heaven and philosophy

In recent years, analytic philosophers have sought to understand and articulate the Christian doctrine of heaven with greater precision, to assess its plausibility. In this sigment you will grapple with some of the key questions they have been asking. We will consider what heaven is supposed to be like; how it relates to earthly bodies and time; what the blessed might do there; and, above all, whether you would actually want to go there at all.