How to Read the Book of Genesis as Literature


Like its counterparts “How to Read Classic Texts” series, this course is designed to help students improve their reading skills. In this case, by learning how to read the Book of Genesis as “literature” rather than as “scripture,” thereby unlocking new layers of meaning. We’ll focus both on paying close attention to the actual text on the page, and on becoming self-aware of the unconscious biases that we bring to this foundational book, as well as to the rest of “The Bible.” Continue reading

Shakespeare’s “Letter to the Ephesians”: The Comedy of Errors as a “Christianized” (Not “Plagiarized”) Pagan Play


Perhaps because it is one of Shakespeare’s earliest and “lightest” plays, The Comedy of Errors has long been understood primarily as little more than an Elizabethan re-telling of an ancient Roman farce, The Brothers Meneachumus by Plautus. By reading Shakespeare’s work in conjunction with Plautus’s and also Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians, however, this course will explore the possibility that Shakespeare not only modernized Plautus’s play but also (and more importantly) Christianized it, thereby giving The Comedy of Errors a much deeper significance than is generally realized. Continue reading

Jesus for Jews (and Others)


Although the figure of Jesus has permeated Western culture for nearly 2,000 years, many Jews and other non-Christians find the figure of Jesus a problematic one, difficult to study and comprehend. As a result, many of the great Western works that presuppose a sympathetic understanding of Jesus remain opaque. This course provides a sympathetic introduction to the figure of Jesus as well as an exploration of some of the challenges that Jews in particular often face in dealing with Christianity’s appropriation of one of Israel’s greatest sons. Readings from the Bible will be supplemented by Chaim Potok’s My Name is Asher Lev and Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ. Continue reading

Introduction to the Book of Genesis as Literature


For most people, reading the Bible from a secular perspective — as “literature” — is both an intensely challenging and an intensely rewarding experience that requires the re-evaluation of a range of preconceptions in order to appreciate the texts along the lines that the authors of the Bible did. This course introduces both the process of reading the Bible as literature and the Bible itself through a close reading and discussion of the first book in the biblical anthology, the Book of Genesis. Participants will also likely be introduced to less familiar aspects of themselves. Continue reading

The Gospel According to Muhammad: The Qur’an’s Account of Jesus as a Non-Canonical Gospel


Although a relatively late Abrahamic scripture, the Qur’an has quite a bit to say about figures and events in the Abrahamic tradition that preceded it and that Islam understands itself to be built upon. Among other things, the Qur’an contains within it an account of Jesus’ life and mission that in some sense amounts to yet another “gospel”. This lecture will present an introduction to this “Gospel According to Muhammad” and consider the Qur’anic version of the Jesus story in comparison with New Testamental versions of the story as well as with several non-canonical “Christian” versions. Continue reading

“For He Shall Save His People from Their Sins”: The Gospel According to Matthew as Jewish Literature


Although the Gospel According to Matthew is generally and naturally thought of as a “Christian” work, historical and literary evidence suggests that both the text’s author and intended audience may well have been Jewish. Indeed, in some ways Matthew “makes more sense” as one of the last books of the Hebrew Bible than as one of the first books of the New Testament. This lecture will survey the historical and literary contexts in which Matthew was originally produced as well as the religious contexts in which it has been subsequently read in order to consider a new thing in an old light. Continue reading