Congregation Courses

Abrahamic Notions of the Afterlife


Although many people assume that a concern with the afterlife is as old as religion itself, a careful reading of the oldest Abrahamic scriptures shows that this is not so.  Rather, a consideration of the possibility of an afterlife — and then finally a conviction in the ultimate reality of an afterlife — developed over time.  This course will trace the development of this idea by considering key passages from the Hebrew Bible, New Testament, Talmud and Qur’an, as well as other relevant literature. ◊ More →

Apologies of Socrates and Gospels of Jesus


The lives and deaths of Socrates and Jesus had some remarkable parallels. Both were charismatic teachers claiming to be on divine missions. Both were executed by the ruling elites they challenged. And both were vindicated in the writings of their disciples. This course will explore these and other parallels by reading and discussing two Apologies (Defenses) of Socrates, one by Xenophon and one by Plato, and a number of gospels, some that made it into the New Testament and some that didn’t. In addition to examining the teachings of each figure, we will consider how each one’s calling and legacy is portrayed in the various accounts. The two Apologies of Socrates will be supplemented by selected other dialogues by Xenophon and Plato related to the death of Socrates. ◊ More →

Book of Job and the Invention of Faith


This course will explore how the Book of Job transforms the Hebrew Bible’s concept of God (from a large-but-finite and explicable deity to an infinite and fundamentally inexplicable one) and therefore, the proper behavior of both humans and God in the relationship they share and the possibility of a covenant between them. ◊ More →

Book of Mormon

Teaching > Congregation

Even with Mormon Mitt Romney’s presidential candidacy and Tony Awards for the musical, “The Book of Mormon,” the Mormon faith remains a subject about which admittedly many people know relatively little. This class will read and discuss selections from the Book of Mormon. By the end of the course participants will have a better appreciation for the foundational scripture of what is sometimes called a fourth Abrahamic faith. ◊ More →

History of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict


No description available. ◊ More →

Introduction to the Dead Sea Scrolls


Although discovered in the late 1940s, the Dead Sea Scrolls — a collection of Judaic texts dating from roughly 200 BCE to 100 CE — have only recently become fully available to scholars and the public.  In this course, we will explore these ancient documents both by reading a selection of them (as well as secondary texts that put them in context) and by comparing them to traditional biblical texts from the same era.  In addition to seeking an appreciation of the scrolls themselves, we will also seek greater understanding of various strands of thought current at the dawn of both rabbinic Judaism and early Christianity.  No prior knowledge or experience of any kind is required. ◊ More →

Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice as Christian Comedy


Although modern interpretations of The Merchant of Venice often focus on the play’s characterization and treatment of the Jewish moneylender Shylock, both the play’s title and plot suggest that Shakespeare’s focus was on the Christian merchant Antonio. Through a careful reading and discussion of Shakespeare’s play in conjunction with selections both from Christopher Marlowe’s roughly contemporaneous The Jew of Malta and from the New Testament, this course will explore Shakespeare’s exaltation of “graceful Christianity” in both the major and minor plot threads of one of Shakespeare’s most controversial plays. ◊ More →

The Other “New Testament”: An Introduction to the Talmud and Rabbinic Judaism


Following the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE, two distinct-but-related sister religions developed around two distinct-but-related sister canons: one was Christianity with its New Testament; the other was Rabbinic Judaism with its Talmud(s).  This class will introduce the “Jewish New Testament” by surveying the historical and textual context in which it developed, outlining the structure and contents of the work itself and examining several passages in English translation.  No background knowledge of any kind is required. ◊ More →