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Religious Studies
Wendell Phillips Center 151
Alan Lenzi
Department Chair
3601 Pacific Avenue
Stockton, CA 95211


(This list of courses may not be up to date. Please see the latest General Catalog for a complete list of current courses.)

RELI 023. Hebrew Bible (4) The Hebrew Bible is a central book of western culture, serving as a foundation for Judaism and Christianity. This course surveys the biblical literature, familiarizes students with critical methods for the study of the Bible, situates the Bible within the literature and culture of the ancient Near East, and discusses the religion of ancient Israel. Issues of history and archaeology will also be addressed.

RELI 025. New Testament and Christian Origins (4) This course offers a socio-historical and literary introduction to the writings of the earliest Christians. It will emphasize the importance of the historical context of these writings and will investigate the ways these texts fit into Mediterranean cultures. Topics include: the Jewish origins of the “Jesus movement;” the formation of early Christian communities and their varying patterns of belief and practice; the development of oral and written traditions about Jesus, especially in the gospels and letters of Paul; and various images of Jesus and their significance. Students will learn how to read ancient texts closely, gain an understanding of the various methods of scholarly biblical interpretation, and learn how to evaluate these interpretations critically.

RELI 027. Portraits of Jesus (4) In this course, we will examine some of the different “Jesuses” that have emerged from the “Quest for Jesus” through the ages, including historical studies, art, and literature. Was Jesus an itinerant, charismatic teacher? A healer and miracle-worker? A social revolutionary? Or is he an ahistorical figure on whom we have projected our own needs and desires for two millennia?

RELI 030. Comparative Religion (4)
This course compares various religious traditions with a focus on Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. We begin with a brief examination of three lesser known religions, Ancient Mesopotamian Religions, Zoroastrianism, and Pre-Christian European Religions. All three of these connect in some way to the three great monotheistic religions, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, which are studied in the remainder of the course. These three traditions are examined comparatively under seven rubrics: Scripture, Authority, Monotheism, Ritual and Worship, Ethics, Material Culture, and Political Organization. The various connections made throughout the course between and among the religions studied will enable students to 1. identify variations on ideas common to each, 2. discern influences some have exerted upon others, and 3. understand the distinctive that developed within each. 

RELI 034. Introduction to Religion (4) What is religion? Is it a belief in God? Is it a realization of the limits of human powers? Is it a set of moral laws and regulations, or all of the above? But how about religions which do not have moral laws? How about religions where there is no God? Then, what is religion, indeed? This course will explore the beginning of human activities associated with religion such as calendars and myths. Then, it will move on to its more pronounced forms such as rituals of birth, death, hunting and healing known in Neolithic cultures. It will then discuss the main world religions which have evolved from these initial religious impulses. Methods by which scholars study religions, impacts which religious beliefs had upon human societies and the future of human spirituality present another set of problems which will be dealt with in the progression of this course.

RELI 035. Judaism (4) A basic introduction to Judaism covering its history, beliefs and customs with an emphasis on understanding the Jews of today. (Supported by grants from the Jewish Chautauqua Society and from Temple Israel.)

RELI 039. Introduction to Digital Humanities (4)
We humans often turn to literature and the arts as we seek meaning, beauty and connection in our lives. Poetry, art, religion, philosophy, literature, theatre, and film all speak to this human yearning. Have you ever felt like a song was "your" song? Have you ever wondered why people of a different religion believe or do something differently than you? Did you ever debate with a friend about an ethical question? Now how many of these moments occurred online or were inspired by an event online - music video, a Facebook conversation, a blog. Increasingly, we have turned to technology to create and to discuss the arts and the humanities (poetry, art, religion, philosophy, literature, theatre, film, etc.). How might we use computers and digital media to make new discoveries in the arts and humanities? How might we use digital methods to communicate or share our explorations of what it means to be human? This collaborative, project-based course will introduce students to various methodologies in digital humanities, to the use of technology to publish research and creative work digitally, and to critical questions about digital technology and society.

RELI 043. Social Ethics (4) This course will examine several contemporary problems in social ethics from the standpoint of religious traditions and philosophical perspectives. It will introduce ethical and religious concepts and consider such issues as affirmative action, pacifism and just war, civil disobedience, and capital punishment. We will discuss what selected thinkers say about such issues, and how they reach their conclusions in light of their theological, philosophical, and anthropological convictions.

RELI 044. Sex, Sin, and Salvation (4) This course will explore and analyze sexuality and gender in terms of ethics and religion. The course will focus on historical and contemporary Christian perspectives, with some attention to other religious traditions and philosophical perspectives. Topics will include such issues as sexual ethics, homosexuality, sexuality and spirituality, gender roles and connections between gender and ethical perspectives.

RELI 047. Unbelief: Atheism and Agnosticism (4)
After a brief survey of the rise of atheistic and agnostic thought from ancient to modern times, the course turns to recent examples of atheism/agnosticism in contemporary culture, especially the "new atheists" - their viewpoints and the responses they have provoked from both religious and secular thinkers. Students will read various texts and scholarly treatments that argue for and against atheism/agnosticism. Focus will be on placing atheistic/agnostic thinkers in their historical and intellectual contexts and understanding their (mode of) argumentation and the varied response such has provoked: culturally, intellectually, and politically. This course will not condemn or promote atheistic or agnostic ideas per se, though students will be asked to assess claims and argumentation. Ultimately, the course will enable students to understand what atheists, agnostics, and their critics think and to place these ideas in a broader cultural perspective. Thus, students will be prepared to assess these ideas for themselves.

RELI 051. Classical Mythology (4)
An introductory survey of the Greek and Roman myths of major importance in Western religion, literature, art and music. This course will focus upon Greek mythology against the background of Roman, or Roman mythology against the background of Greek.

RELI 070. Religion and American Culture (4) An examination of the way in which religion has contributed to the shaping of American political, social and cultural life, and the way in which the American experience has in turn shaped religion. It will move from the colonial experience through the awakenings,” to the emergence of new religions and cults, the revolutions of the sixties, the revival of conservative Christianity in the American political spectrum and ecology as the “new awakening.”

RELI 102. History of Ancient Egypt and the Near East (4)
This course covers the history and cultures of the pre-Greek ancient world, namely, Egypt and the Near East from the third millennium BCE (3300 BCE) to the beginning of the Hellenistic period (333 BCE). After surveying the geography of the area under study, students examine primary and secondary sources to understand the political currents and social practices of Egypt, Sumer, Babylonia, and Assyria. Special emphasis is given to the origins, development, and social uses of writing / literacy.

RELI 104. Religion of the Pharaohs (4)
The past century has witnessed a fascination with all things ancient Egyptian. From the earliest version of the film, "The Mummy" in 1931 to the traveling art exhibit of the treasures of Tutankhamen's tomb (twice!) to the millennium party at the pyramids, the previous hundred years was marked by an obsession with ancient Egyptian religion and culture. This course examines the religious beliefs and practices of ancient Egyptians and the portrayal of ancient Egypt in popular culture. Topics include: Egyptian royal and social history; Egyptian language and literature; mythology and cosmology; death and the afterlife; temple rituals and architecture; pyramids, tombs and other burial architecture; the intersection of religion with ethnicity, gender, social class, and political power; colonialism and the modern "discovery" of ancient Egypt; and ancient Egypt in American popular culture

RELI 106. Illness and Healing in the Ancient World (4)
This course examines powerful supra-human beings such as deities, demons, witches, and ghosts from ancient Mesopotamia and their assumed relationship, on the one hand, to human sin, disease, illness, disability, and suffering and on the other, to preventative wellness, therapy, and recovery. We answer a number of questions about these relationships throughout the course such as: What constitutes a disease, illness, disability, and suffering in ancient Mesopotamia? How did the ancient Mesopotamians, perceive preventative wellness, therapy, and recovery? How did the ancient Mesopotamians combat human suffering and celebrate healing? Whence did the knowledge of such things come? And how was this knowledge transmitted to future generations? Although focused on a long-enduring ancient culture, the course provides an opportunity to learn an number of theoretical and methodological perspectives that is useful for understanding related concepts from other times and places. Using the ancient works as a lens to reflect upon our contemporary American setting is a running theme throughout the course.

RELI 120. Wisdom in Biblical Literature (4)
This course will introduce the student to the biblical books of Proverbs, Job, and Qohelet (Ecclesiastes). These books share the common thread of teaching people how to live skillfully and have incited controversy for millennia. We will read these books in English, examine and discuss the major themes, literary structures, cultural contexts, and issues in interpretation that surround these books, and reflect upon their significance for several communities of readers in various periods of history. In order to situate these Israelite books within their ancient cultural contexts, we will have opportunity to read and discuss wisdom texts from the neighboring cultures of Egypt and Mesopotamia. And, in order to appreciate the position of these books within wisdom tradition, we will also look at some wisdom writings from Israel not included in the biblical canon.

RELI 124. Ancient Judaism (4) We will survey ancient Judaism from roughly 539 BCE until the Islamic era (c. 600 CE), emphasizing the ideological importance of the destruction of the second temple in 70 CE. Readings and discussion in primary texts (e.g. Enoch, the Dead Sea Scrolls, Maccabees, the Talmud, Mishnah, and various midrashim) will complement our historical investigation.

RELI 126. Ancient Israel in Its Historical Context (4) This course will focus on the historical and cultural context in which ancient Israel arose and flourished-from the early Iron Age (c. 1200 BCE) to the beginning of the Hellenistic period (323 BCE). In the first part of the course, after surveying the geography and political history of the ancient Near East from 2000-320 BCE, we will critically examine the historical rise and existence of Israel in its larger geo-political context. Special consideration will be given to understanding the relationship of archaeological, politico-historical, and biblical evidence. In the second part of the course we will turn our attention to “everyday life” in ancient Israel, that is, to various social and material elements of ancient Israelite culture (e.g., family structure, buildings, vocational activities, art and music, literacy, etc.) as reconstructed from archaeological and biblical evidence. We will apply what we learn to various biblical topics and/or texts.

RELI 128. Social Topics in Early Christianity (4) A study of one or more social issues prominent during the early stages of Christianity. Topics will vary according to the interests of faculty and students.

RELI 130. The Christian Tradition (4) An historical and theological analysis of Christian thought and practice. Content will vary depending upon instructor. It may, for example, focus on Christian origins in Greek and Hebrew culture, the Reformation Era, or issues of theological reinterpretation for the 21st century.

RELI 134. World Religions (4) An examination of fundamental religious questions as developed in major religions of the world including primal religious experiences in African, Australian and Native American traditions. Also special attention to Islam, in context with other Abrahamic traditions, as the fastest growing religion in the world. Some attention will be given to historical development and to major personalities, but attention will center on the religious questions as developed in each religious system.

RELI 135. Asian Religious Traditions (4) A study of the traditional religions of India, China, Tibet and Japan, attempting to delineate the spirituality, beauty, and wisdom of these traditions. It will trace the rich historical and cultural heritages of Hinduism, Buddhism, and Confucianism, the Taoist ways of achieving harmony in the world, and the melding of nature and ritual life in Shinto. Each semester one or two of these religions will be studied in depth to investigate how they influence society, politics and culture in the countries where they spread. The academic approach is supplemented by practical learning of meditation, energy-regulations and ritual.

RELI 140. Religion and Politics (4) This course will explore the relationships between religious convictions and political thought and action. The course will concentrate on selected eastern or western religious traditions. Topics of discussion may include the state, individual liberty, economics, and war. Readings will introduce historical and contemporary religious and philosophical perspectives.

RELI 142. Business Ethics (4) This course will critically examine some of the social, ethical, economic, and religious foundations of business activity, and consider some of the contemporary problems with, and possibilities for, business practice. Course topics may include: an historical analysis of the rise of capitalism; religious views of economics and responses to capitalism; the role of business in the larger society; the relationship between the individual and the organization; and the prospects for human community in a capitalist system.

RELI 143. Religion, Race, Justice in US (4)
Throughout American history, religion has played a pivotal role in discussions of race, both in justifications for slavery and racial discrimination and in movements for social justice. In the 19th century, white supremacists argued that a passage in Genesis about Noah and his sons preordained the enslavement of Black people. During the Civil Rights movement, the Black church played a central role and Martin Luther King quoted extensively from the Bible in speeches such as his "I Have a Dream speech." Other Black civil rights advocates argued that the connection between racism and Christianity ran so deep that true liberation could not be found in the Christian church. This course will examine the intersection of religion and race. We will look at race and ethnicity in the Bible and early biblical interpretation and then turn to the American experience. The course will address multiple religious traditions, although it will concentrate primarily on Christianity. We will look at both history and pressing contemporary issues.

RELI 145. Biomedical Ethics (4) A study of the complex issues emerging from the revolutionary developments in biology and medicine, including human experimentation, abortion, genetic manipulation, in vitro fertilization, death and dying, health care delivery, and organ transplants.

RELI 146. Technology, Ethics, & Religion (4) This course will offer historic, philosophical, and religious perspectives on science and technology. It will endeavor to help students understand the impact of science and technology on our moral and religious traditions and institutions, and how those traditions and institutions in turn impact science and technology. It will consider how technology addresses social problems, and the benefits, possibilities, and further problems that it produces.

RELI 152. Confucian Traditions (4) This course will examine moral, political, philosophical and religious aspects of various Confucian traditions beginning from Confucius and Mencius to Han and Song dynasties Confucianism to modern Du Weiming’s school. No prerequisite is necessary, however, this course is not recommended to freshmen.

RELI 154. Buddhist Traditions (4)
This course covers philosophy, literature, and religious beliefs and practices of various Buddhist traditions as they developed over hundreds of years in India, Tibet, China, Japan, and finally, Western countries. For each tradition, students examine its historical formation; the body of its sacred literature, with the focus on one or two most prominent scriptures; biographies of most influential practitioners; and the evolution of philosophical, social and psychological ideas in that particular tradition.

RELI 170. Bible in America (4)
How do people read, use, interpret, remix, and resist the Bible in America? From the sermons of Jonathan Edwards in colonial America to graphic novels about Christian superheroes, the Bible has been interpreted and even rewritten for American culture and politics. Some politicians and grass-roots activists appeal to the bible in debates about sexual ethics and marriage, while others object to the use of a "sacred scripture" as a source for legislation on morality. American film and art retell biblical stories and use iconic biblical themes and archetypes in crafting new stories. Abolitionists and slave-owners alike cited the bible as an authority for their positions on slavery. This course will ask how biblical traditions have shaped American culture and politics and how diverse Americans have brought their own perspectives to interpreting, experiencing, and even recreating "Bible" in the United States

RELI 171. Religion and Cinema (4)
A study of the way religious ideas, institutions and figures are presented on film. The course involves screening and analyzing various films. The scope of the course will be international and intercultural, but the majority of the images will inevitably be Western. The course intends to demonstrate the power of cinematic images to define, enrich and sometimes pervert the religious sensibility.

RELI 172. Biblical Themes in Literature (4) A reading course in the Bible and the ways in which Biblical themes have informed representative texts in Western literature. A comparison of the Biblical world view with that of later ages by reading such authors as Dante, Camus, Hemingway, and John Updike.

RELI 196. Religious Studies Seminar (4) Capstone seminar for majors. Focus of the study will vary from year to year according to interests of faculty and students (e.g. Religion and Nature, Christian Church Fathers, or Buddhism & Christianity).

CLAS 051. Classical Mythology (4) An introductory survey of the Greek and Roman myths of major importance in Western literature, art and music. May focus upon Greek mythology against the background of Roman, or Roman mythology against the background of Greek.

RELI 087. Internship (2-4)

RELI 191. Independent Study (2-4)

RELI 193. Special Topics (4)