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All Courses

center for christian-jewish learning

This list describes courses that have been taught in the past and those currently under development. All are three credits and open to graduate and undergraduate students. Course topics include: Bible, Christian Theology, Education, Holocaust Education, History, Jewish Studies, and Philosophy.

BIBLE

TH437 Jewish & Christian Interpretations of the Bible
Although Jews and Christians share many of the same scriptural texts (the Christian "Old Testament," the Jewish Tanakh), they often understand them differently. This course explores the ways that Jews and Christians have interpreted key texts, separately and together, over two millennia of learning from and disputing with each other. Students will themselves engage in interreligious learning while learning about ancient Israel's scriptures and studying methods of biblical interpretation from late antiquity to today.

TH479 New Testament Interpretation and Christian-Jewish Relations
Most of the New Testament books were composed when the Church was a Jewish eschatological movement, grappling with its relationship to other Jewish groups, with its understanding of the authority of the Torah, and with the conditions to admit Gentiles into its ranks. Thsi course will examine the consequences of these dynamics for the New Testament itself and for subsequent and contemporary Christian-Jewish relations. Special attention will be devoted to the efforts of many Christian churches after the Holocaust to actualize the New Testament texts in ways that do not perpetuate past invective.

CHRISTIAN THEOLOGY

The Triune One and the God of Israel
The Jewish tradition stresses the absolute uniqueness of God, while the Christian tradition conceives of God as a triune unity. This course compares and contrasts the emphases and historical developments in both communities' understandings of  God. A central question is the degree to which the distinct approaches are mutually exclusive or complementary.

TH451 Christ and the Jewish People
In the wake of the groundbreaking conciliar declaration, Nostra Aetate, the Catholic Church now authoritatively teaches that the Jewish people remain in an eternal covenant with God. This course explores the unfolding implications of this recognition for the Christian conviction that Jesus Christ is universally significant for human salvation by considering relevant New Testament texts, the development of the church's christological tradition, the rise and demise of supersessionism, and various approaches being proposed today.

COMPARATIVE THEOLOGY

TH161-162 Religious Quest: Judaism and Catholicism
This course explores Judaism and Christianity through their points of apparent contact as well as their differences. The fall semester focuses on Exodus and Matthew and their functions as the "master stories" of their communities, shaping self-understandings and ritual lives. The spring semester delves into the creation narratives of Genesis, studying the two communities' interpretations of the biblical text and how it and its interpretations shape people's lives. It considers such topics as birth and death, marriage and reproductive ethics, ecology, economic justice, and the Sabbath.

TH161-162 Religious Quest: Judaism and Christianity
In this comparative study of Judaism and Christianity, students engage in an academic study of and a personal dialogical encounter with these two faith traditions. "Pluralism/absolutism/relativism" and "religion and violence" form a backdrop in the exploration of Biblical Judaism, the centuries between "the parting of the ways" and the Holocaust, and Christianity and Judaism today. It includes a comparative exploration of: the Jewish Tanakh and the Christian Bible(s), and Jewish and Christian life-cycle rituals. The Sh'ma Yisrael serves as a window into the Jewish and Christian themes related to this declaration used by Jesus to proclaim "the first and greatest commandement" to his followers. Liturgical themes are explored as the Jewish High Holy Days, the Advent-Christmas-Epiphany cycle and the Jewish Passover, the Christian Paschal Season, and the feasts of shavuot and Pentecost occur.

TH403 Liturgy, Seasons, Festivals: Jewish & Christian
The Jewish and Christian liturgical years dance around each other, interpreting the seasons and their biblical celebrations in ways that are both overlapping and oppositional. Beginning with the common Sabbath and Paschal seasons, this course will compare Jewish and Christian understandings and celebrations of the liturgical calendar. In the course of this comparison, we will explore the development of the celebrations, the ways that they form and inform their practitioners. Because Christianity grew out of Judaism and because Jews and Christians have lived in each other's presence, we will also explore how this interaction itself shaped these liturgies.

TH474 Jews and Christians: Understanding the Other
Interreligious dialogue requires interreligious understanding. This course will build a foundation for genuine dialogue between Jews and Christians by posing fundamental theological questions in a comparaive context. Students will gain an understanding of the other tradition while also deepening their understanding of their own, discussing such matters as the human experience of God, the purpose of human existence, the nature of religious community, and the ways that communities respond to challenges, both contemporary and ancient.

EDUCATION

TH475 Educating Toward the Other in Jewish and Christian Perspectives
This course seeks to explore the unique issues that arise when Christians and Jews, in the process of educating in the particularities of their own religious traditions, also convey attitudes toward the "other" who is outside their immediate community of faith. This is an especially crucial question for Christians who inevitably teach about Judaism when engaged in Christian religious education, in worship, and in doctrinal formation. Jewish approaches to difference will be considered in various contexts--psychological and intellectual, religious and cultural. Historical and spiritual, philosophical and existential directions encountered in our course of study will be engaged in relation to their possible pastoral and ritual, educational and ethical-political implications.

HOLOCAUST EDUCATION

PL456 The Holocaust: A Moral History
This course explores the issues of good and evil and how human beings succeed or fail to meet the challenge such issues pose. The Holocaust, the tragic series of events which ruptured modern western morality, are examined from a variety of perspectives (literary, cinematic, philosophical, theological, and political). It includes a study of the testimony of both its victims and its perpetrators. A special emphasis on a consideration of the intellectual and moral factors which motivated resistance or excused indifference is performed by a cooperative investigation into the ethical life-histories of people from this period. What part of themselves did they think of as primarily concerned with moral conduct? What form of obligation did they think of as specifically ethical? To what training did they commit themselves in order to develop as ethical beings? Why did they desire to be moral or why did they find it untroubling to be immoral/amoral? The course concludes with an interpretation of the Holocaust for contemporary morality and of its theological significance for Christians and Jews.

TH482, HS263 Hitler, the Churches and the Holocaust
This course examines antisemitism, nationalism, and totalitarianism in relation to Hitler and the Nazi era. It explores the roots and development of Christian anti-Judiasm and the role it played in helping to prepare the seedbed for the Holocaust in Europe. In the context of an overview of the years of National Socialism and the Holocaust, it analyzes the weak and inadequate responses of the churches during the Nazi era, the theological and institutional resistance that emerged in response to totalitarianism and the Holocaust, and proceeds to present the currently-developing post-Holocaust paradigm shift in Christian theology.

HISTORY

HS263 Hitler, the Churches and the Holocaust
Please see course description above.

TH485 From Diatribe to Dialogue: Studies in the Jewish-Christian Encounter
Christians and Jews, living together, have never ignored one another. Only in our times have these encounters begun to include positive affirmations of the other. To provide the student with a background for the contemporary situation, this course will explore various theological facets of this encounter, from the diatribes of earliest Christianity through the medieval disputations, concluding with the contemporary dialogue. Readings will be drawn from Jewish and Christian primary sources in translation.

JEWISH STUDIES

TH371, SL331 Turning Points in Jewish History
Jewish history stretches from creation to today. This course focuses on the major turning points which shape today's Jewish world, focusing on major intellectual and theological trends, figures, and events from the development of rabbinic Judaism to the twentieth century. Through this, students come to have a basic understanding of the outlines of Jewish religious and intellectual history, of the nature of the Jewish experience as a minority culture in the Christian and Muslim world, and of the shapes of contemporary Judaism.

TH436 Heschel's Heavenly Torah
In his The Heavenly Torah as Refracted Through the Generations, Abraham Joshua Heschel develops his theology of revelation. In the course of this, he presents sophisticated discussion of the main pillars of Jewish theology: a discussion of God in relationship to Israel, and of the nature of God's revelation, the Torah. While very much a post-Shoah theology, Heschel's presentation is deeply embedded in and authentic to the traditions of Judaism. This course, then, also explores the rabbinic mind and the methods of rabbinic Judaism.

TH449 Jewish Liturgy: Its History and Theology
Embedded in rabbinic prayer is a concise statement of Jewish theology. After an examination of the precursors of rabbinic prayer and of the development of the synagogue as an institution, this course examines the structures and ideas of the prayers themselves as they have been received from the medieval world. This creates a context for a deeper discussion of some key Jewish theological concepts as well as a comparison of Jewish and Christian liturgical traditions.

TH471 Judaism: Practice and Belief
Although Jews and Christians share a common heritage and have lived in close proximity for 2000 years, they have developed distinct ways of understanding and celebrating the world and its relationship to God. This course introduces defining aspects of Judaism's unique religious culture, exploring basic concepts of Jewish theology and practice and the modes of discourse with which Jewish texts discuss them. No prior knowledge of Judaism is required.

TH487 Passover in Midrash and Talmud
Fundamental to any understanding of Judaism is an ability to enter into its formative literature, Midrash and Talmud, the primary texts of Jewish learning. Focusing on texts (in translation) relevant to the celebration of Passover, this course will introduce students to the rabbinic approaches to Scripture and their means of making it relevant in their (and our) world. This understanding is heightened by comparisons to early Christian discourse on the same themes.

PHILOSOPHY

PL456 The Holocaust: A Moral History
This course explores the issues of good and evil and how human beings succeed or fail to meet the challenge such issues pose. The Holocaust, the tragic series of events which ruptured modern western morality, are examined from a variety of perspectives (literary, cinematic, philosophical, theological, and political). It includes a study of the testimony of both its victims and its perpetrators. A special emphasis on a consideration of the intellectual and moral factors which motivated resistance or excused indifference is performed by a cooperative investigation into the ethical life histories of people from this period. What part of themselves did they think of as primarily concerned with moral conduct? What form of obligation did they think of as specifically ethical? To what training did they commit themselves in order to develop as ethical beings? Why did they desire to be moral or why did they find it troubling to be immoral or amoral? The course concludes with an interpretation of the Holocaust for contemporary morality and of its theological significance for Christians and Jews.

PL623 Spiritual Existence: The Weimar Experiments
Weimar Germany (1918-33) is customarily approached as a politically and economically disastrous period. Unfortunately, this approach has eclipsed that period's protean experimentation with practices of spirituality among Christians, Jews and the non- or post-religious. This seminar examines the efforts of some of Weimar's major thinkers and artists to fashion a renewed spiritual existence for their epoch.

PL828 German-Jewish Thinkers
The brilliance and tragedy of German (and Austrian)-Jewish culture is decisive for interpreting twentieth century experience. This graduate seminar examines writings of some of its major thinkers including Arendt, Buber, Rosenzweig, Freud and major representatives of the Frankfurt School. Students are encouraged to develop their own interest in a particular figure (not limited to the ones named here) or aspect of the culture.