Free Online Harvard Course: Religious Literacy – Traditions and Scriptures

Harvard University are offering a free online course (MOOC) entitled “Religious Literacy: Traditions and Scriptures” (HDS 3221.1x), commencing March 1, 2016. Register online here. The course is run by Professor Diane L. Moore and Anna Mudd.

Course Description:
Religions have functioned throughout human history to inspire and justify the full range of agency from the heinous to the heroic.  Their influences remain potent at the dawn of the 21st century in spite of modern predictions that religious influences would steadily decline in concert with the rise of secular democracies and advances in science.  Understanding these complex religious influences is a critical dimension of understanding modern human affairs across the full spectrum of endeavors in local, national, and global arenas. The Religious Literacy module focuses onhow to recognize, understand, and analyze religious influences in human experience with a special emphasis on the role of scriptures.   We’ll explore this way to think about religion through case studies related to themes such as gender and sexuality, conflict and peace, science, the arts, and the interpreted other. 

What you’ll learn

  • Tools for how to interpret the roles religions play in contemporary and historic contexts;
  • How religions are internally diverse
  • How religions evolve and change
  • How religions are embedded in all human cultures
  • The strengths and limitations of learning about religions through their scriptures.

While you can take the course according to your own pace, it will be rolled out as follows:

Week One:
Tuesday, March 1: Day One – Introduction to Religious Literacy
Thursday, March 3: Day Two – The Cultural Studies Approach
Friday, March 4: Live Online Discussion from 3:00pm-4:00pm EST
Week Two:
Tuesday, March 8: Day Three – Cultural Violence and Cultural Peace
Thursday, March 10: Day Four – Synthesis of the Method: Country Profiles
Mid-Term Assessment
Friday, March 11: Live Online Discussion from 3:00pm-4:00pm EST
Week Three:
Tuesday, March 15: Day Five – What is Scripture?
Thursday, March 17: Day Six – The Role of Canon
Friday, March 18: Live Online Discussion from 3:00pm-4:00pm EST
Week Four:
Tuesday, March 22: Day Seven – Interpreting Scripture
Thursday, March 24: Day Eight – The Limitations of Scripture
Final Assessment
Friday, March 25: Live Online Discussion from 3:00pm-4:00pm EST
Post Course Gathering:
March 29: 6:00pm at the Ed Portal in Allston, MA

Canon – An Ancient Jew Review Forum

Ancient Jew Review forum on canon

Ancient Jew Review hosts a forum on biblical canon, exploring how the concept emerged, if at all, in ancient Judaism.

When did the Bible become the Bible? Recent scholarship has problematized anachronistically projecting our notions about the Bible onto the Second Temple period. Scholars are now asking a series of related questions: What was the function of scripture for specific communities? Which textual traditions were dominant? Which texts were considered ‘scripture’?

This forum highlights some of the issues regarding the form and function of the “Bible” in the Second Temple period. In particular we’re interested in two specific dimensions of this problem:

  • Authority: how do we judge the authoritativeness of a text? Does authoritativeness mean that the text should be categorized as ‘scripture’? Can a text be scriptural or authoritative despite being fluid and appearing in different versions?
  • Canon: how are canons formed? How are these individual texts incorporated into a canon? Are there different kinds of canon? Is there a major difference between the earliest canons and the canon as it is known today?

The forum consists of the following articles:

Timothy Lim, “Understanding the Emergence of the Jewish Canon“, December 2, 2015

Eva Mroczek, “Imagining Scriptures Before the Canon“, December 9, 2015

Brennan Breed, “Canon: Process, Not Product?“, December 16, 2015

Sidnie White Crawford, “Canon: A Response“, December 23, 2015

The Formation of the Canon: Hayward Lectures 2006

The 2006 Hayward Lectures, held at Acadia Divinity College, are available on YouTube. Lectures by Emanuel Tov, James Charlesworth, Stephen Dempster, Craig Evans, Lee McDonald, Stanley Porter, and Jonathan Wilson address various aspects of the formation of the biblical canon(s). Most of the Hayward lectures were later included in Craig A. Evans and Emanuel Tov, eds, Exploring the Origins of the Bible: Canon Formation in Historical, Literary, and Theological Perspective (Baker Academic, 2008).

Emanuel Tov, “The Septuagint as a Source for the Literary Analysis of Hebrew Scripture”

James Charlesworth, “Writings Ostensibly Outside the Canon”

Stephen G. Dempster, “Torah, Torah, Torah: The Emergence of the Tripartite Canon”

Craig A. Evans, “The Apocryphal Jesus: Assessing the Possibilities and Problems”

Lee Martin McDonald, “Wherein Lies Authority? A Discussion of Books, Texts, and Translations”

Stanley Porter, “Paul and the Process of Canonization”

Jonathan R. Wilson, “Canon and Authority: What is at Stake?”