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

François Bovon on the Soul in Early Christianity

Professor François Bovon (13 March 1938 – 1 November 2013) delivered the 2009 Ingersoll Lecture on December 8, 2009 at Harvard University, “The Soul’s Comeback: Immortality and Resurrection in Early Christianity”.

The lecture begins at 10:50.


Modern Biblical scholarship and traditional Jewish belief – James Kugel

Professor James Kugel (Harvard University) delivered one of the papers at the 2013 Limmud Conference, “Modern Biblical scholarship and traditional Jewish belief”.

Did Moses really write the Torah? Is there any archaeological evidence that the Exodus took place? Did the Israelites really conquer Canaan and settle there? Most biblical scholars in universities tend to answer all these questions with a ‘No.’ What then is a religious Jew to make of all this? A different way of approaching the question.

The Hebrew Republic: Eric Nelson on the Influence of the Hebrew Bible on Early Modern European Politics

Professor Eric Nelson (Harvard University) lectured on Jewish sources and the transformation of European political thought for the Israel Democracy Institute’s Human Rights and Judaism project, on July 9, 2012. The respondent is Professor Arye Edrei (Tel Aviv University). Nelson’s lecture concerns some of the same material covered in his book, The Hebrew Republic: Jewish Sources and the Transformation of European Political Thought (2010).