Delivered from Destruction: The Bible’s Exodus and Virgil’s Aeneid

COURSES > LIFELONG

Origin or foundation epics are common to many cultures. In this course we will examine two such epics side-by-side: the Exodus epic (Exodus-Joshua) from the Bible, in which the Israelites are transformed from slaves in Egypt into masters in Canaan, and Virgil’s Aeneid, in which the vanquished at Troy are transformed into the victors at (what will become) Rome. Through careful consideration of both stories we will seek to better understand each epic in its own right as well as what the two stories have in common and what makes each story unique. Continue reading

Of Hanukkah and Holy War: The Clash of Hellenism and Judaism in 1 & 2 Maccabees

LECTURES > PREVIOUS

Although the spread of Greek culture that followed Alexander the Great’s conquests is often considered one of the great steps forward in world civilization, not everyone has thought so.  Indeed for many traditional Jews  of the time,  Hellenism was a great pagan enemy of the God of Israel.  This lecture will explore the holy war against Hellenism depicted in the First and Second Books of the Maccabees that cured the desecration of the Jerusalem temple through the rededication of the House of God in 165 BCE — an event memorialized in the Jewish festival of Hanukkah. Continue reading

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. Continue reading

Divine Epics [3]: The Qur’an and The Aeneid

COURSES > LIFELONG [→ ONLINE ARCHIVE MATERIAL]

Both the Aeneid and the Qur’an can be viewed as the culmination of divine trilogies — the Aeneid completes the story begun in the Iliad and Odyssey, and the Qur’an follows the Hebrew Bible and New Testament (or, more precisely: the Torah and the Gospel).  This course will examine these “sequels,” both as independent works and in terms of their relationships to their precursors.  In addition, we will also compare and contrast Virgil’s account of the “Trojan exodus” of Aeneas, which culminates in the foundation of Rome, with the Exodus from Egypt, which culminates in the foundation of Israel. Continue reading

Divine Epics [2]: Homer and the Bible

COURSES > LIFELONG

This course is a rare opportunity to compare four foundational texts that are usually read independently or in pairs, yielding surprising insights into the texts and ourselves. Beyond extending an existing story, sequels comment upon, reinterpret, and at times even repudiate the events and values of the original. This course examines the Odyssey as a sequel to the Iliad and the New Testament as a sequel to the Hebrew Bible in an effort to understand the later works both as independent works and in terms of their vital relationship to their predecessors. Continue reading

Divine Epics [1]: Hebrew Bible, Iliad, and Qur’an

COURSES > LIFELONG

This course is a rare opportunity to compare three foundational texts that are usually read independently or in pairs, yielding surprising insights into the texts and ourselves. Reading the Hebrew Bible with the Iliad illuminates the polytheistic elements of the Bible and the ways modern readers are conditioned to misread it as a purely monotheistic work. Reading the Qur’an alongside the Hebrew Bible illuminates the Biblical foundations of the Qur’an and the reasons many readers of the Bible assume the Qur’an “got it all wrong.” Through close, coordinated readings participants will understand three divine epics in a new light. Continue reading

‘The Holy Trible’: The Hebrew Bible, New Testament and Qur’an as an Abrahamic Trilogy

LECTURES > PREVIOUS

Although the three Abrahamic scriptures grew largely out of a common textual tradition, with the exception of the paired “Old and New Testaments” they are rarely read together. The lecture, however, will argue that reading the Hebrew Bible, New Testament and Qur’an together as an “Abrahamic Trilogy” facilitates both a better understanding of each scripture on its own as well as of the relationships between and among them.  These deeper understandings, in turn, can enable us to better understand our own religious traditions as well as those of our neighbors. Continue reading

One-Day Hebrew Bible

COURSES > LIFELONG [→ ONLINE ARCHIVE MATERIAL]

This seminar is an opportunity to consider the Hebrew Bible in a relaxed yet focused environment. What exactly is this work and where did it come from? Who wrote it? What are the main ideas contained in it? This one-day course will discuss these and other questions through a hands-on introduction to, and an overview of, one of the cornerstones of Western civilization and the “Abrahamic religions.” No prior knowledge or experience of any kind is required, although completion of the advance readings is expected. The reading assignment will be posted online at least one month before the seminar date. Continue reading

One-Day Three Traditions

COURSES > LIFELONG

This daylong seminar is a short, intensive exploration of the common and contrasting themes of the three Abrahamic scriptures: the Hebrew Bible, the New Testament, and the Qur’an. Selections from these works, which are rarely read together, will be read by participants before the seminar begins. Then specific passages will be compared, contrasted, and discussed, allowing participants to discover the different views of important subjects in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. The result is an exploration of key concepts such as “justice,” “mercy,” and “true religion,” and an understanding of critical similarities and differences among these three bodies of literature.  No prior knowledge or experience of any kind is required, although completion of the advance readings is expected. The reading assignment will be posted online at least one month before the seminar date. Continue reading

Notions of the Afterlife

COURSES > CONGREGATION

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. Continue reading