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Georgetown University


Detailed Course Information


Fall 2017
Jan 18, 2018
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JCIV 189 - Magic & Religion
The world of the Greeks and Roman was one of endlessly multi-aspected paganism, with its consciousness of a range of gods and goddesses, daimons and spirits moving between their realm and ours. It was also one in which the Hebrew-Israelite-Judaean competed with paganism and continued to struggle to define itself—and ultimately split into what became Judaism and Christianity. 

This course will focus on the times, places and literatures that reflect the interface between paganism as it has evolved within the Greco-Roman world and nascent Judaism and Christianity. It pushes toward an understanding of how Judaism and Christianity emerged out of the Hebrew-Israelite-Judaean tradition as two forms of faith each claiming to be the proper continuation of that tradition. It considers how their theological relationship—their competition regarding the Truth regarding divinity and its relationship to humanity—is not only affected by their mutual interface and their theological relationships with paganism but by the political context of the pagan Roman Imperium in which they both develop. 

This is a world of meeting, divergence, convergence, synthesis, embrace and rejection of religious principles and ideas. It is a world in which verbal distinctions that we take for granted—such as those between magic and religion, myth and theology, superstition and true belief, astronomy and astrology—have not yet assumed the place to which they arrived within our vocabulary, over time. Our goal is largely to come to understand what comprise the key elements that distinguish and join these traditions, why and how this vocabulary emerges and evolves, and how the shaping of that vocabulary has affected and continues to affect our sense of what Judaism and Christianity are. 

Course requirements include being in class, doing the readings, participating when it is appropriate—and writing two 10-12-page tale-home exams/papers, one toward midterm and the other at semester’s end. Readings will be drawn from a combination of Blackboard and library reserve materials. 

3.000 Credit hours
3.000 Lecture hours

Levels: Undergraduate
Schedule Types: Lecture

Jewish Civilization Department

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