Judaism and Christianity in Antiquity

Faculty: Elizabeth Shanks Alexander, Jessica Andruss, Greg Schmidt Goering, Martien Halvorson-Taylor, Karl Shuve, Janet Spittler

The program in Judaism and Christianity in Antiquity provides the opportunity for the advanced study of Judaism from the early Second Temple period through the period of the Talmud, and of Christianity from its origins through the early medieval period. The program combines the fields traditionally distinguished as “Hebrew Bible,” “Second Temple Literature,” “New Testament,” “Early Christianity,” “Rabbinic Literature” and “Patristics/Late Antique Christianity.”

The rationale for the breadth of the program lies in the close historical relationship between Christianity and Judaism in the ancient Mediterranean and beyond, their use of a common set of texts, and their tendency to develop and express theological ideas through continual reinterpretation and composition. The program allows students to study both canonical and non-canonical works not only in their historical settings, but also as they have been received and interpreted within Jewish and Christian communities.

The program provides a broad range of resources through which students can engage ancient Judaism and Christianity. The program trains students in:

  • the languages in which ancient Jewish and Christian texts were composed and received,
  • close reading of texts,
  • the reconstruction of the social and intellectual settings to which the texts belong,
  • the history of interpretation of texts,
  • points of historical contact between Judaism, Christianity and other religions of the Mediterranean.

The breadth of the program is qualified by the requirement that each student elect a major and minor area of concentration from the four subject areas:

  1. Hebrew Bible and Second Temple Literature
  2. New Testament and Early Christian Literature
  3. Rabbinic Literature
  4. Late Antique Christian Literature

These choices reflect only areas of concentration, and serious coursework is required in the other fields.

Since both Christianity and Judaism belonged to, shaped, and were shaped by a larger common environment, the program also entails careful attention to Graeco-Roman society and culture.