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SCTR 19 – "Religions of the Book" – Spring 2007

Fr. Felix Just, S.J.
Dept. of Religious Studies, Santa Clara University

Course Syllabus

Sect. 01 (31516) meets MWF 9:15 – 10:20 a.m. in Bannon 331

Office Hours:  MWF 10:30–11:30 a.m. and by appointment, in Bannon 355
Phone: 408-554-4595 (office) or 408-554-4922 (home)

Peer Educators: Gina Belmonte, Molly Leaverton, Jack Mahony

Religious Studies in the University’s Core Curriculum:

The Core Curriculum at Santa Clara University includes three courses in Religious Studies at sequential levels (Introductory; Intermediate; Advanced).  The Religious Studies Department divides its courses into three areas: Scripture and Traditions (SCTR); Theology, Ethics, and Spirituality (TESP); and Religion and Society (RSOC).

As part of the SCTR area, “Religions of the Book” studies the foundational religious texts of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.  As an introductory course, however, it is also intended to acquaint you with each of the three academic approaches to the study of religion, thereby giving you a solid foundation for your intermediate and advanced courses in the future. Thus, while we will focus on the writings considered sacred by three particular world religions, we will also explore the theological meanings of these texts and the socio-cultural contexts that shaped them.

For more details about the rationale and requirements of SCU’s Core Curriculum, see

Course Description and Learning Outcomes:

This introductory-level course seeks to deepen our understanding and enliven our appreciation of religion in general and Judaism, Christianity, and Islam in particular (the three major “Western Religions” or “Religions of the Book”). We will learn about various aspects of these three world religions, including their origins, history, divisions, theology, praxis, and contemporary dynamics. We will compare and contrast some of their central beliefs, spiritual practices, liturgical rites, moral teachings, popular piety, art and architecture, etc.  Our focus will be on their core scriptures (Hebrew Bible, New Testament, Qur’an), with a three-fold goal: a) to learn to read these texts critically; b) to explore the relationship between the literary content and the original historical settings of the texts; and c) to appreciate the various ways they have been interpreted throughout history and by different groups of people today.

As a result of this course, more concretely, students should be able to:

  • describe what “religion” is and how the major world religions are usually categorized and described;
  • explain the major similarities and differences between the three main monotheistic/Western religions;
  • understand the foundational role of scriptures (Bible and Qur’an) for Jews, Christians, and Muslims;
  • know the principal figures and historical highlights of the growth and development of these three religions;
  • explain the core beliefs and practices shared by all branches of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, respectively;
  • know some of the main differences and conflicts between the various sub-branches of each of these religions;
  • appreciate the complex relationships of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam with each other and other religions;
  • know how to find good information and reliable resources for life-long learning about scripture and religion.

Required Textbooks and Instructional Materials:

  • Senior, Donald, ed. The Catholic Study Bible: New American Bible. 2nd ed. New York: Oxford University Press, 2006. – ISBN 0-19-528278-7;  $34.99 new; $26.25 used
  • Ali, Abdullah Yusuf, trans. The Meaning of the Holy Qur’an. 10th edition. Beltsville, MD: Amana, 1999. – ISBN 0-915957-77-9 (pocket-size);  $13.95 new / $10.50 used
  • Solomon, Norman. Judaism: A Very Short Introduction. New York: Oxford University Press, 1996. – ISBN 0-19-285390-2 (paperback);  $9.95 new; $7.46 used
  • Woodhead, Linda. Christianity: A Very Short Introduction. New York: Oxford University Press, 2004. – ISBN 0-19-280322-0 (paperback);  $9.95 new; $7.46 used
  • Ruthven, Malise. Islam: A Very Short Introduction. New York: Oxford University Press, 1997. – ISBN 0-19-285389-9 (paperback);  $9.95 new; $7.46 used
  • Readings accessible online through “E-Res” ( - password “scripture”) and/or the Schedule of Readings on this course’s website ( - userID “student” and password “scripture” for any restricted sections).
  • Regular use of SCU email (or have your SCU email forwarded to an off-campus account, if you prefer).

Course Work and Expectations:

  • Attendance: On-time daily attendance is crucial for your learning and your success in this course. Please inform me
    in advance (in person, by phone, or by e-mail) if you need to miss, be late, or leave early any day, or ASAP afterward in case of unanticipated illness, accident, or other crisis. Your course grade will decrease for each absence, tardy, or early departure. Four or more unexcused absences will result in a failing grade for the course.
  • Required Readings: All reading assignments should be completed before you come to class each day, so that you can better understand the lectures and contribute to discussions. In addition to the scriptures and textbooks, several online readings (ERes or webpages) are also required daily, as indicated on the online version of the “Schedule of Readings.” “Primary Texts” are ancient scriptures (Bible and Qur’an); “Secondary texts” are modern scholarly writings.
  • Participation: Always come prepared to summarize the readings, take notes, ask questions and challenge assumptions (your own and those of others – but always respectfully!). hile this is primarily a “lecture” course, we will have some time each day for discussions and/or small-group activities. You will usually also receive a “worksheet” to complete before class, to guide your understanding of the readings and/or facilitate your participation in class discussions.
  • Examinations: We will have four short exams (only about 30 minutes each, one after each main unit of the course) and a comprehensive final exam. Early or make-up exams will be available only in extremely exceptional cases.
  • Site Visits: Students will attend weekend worship services at two different religious sites (synagogue, church, and/or mosque – outside your own religious tradition). Go together with one or two other students, alone only in exceptional cases. Eachstudent will write a brief report (3-4 pages) about each visit, focusing especially on how the visited group uses its scriptures. Synagogue visits should be completed by 4/28/07; Church visits by 5/13/07; and Mosque visits by 5/25/07; reports are due the Monday after each of those dates. More details soon.
  • Term Project: Students will select a current-events topic that is related to one or more of the religions we are studying and follow that topic throughout the quarter. You should build up a “portfolio” of news articles from various sources (print & online), and discuss how the story has developed by the end of the term in a brief written and/or oral report.
  • Extra Credit: You can earn up to 25 points for attending events and exhibitions (on or off campus), reviewing books or videos, following more news stories, doing more site visits, or other activities that are somehow related to our course (and writing a brief report about it). Pertinent announcements will be made in class and on the course website, but you may propose other ideas of your own at any time. All extra work must be submitted by the last day of class, June 8.
  • Office Visits: Please visit, call, or email me at any time during the term to discuss any questions, issues, or problems. Scheduled office hours are on the top of this syllabus; please make appointments to meet with me at other times.
  • Peer Educators: Three students who have taken this class previously will assist as “Peer Educators” for this course. They will not be involved in any grading, but will facilitate discussions, make short presentations, run review sessions, and be available to advise you about the site visits and other course content.
  • Disability Accommodations: To request academic accommodations for a disability, students must contact SCU’s Office of Disabilities Resources in the Drahmann Center, Benson 214, phone (408) 554-4111; TTY (408) 554-5445. Students must provide documentation of a disability to Disability Resources prior to receiving accommodations.
  • Academic Honesty and Integrity: I strongly encourage you to study together, learn from one another, and make use of outside sources (books, people, websites) to help you learn more than you would by yourself. All written work, however, must clearly be your own, unless you are citing directly from sources that you have properly documented and credited. Copying from any person, book, website, etc., without properly documenting your source (even if you change a few words), is a serious offense (plagiarism!), which will result in a failing grade for the assignment or the entire course! Please review the statements and policies on academic integrity in the SCU “Student Handbook.”
  • Course Grades: Final letter grades will be based on a total of 500 points possible in this course:
    • Attendance & Participation:  100 points (attendance; discussions; worksheets; etc.; 20% of the course total)
    • Site Visits & Reports:  80 points (2x40 points; 16% of the course total)
    • Term Projects:  40 points (8% of the course total)
    • Shorter Exams:  160 points (4x40 pts; 32% of the course total)
    • Final Exam:  120 points (24% of the course total)





























Disclaimer:  This syllabus may be modified slightly during the quarter, as announced in class and on this course website.


An “Educational Covenant”

The process of teaching and learning requires attention to several basic principles:
      a) respect for one another;  b) respect for the subject material;  c) respect for the learning process.

To make these principles concrete, all of us need to contribute to the learning endeavor in mutually supportive ways:

I, the undersigned student, promise to: I, the undersigned instructor, promise to:
  • be well-prepared for each class
  • be serious and enthusiastic about the course
  • be respectful of the teacher and other students
  • be responsible for my own work and progress
  • participate in class and in my team and group
  • not eat or drink (except water) during class
  • not use cell phones or message devices in class
  • bring all necessary books and course materials
  • study carefully and thoroughly for all exams
  • inform the instructor if ever I cannot attend
  • come on time and remain for the whole class
  • be well-prepared for each class
  • be serious and enthusiastic about the course
  • be respectful of students’ views and experiences
  • be attentive to students’ struggles and progress
  • be available to students outside the classroom
  • not eat or drink (except water) during class
  • not use my cell phone during class
  • bring all materials needed for instruction
  • clearly explain the format and content of exams
  • inform students ASAP if class must be cancelled
  • start and end class on time each day

Affirmation of Acceptance: We, the undersigned student and teacher, agree to abide by all the stipulations of the “Course Syllabus” (esp. the “Course Work and Expectations”), and the above “Educational Covenant,” to the best of our abilities.

Student's Name: ______________________________ Signature: _____________________________ Date: ____________

Instructor's Name: ____________________________ Signature: _____________________________ Date: ____________


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This page last updated on April 3, 2007
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