Department of Religious Studies

Brent Landau


Th.D., Harvard Divinity School

Brent Landau

Contact

Interests


ancient Christian apocryphal literature | traditions about Jesus’ birth and childhood | early Christian papyri | biblical studies pedagogies

Biography


Brent Landau is a lecturer in the Department of Religious Studies. He received his Th.D and M.Div from Harvard University, and a B.A. in Religious Studies from the University of Iowa. Prior to coming to UT in 2013, he was Assistant Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Oklahoma; he has also held visiting positions at Boston University and Harvard Divinity School.

Brent’s chief research is on ancient Christian apocryphal writings. Among this literature, he is particularly interested in traditions about Jesus’ birth and childhood and in fragments of Christian Apocrypha preserved on papyri. His dissertation was the first English translation of the Revelation of the Magi, a writing purporting to be the Magi’s own testimony about Christ’s coming. His first book, Revelation of the Magi: The Lost Tale of the Wise Men’s Journey to Bethlehem, was published by HarperCollins in 2010, and included an annotated translation of the text and an introduction and conclusion designed for a general audience. He is presently completing the full critical edition of this text. Brent is also the co-editor of a new anthology of the Christian Apocrypha. Published by Eerdmans and entitled New Testament Apocrypha: More Noncanonical Scriptures, the first volume of the series will appear in 2016.

Courses


R S 310 • Intro To The Study Of Religion

43100 • Spring 2018
Meets MWF 10:00AM-11:00AM ART 1.102

This course offers students an introduction to the academic study of religion through the strategic examination of three different religious traditions and several comparative religious concepts. The religious traditions will include: Buddhism, Judaism, and Islam. The comparative religious concepts to be examined will include some or all of the following: myth/ritual; gender and sexuality; holy men and women and their miracles; visions and other anomalous experiences; attitudes toward scientific inquiry; and death, the afterlife, and the end of the world. The course meets the standard for the Global Cultures flag because more than half of the course material deals with cultures of non-U.S. communities—forms of Judaism outside of the U.S., Muslims in the Middle East and Asia, and Buddhists in Asia.

R S 315 • The Bible & Its Interpreters

43125 • Spring 2018
Meets MWF 9:00AM-10:00AM CLA 0.106
(also listed as CTI 304)

Among all the influential texts found in the Bible, none has had such an enormous impact on world history and culture as the Book of Genesis has. This may be somewhat surprising: given the fact that Christianity is the world’s largest religion, one might expect that one of the Gospels of the New Testament would be the most influential. Yet Genesis, with its tales of the strange world that existed before the Flood and its recounting of the exploits— sometimes morally questionable—of Israel’s patriarchs, exercised such a hold on the imagination of the earliest Christians that many New Testament writings can actually be seen as extended ruminations on the implications of the Genesis narrative…as can many other great works of literature and art from antiquity to the present. This course will explore the incredibly diverse ways that human beings have sought to make meaning out of this book. We will begin by devoting more than two months to a close reading of Genesis in its entirety—just us and the text (mostly). We will then proceed to examine several significant but poorly known ancient interpretations of Genesis. We will investigate: a retelling of the strange story of “sons of God” mating with human women (from Gen 6:1-4) as found in the Book of the Watchers (part of the larger ancient Jewish work known as 1 Enoch); the “reversal” of Genesis’s creation story found in the Gnostic Christian writing Apocryphon of John; and the use of Genesis narratives in the Quran, the foundational scripture of Islam. Significant attention will also be given to ethical issues arising from the text and interpretation of Genesis.

R S 357 • Christian Quest For Meaning

43219 • Spring 2018
Meets TTH 8:00AM-9:30AM CLA 0.122
(also listed as CTI 375)

From the first century through the present day, Christians have reflected on and debated what it means to live a Christian life. What is the significance of Jesus' life and death for the community of believers? What is the proper way to find guidance in sacred writings? What must a person do to be considered righteous in God's eyes? What is the ideal way way to conduct one's daily life? What are the requirements for participation or leadership in a Christian community? Do gender, racial, sexual, or class differences matter? What responsibilities does a Christian have regarding broader society, and what relationship should one have toward political authorities? Under what circumstances is it necessary to suffer or die for one's faith? These and related questions will be explored by reading and discussing selections from Christian writers from the New Testament, late antiquity, the middle ages, the Reformation, and modernity.

R S 315 • The Bible & Its Interpreters

43565 • Fall 2017
Meets MWF 10:00AM-11:00AM WAG 308
(also listed as CTI 304)

Among all the influential texts found in the Bible, none has had such an enormous impact on world history and culture as the Book of Genesis has. This may be somewhat surprising: given the fact that Christianity is the world’s largest religion, one might expect that one of the Gospels of the New Testament would be the most influential. Yet Genesis, with its tales of the strange world that existed before the Flood and its recounting of the exploits—sometimes morally questionable—of Israel’s patriarchs, exercised such a hold on the imagination of the earliest Christians that many New Testament writings can actually be seen as extended ruminations on the implications of the Genesis narrative…as can many other great works of literature and art from antiquity to the present. This course will explore the incredibly diverse ways that human beings have sought to make meaning out of this book. We will begin by devoting more than two months to a close reading of Genesis in its entirety—just us and the text (mostly). We will then proceed to examine several significant but poorly known ancient interpretations of Genesis. We will investigate: a retelling of the strange story of “sons of God” mating with human women (from Gen 6:1-4) as found in the Book of the Watchers (part of the larger ancient Jewish work known as 1 Enoch); the “reversal” of Genesis’s creation story found in the Gnostic Christian writing Apocryphon of John; and the use of Genesis narratives in the Quran, the foundational scripture of Islam. Significant attention will also be given to ethical issues arising from the text and interpretation of Genesis.

R S 315N • Intro To The New Testament

43590 • Fall 2017
Meets TTH 12:30PM-2:00PM ART 1.102
(also listed as C C 304C, CTI 310)

This course introduces students to the academic study of the 27 writings that today comprise the Christian New Testament in their first-century historical context. We will begin by considering the distinctive ways in which biblical scholars read and interpret these texts, and also by exploring the political and religious background to the birth of Christianity. We will then address what can be known about the historical individual known as Jesus of Nazareth and examine how the gospels reinterpret his significance for Christians living several decades after Jesus’ death. The next segment of the course introduces students to the letters and thought of the Apostle Paul, a figure as important for the beginnings of Christianity as Jesus (if not more so). The course concludes with a look at the other writings that comprise the NT, including the Book of Revelation, and also reflects on what we know about the process by which the NT became fixed in its canonical form. The primary goal of the course is to develop the skill of reading each of the NT writings as a distinctive, individual text (which may or may not agree with other NT texts).

 

R S 353E • Beyond The New Testament

43625 • Fall 2017
Meets MWF 11:00AM-12:00PM CLA 1.102
(also listed as C C 348)

This course studies the vast array of writings that were read by early Christians but not included in the Bible. Readings will include: collections of Jesus’ sayings, such as the “Q Gospel” used by Matthew and Luke; fragments of lost gospels such as the Gospel of Peter and the Secret Gospel of Mark; narratives about Jesus' birth and childhood, such as the Infancy Gospel of Thomas and the Revelation of the Magi; accounts of the apostles' travels, teachings, and miracles; Gnostic Christian writings discovered in Egypt; and apocryphal Jewish writings that were read in Christian circles. Familiarity with the New Testament will be helpful for participants, but not required.

 

 

R S S335 • Jesus In Hist And Tradition

84825 • Summer 2017
Meets MTWTHF 10:00AM-11:30AM GAR 1.126
(also listed as C C S348)

This course explores the possibilities and pitfalls inherent in reconstructing the life, teachings, self-understanding, and death of the first-century historical individual known as Jesus of Nazareth. We will begin by considering both the gospels as historical sources and the actual processes through which human beings remember past events. We will then trace the history of the scholarly quest for the historical Jesus from the eighteenth century until the present day. After examining the range of opinions that biblical scholars hold about the contours of Jesus’ life and teachings, we will conclude by evaluating two significantly different but highly influential reconstructions of the historical Jesus.

Grade Breakdown:

  • 10%: class participation and attendance
  • 30%: three short response papers
  • 25%: midterm examination
  • 35%: final examination

 

Texts:

  • L. Michael White, Scripting Jesus: The Gospels in Rewrite
  • Anthony Le Donne, Historical Jesus: What Can We Know and How Can We Know It?
  • Catherine Murphy, The Historical Jesus for Dummies
  • John Dominic Crossan, Jesus: A Revolutionary Biography
  • N.T. Wright, Simply Jesus: A New Vision of Who He Was, What He Did, and Why He Matters
  • Jewish Annotated New Testament
  • Coursepack of additional readings

R S 310 • Intro To The Study Of Religion

43625 • Spring 2017
Meets MWF 9:00AM-10:00AM CLA 0.128

This course offers students an introduction to the academic study of religion through the strategic examination of three different religious traditions and several comparative religious concepts. The religious traditions will include: Buddhism, Judaism, and Islam. The comparative religious concepts to be examined will include some or all of the following: myth/ritual; gender and sexuality; holy men and women and their miracles; visions and other anomalous experiences; attitudes toward scientific inquiry; and death, the afterlife, and the end of the world. The course meets the standard for the Global Cultures flag because more than half of the course material deals with cultures of non-U.S. communities—forms of Judaism outside of the U.S., Muslims in the Middle East and Asia, and Buddhists in Asia.

R S 315 • The Bible & Its Interpreters

43645 • Spring 2017
Meets MWF 10:00AM-11:00AM CLA 0.106
(also listed as CTI 304)

Among all the influential texts found in the Bible, none has had such an enormous impact on world history and culture as the Book of Genesis has. This may be somewhat surprising: given the fact that Christianity is the world’s largest religion, one might expect that one of the Gospels of the New Testament would be the most influential. Yet Genesis, with its
tales of the strange world that existed before the Flood and its recounting of the exploits— sometimes morally questionable—of Israel’s patriarchs, exercised such a hold on the imagination of the earliest Christians that many New Testament writings can actually be seen as extended ruminations on the implications of the Genesis narrative…as can many other great works of literature and art from antiquity to the present. This course will explore the incredibly diverse ways that human beings have sought to make meaning out of this book. We will begin by devoting more than two months to a close reading of Genesis in its entirety—just us and the text (mostly). We will then proceed to examine several significant ancient interpretations of Genesis. We will investigate: a retelling of the strange story of “sons of God” mating with human women (from Gen 6:1-4) as found in the Book of the Watchers; the “reversal” of Genesis’s creation story found in the Gnostic Christian writing Apocryphon of John; Genesis in the writings of Augustine, arguably the greatest Christian theologian of all time; and the use of Genesis narratives in the Quran, the foundational scripture of Islam.

R S 353 • Interp Jesus' Death & Resur

43700 • Spring 2017
Meets TTH 11:00AM-12:30PM MEZ B0.306
(also listed as C C 348)

Description:

The narratives of Jesus' death and resurrection stand at the center of the Christian religion. All four New Testament gospels contain accounts of these events; yet it is surprising how many differences there are between them. Similarly, Christians and others have come to strikingly diverse conclusions about the significance, historicity, and ultimate meanings of these events. This course will examine the narratives of Jesus' death and resurrection and their subsequent interpretation over the last two thousand years. We will begin with a very close comparative reading of the passion narratives and resurrection appearance stories of the canonical gospels. We will then examine other notable interpretations of these stories, including: accounts from early Christian apocryphal gospels; the early Christian development of models for understanding the significance of Jesus' death, including the atonement theory; Islamic revisions of the crucifixion narrative and their possible historical origins; and contemporary debates about the historicity of the resurrection, the adequacy of classical atonement theories, and the relevance of the mode of Jesus' death for the practice of capital punishment.

 

Grading:

  • Attendance/Participation (20%)
  • Two Take-Home Exams (40%)
  • Final Research Paper (40%)

 

Texts:

  • Raymond Brown, The Death of the Messiah: A Commentary on the Passion Narratives. 2 volumes. Yale University Press, 1998.
  • Francis Moloney, The Resurrection of the Messiah: A Narrative Commentary on the Resurrection Accounts in the Four Gospels. Paulist Press, 2013.
  • James Cone, The Cross and the Lynching Tree. Orbis, 2013.
  • Mark Lewis Taylor, The Executed God: The Way of the Cross in Lockdown America. Fortress, 2001.
  • Other readings available as PDFs on Canvas website.

R S 315 • The Bible & Its Interpreters

43565 • Fall 2016
Meets MWF 9:00AM-10:00AM PAR 105
(also listed as CTI 304)

Among all the influential texts found in the Bible, none has had such an enormous impact on world history and culture as the Book of Genesis has. This may be somewhat surprising: given the fact that Christianity is the world’s largest religion, one might expect that one of the Gospels of the New Testament would be the most influential. Yet Genesis, with its tales of the strange world that existed before the Flood and its recounting of the exploits— sometimes morally questionable—of Israel’s patriarchs, exercised such a hold on the imagination of the earliest Christians that many New Testament writings can actually be seen as extended ruminations on the implications of the Genesis narrative…as can many other great works of literature and art from antiquity to the present. This course will explore the incredibly diverse ways that human beings have sought to make meaning out of this book. We will begin by devoting several class sessions to a close reading of Genesis in its entirety—just us and the text (mostly). We will then proceed to examine significant interpretations of Genesis chronologically. We will actually begin this survey of interpretations “before” Genesis, with the creation and flood myths of ancient Israel’s neighbors and predecessors, and then proceed to: ancient Jewish rewritings of Genesis from the Dead Sea Scrolls and other apocryphal texts; Philo of Alexandria’s re-reading of Genesis in light of Greek philosophy; writings from the New Testament indebted to Genesis, particularly the Gospel of John and Paul’s Letter to the Romans; the “reversal” of Genesis’s creation story found in the Gnostic Christian writing Apocryphon of John; the allegorical and typological appropriation of Genesis by the brilliant early Christian exegete Origen of Alexandria; the understandings of Genesis in ancient rabbinic Judaism; Genesis in the writings of Augustine, arguably the greatest Christian theologian of all time, on Genesis; the interpretation of Genesis in the Qur’an and other early Islamic writings; Genesis in medieval Christian thought; the beginnings of the historical-critical approach to Genesis in the seventeenth century with Baruch Spinoza; the role that interpretation of Genesis has played in American political debates from the colonial era until the present; the challenge posed to literal readings of Genesis by Darwin’s Origin of Species; recent readings of Genesis informed by feminism, liberation theology, and environmentalism; creative retellings of Genesis in contemporary literature, art, music, and film.

 

Grading

  • Attendance (20%)
  • Participations (20%)
  • Writing Assignments (20%)
  • Rough Draft of Final Term Paper (20%)
  • Revised Final Term Paper (20%)

 

Texts

  • Ronald Hendel, The Book of Genesis: A Biography.
  • Gerald Graff and Cathy Birkenstein, “They Say / I Say”: The Moves That Matter in Academic Writing.
  • Lynne Truss, Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation.
  • Roy Peter Clarke, Writing Tools: 50 Essential Strategies for Every Writer.
  • Robert Alter, Genesis: Translation and Commentary
  • A number of readings will be available as PDFs on the “Files” page of the course website.
  • The New Interpreter’s Study Bible is optional.

R S 315N • Intro To The New Testament

43585 • Fall 2016
Meets TTH 12:30PM-2:00PM GAR 0.102
(also listed as C C 304C, CTI 310)

This course introduces students to the academic study of the 27 writings that today comprise the Christian New Testament in their first-century historical context. We will begin by considering the distinctive ways in which biblical scholars read and interpret these texts, and also by exploring the political and religious background to the birth of Christianity. We will then address what can be known about the historical individual known as Jesus of Nazareth and examine how the gospels reinterpret his significance for Christians living several decades after Jesus’ death. The next segment of the course introduces students to the letters and thought of the Apostle Paul, a figure as important for the beginnings of Christianity as Jesus (if not more so). The course concludes with a look at the other writings that comprise the NT, including the Book of Revelation, and also reflects on what we know about the process by which the NT became fixed in its canonical form. The primary goal of the course is to develop the skill of reading each of the NT writings as a distinctive, individual text (which may or may not agree with other NT texts).

 

Grading

  • Class attendance and participation: 15%
  • Quizzes: 15% total, 2.5% each
  • Short-response papers: 25% total, 8.33% each
  • Exams: 45% total, 15% each

 

Text

  • Jewish Annotated New Testament (abbreviated JANT).**Even if you have a Bible, you are required to purchase this one.
  • Optional:Dale Martin, New Testament History and Literature and/or Raymond Brown, Introduction to the New Testament.

R S 373 • History Of Christmas

43710 • Fall 2016
Meets TTH 9:30AM-11:00AM CBA 4.332

 This course will explore the evolution of the modern Christmas holiday, beginning with the birth stories of Jesus in the New Testament and concluding with the supposed “War on Christmas,” which some recent commentators believe has sought to remove the Christian religious roots of the holiday. Topics to be addressed include: non-Christian antecedents to and influences on Christmas; canonical and apocryphal stories about Jesus’ birth and childhood; the designation of Christmas on Dec. 25th in the fourth century; the raucous and subversive character of Christmas celebrations in the medieval and early modern periods; the sharp criticism of Christmas by the Puritans; the fixing of the current American version of Christmas in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century; the contemporary debate over the constitutionality of religious Christmas displays in public places.

 

Grading:

  • Class Participation and Attendance: 15%
  • Three Short-Response Papers: 15%
  • Midterm Exam: 20%
  • Final Exam: 25%
  • Final Research Paper: 25%

 

Texts:

  • Bruce David Forbes, Christmas: A Candid History. University of California Press, 2007.
  • Geza Vermes, The Nativity: History and Legend. Doubleday, 2006.
  • Joseph F. Kelly, The Origins of Christmas. Liturgical Press, 2004.
  • Brent Landau, Revelation of the Magi: The Lost Tale of the Wise Men’s Journey to Bethlehem. HarperCollins, 2010.
  • Stephen Nissenbaum, The Battle for Christmas. Vintage, 1997.
  • Karal Ann Marling, Merry Christmas! Celebrating America’s Greatest Holiday. Harvard University Press, 2009.

R S S335 • Jesus In Hist And Tradition

85325 • Summer 2016
Meets MTWTHF 10:00AM-11:30AM GAR 1.126
(also listed as C C S348)

This course explores the possibilities and pitfalls inherent in reconstructing the life, teachings, self-understanding, and death of the first-century historical individual known as Jesus of Nazareth. We will begin by considering both the gospels as historical sources and the actual processes through which human beings remember past events. We will then trace the history of the scholarly quest for the historical Jesus from the eighteenth century until the present day. After examining the range of opinions that biblical scholars hold about the contours of Jesus’ life and teachings, we will conclude by evaluating two significantly different but highly influential reconstructions of the historical Jesus.

Grade Breakdown:

  • 10%: class participation and attendance
  • 30%: three short response papers
  • 25%: midterm examination
  • 35%: final examination

 

Texts:

  • L. Michael White, Scripting Jesus: The Gospels in Rewrite
  • Anthony Le Donne, Historical Jesus: What Can We Know and How Can We Know It?
  • Catherine Murphy, The Historical Jesus for Dummies
  • John Dominic Crossan, Jesus: A Revolutionary Biography
  • N.T. Wright, Simply Jesus: A New Vision of Who He Was, What He Did, and Why He Matters
  • Jewish Annotated New Testament
  • Coursepack of additional readings

 

R S 310 • Intro To The Study Of Religion

42725 • Spring 2016
Meets MW 3:00PM-4:30PM CLA 0.128

This course offers students an introduction to the academic study of religion through the strategic examination of three different religious traditions and several comparative religious concepts. The religious traditions will include: Christianity, Islam, and Buddhism. The comparative religious concepts to be examined will include some or all of the following: myth/ritual; gender and sexuality; holy men and women and their miracles; visions and other anomalous experiences; attitudes toward scientific inquiry; and death, the afterlife, and the end of the world. The course meets the standard for the Global Cultures flag because more than half of the course material deals with cultures of non-U.S. communities—non-Western forms of Christianity, Muslims in the Middle East and Asia, and Buddhists in Asia.

Texts

• Jeffrey Kripal et al. Comparing Religions: Coming to Terms (abbreviated on schedule as“Kripal”). Our (very unusual) textbook.• Three books from Oxford University Press’s Very Short Introductions series:  1. Damien Keown, Buddhism: A Very Short Introduction (abbreviated “VSIB”).  2. Linda Woodhead, Christianity: A Very Short Introduction (abbreviated “VSIC”).  3. Malise Ruthven, Islam: A Very Short Introduction (abbreviated “VSII”).• An iClicker2 or iClickerGO mobile app.

 

Grading

• Class attendance and participation: 10%• Quizzes: 5% total, 1.67% each• Exams: 45% total, 15% each• Response Papers: 20% total, 4% each• Religious Site Report: 20%

R S 353 • Interp Jesus' Death & Resur

42825 • Spring 2016
Meets TTH 11:00AM-12:30PM SZB 330
(also listed as C C 348)

The narratives of Jesus' death and resurrection stand at the center of the Christian religion. All four New Testament gospels contain accounts of these events; yet it is surprising how many differences there are between them. Similarly, Christians and others have come to strikingly diverse conclusions about the significance, historicity, and ultimate meanings of these events. This course will examine the narratives of Jesus' death and resurrection and their subsequent interpretation over the last two thousand years. We will begin with a very close comparative reading of the passion narratives and resurrection appearance stories of the canonical gospels. We will then examine other notable interpretations of these stories, including: accounts from early Christian apocryphal gospels; the early Christian development of models for understanding the significance of Jesus' death, including the atonement theory; Islamic revisions of the crucifixion narrative and their possible historical origins; and contemporary debates about the historicity of the resurrection, the adequacy of classical atonement theories, and the relevance of the mode of Jesus' death for the practice of capital punishment.

 

Grading

Attendance/Participation (20%)Two Take-Home Exams (40%)Final Research Paper (40%)

Texts

Raymond Brown, The Death of the Messiah: A Commentary on the Passion Narratives. 2 volumes. Yale University Press, 1998.Francis Moloney, The Resurrection of the Messiah: A Narrative Commentary on the Resurrection Accounts in the Four Gospels. Paulist Press, 2013.James Cone, The Cross and the Lynching Tree. Orbis, 2013.Mark Lewis Taylor, The Executed God: The Way of the Cross in Lockdown America. Fortress, 2001.Other readings available as PDFs on Canvas website.

R S 375S • Relgn, Supernatrl, & Paranorm

42915 • Spring 2016
Meets TTH 9:30AM-11:00AM CLA 0.108

Practically all religious traditions contain accounts of extraordinary events, typically called miracles. Such events tend to be enormously important for the legitimation of these religions, since they serve to demonstrate why that religion’s view of the world is “true.” And even today, in the technologically advanced twenty-first century, the vast majority of the world’s population believes that miracles do happen. Despite the obvious importance of miracles for many religious people, miracles nevertheless remain understudied by religious studies scholars, in part out of a discomfort with how such logic-defying events can be considered possible under present-day scientific paradigms. Even more neglected by religious studies scholars are those events and experiences of people in the modern world that are termed “paranormal” or “supernatural”: sightings of UFOs, contact with ghosts, people claiming to possess extraordinary physical or mental abilities. The analysis of such phenomena by professional scholars, whether in religious studies or in other fields, has tended to be very meager, in large part due to what some writers have called the “giggle factor” surrounding these events and experiences. This capstone seminar therefore has three central goals in mind: 1) to better understand the range of miraculous phenomena found in religious traditions and the meanings that various religions ascribe to them; 2) to examine from a religious studies perspective some impressive examples of paranormal phenomena in order to see whether they have anything in common with more traditional miracles (put most simply: what is the difference, if any, between seeing an angel or an apparition of the Virgin Mary and seeing a UFO?); 3) to begin to formulate some possible answers to one of the most asked questions about miracles and the paranormal: is this stuff actually real?

 

Texts

Jeff Kripal, Authors of the Impossible: The Paranormal and the Sacred

David Weddle, Miracles: Wonder and Meaning in World Religions

Rudolf Otto, The Idea of the Holy

George Hansen, The Trickster and the Paranormal

Coursepack of additional readings

 

Grading

Class participation and attendance (25%)

Five short response papers (25%)

Final paper (including several graded stages and presentation (50%)

R S 315 • The Bible & Its Interpreters

42705 • Fall 2015
Meets MWF 10:00AM-11:00AM CLA 1.108
(also listed as CTI 304)

Among all the influential texts found in the Bible, none has had such an enormous impact on world history and culture as the Book of Genesis has. This may be somewhat surprising: given the fact that Christianity is the world’s largest religion, one might expect that one of the Gospels of the New Testament would be the most influential. Yet Genesis, with its tales of the strange world that existed before the Flood and its recounting of the exploits— sometimes morally questionable—of Israel’s patriarchs, exercised such a hold on the imagination of the earliest Christians that many New Testament writings can actually be seen as extended ruminations on the implications of the Genesis narrative…as can many other great works of literature and art from antiquity to the present. This course will explore the incredibly diverse ways that human beings have sought to make meaning out of this book. We will begin by devoting several class sessions to a close reading of Genesis in its entirety—just us and the text (mostly). We will then proceed to examine significant interpretations of Genesis chronologically. We will actually begin this survey of interpretations “before” Genesis, with the creation and flood myths of ancient Israel’s neighbors and predecessors, and then proceed to: ancient Jewish rewritings of Genesis from the Dead Sea Scrolls and other apocryphal texts; Philo of Alexandria’s re-reading of Genesis in light of Greek philosophy; writings from the New Testament indebted to Genesis, particularly the Gospel of John and Paul’s Letter to the Romans; the “reversal” of Genesis’s creation story found in the Gnostic Christian writing Apocryphon of John; the allegorical and typological appropriation of Genesis by the brilliant early Christian exegete Origen of Alexandria; the understandings of Genesis in ancient rabbinic Judaism; Genesis in the writings of Augustine, arguably the greatest Christian theologian of all time, on Genesis; the interpretation of Genesis in the Qur’an and other early Islamic writings; Genesis in medieval Christian thought; the beginnings of the historical-critical approach to Genesis in the seventeenth century with Baruch Spinoza; the role that interpretation of Genesis has played in American political debates from the colonial era until the present; the challenge posed to literal readings of Genesis by Darwin’s Origin of Species; recent readings of Genesis informed by feminism, liberation theology, and environmentalism; creative retellings of Genesis in contemporary literature, art, music, and film.

 

Grading

  • Attendance (20%)
  • Participations (20%)
  • Writing Assignments (20%)
  • Rough Draft of Final Term Paper (20%)
  • Revised Final Term Paper (20%)

 

Texts

  • Ronald Hendel, The Book of Genesis: A Biography.
  • Gerald Graff and Cathy Birkenstein, “They Say / I Say”: The Moves That Matter in Academic Writing.
  • Lynne Truss, Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation.
  • Roy Peter Clarke, Writing Tools: 50 Essential Strategies for Every Writer.
  • Robert Alter, Genesis: Translation and Commentary
  • A number of readings will be available as PDFs on the “Files” page of the course website.
  • The New Interpreter’s Study Bible is optional.

R S 315N • Intro To The New Testament

42725 • Fall 2015
Meets TTH 12:30PM-2:00PM MEZ 1.306
(also listed as C C 304C, CTI 310)

This course introduces students to the academic study of the 27 writings that today comprise the Christian New Testament in their first-century historical context. We will begin by considering the distinctive ways in which biblical scholars read and interpret these texts, and also by exploring the political and religious background to the birth of Christianity. We will then address what can be known about the historical individual known as Jesus of Nazareth and examine how the gospels reinterpret his significance for Christians living several decades after Jesus’ death. The next segment of the course introduces students to the letters and thought of the Apostle Paul, a figure as important for the beginnings of Christianity as Jesus (if not more so). The course concludes with a look at the other writings that comprise the NT, including the Book of Revelation, and also reflects on what we know about the process by which the NT became fixed in its canonical form. The primary goal of the course is to develop the skill of reading each of the NT writings as a distinctive, individual text (which may or may not agree with other NT texts).

 

Grading

  • Class attendance and participation: 15%
  • Quizzes: 15% total, 2.5% each
  • Short-response papers: 25% total, 8.33% eachE
  • xams: 45% total, 15% each

 

Text

  • Jewish Annotated New Testament (abbreviated JANT).**Even if you have a Bible, you are required to purchase this one.
  • Optional:Dale Martin, New Testament History and Literature and/or Raymond Brown, Introduction to the New Testament.

R S 353E • Beyond The New Testament

42775 • Fall 2015
Meets TTH 9:30AM-11:00AM BUR 220
(also listed as C C 348)

This course studies the vast array of writings that were read by early Christians but not included in the Bible. Readings will include: collections of Jesus’ sayings, such as the “Q Gospel” used by Matthew and Luke; fragments of lost gospels such as the Gospel of Peter and the Secret Gospel of Mark; narratives about Jesus' birth and childhood, such as the Infancy Gospel of Thomas and the Revelation of the Magi; accounts of the apostles' travels, teachings, and miracles; Gnostic Christian writings discovered in Egypt; and apocryphal Jewish writings that were read in Christian circles. Familiarity with the New Testament will be helpful for participants, but not required.

 

Grading

  • Class Participation and Attendance: 15%
  • Quizzes: 25% (5 total)
  • 3-page Paper: 25%
  • Final Paper: 35%

 

Texts

  • Tony Burke, Secret Scriptures Revealed: A New Introduction to the Christian Apocrypha.
  • Bart Ehrman and Zlatko Plese, The Apocryphal Gospels: Texts and Translations.
  • Bart Ehrman, Lost Scriptures: Books That Did Not Make It into the New Testament.
  • Brent Landau, Revelation of the Magi: The Lost Tale of the Wise Men’s Journey to Bethlehem.
  • Karen King, The Secret Revelation of John.
  • Hans-Josef Klauck, The Apocryphal Acts of the Apostles: An Introduction.

R S 310 • Intro To The Study Of Religion

43100 • Spring 2015
Meets TTH 11:00AM-12:30PM ECJ 1.204

This course offers students an introduction to the academic study of religion through the strategic examination of three different religious traditions and several comparative religious concepts. The religious traditions will include: Christianity, Islam, and Buddhism. The comparative religious concepts to be examined will include some or all of the following: myth/ritual; gender and sexuality; holy men and women and their miracles; visions and other anomalous experiences; attitudes toward scientific inquiry; and death, the afterlife, and the end of the world. The course meets the standard for the Global Cultures flag because more than half of the course material deals with cultures of non-U.S. communities—non-Western forms of Christianity, Muslims in the Middle East and Asia, and Buddhists in Asia.

R S 346 • Debating The Bible In 21st Cen

43160 • Spring 2015
Meets MWF 10:00AM-11:00AM BEN 1.122
(also listed as AMS 327, CTI 375)

This course investigates the ongoing controversy in the United States about the meaning and continued relevance of the Bible. No knowledge of the Bible is assumed, and the course will begin with a short overview of the Bible’s content. Topics to be discussed include: the variety of perspectives within mainstream academic biblical scholarship; debates within evangelical scholarship about what it means for the Bible to be “inerrant”; the creationism-evolution controversy; the use of the Bible in “hot button” social and political issues (gay rights, for example); “End-Times prophecy”; and the movement to have the Bible taught in American public schools, including in Texas.

 

This course meets the criteria for the Ethics and Leadership flag, because more than one third of the class is devoted to identifying the vast array of ethical issues embedded within the Bible and and to walking students through the decision-making process about the Bible’s continued relevance using insights from the field of practical ethics.

R S 386C • Syriac Christianity

43310 • Spring 2015
Meets F 1:00PM-4:00PM BUR 436A

This course introduces students to the literature and thought of early Syriac-speaking Christians. The chronological parameters to be covered are from the earliest Syriac literature we possess (first half of the 2nd century CE) until the “Golden Age” of the fourth century. We will translate a variety of literary styles—poetry, narrative, biblical commentary, and theological and polemical treatises—from a range of authors and works, such as the Odes of Solomon, Syriac apocryphal texts, the Liber Graduum, Ephrem of Edessa, and Aphrahat of Persia. Our weekly course assignments will consist of translating Syriac texts and interacting with influential scholarly literature on the texts and ideas under consideration. Participants in the course must have taken MEL 380C during the Fall 2014 or have achieved an intermediate competency in Syriac through another means.

R S 315 • The Bible & Its Interpreters

44160 • Fall 2014
Meets MWF 10:00AM-11:00AM CLA 1.108
(also listed as CTI 304)

Brent Landau

Bible and Its Interpreters Course Description

Fall 2014

 

Description: Among all the influential texts found in the Bible, none has had such an enormous impact on world history and culture as the Book of Genesis has. This may be somewhat surprising: given the fact that Christianity is the world’s largest religion, one might expect that one of the Gospels of the New Testament would be the most influential. Yet Genesis, with its tales of the strange world that existed before the Flood and its recounting of the exploits—sometimes morally questionable—of Israel’s patriarchs, exercised such a hold on the imagination of the earliest Christians that many New Testament writings can actually be seen as extended ruminations on the implications of the Genesis narrative…as can many other great works of literature and art from antiquity to the present. This course will explore the incredibly diverse ways that human beings have sought to make meaning out of this book. We will begin by devoting several class sessions to a close reading of Genesis in its entirety—just us and the text (mostly). We will then proceed to examine significant interpretations of Genesis chronologically. We will actually begin this survey of interpretations “before” Genesis, with the creation and flood myths of ancient Israel’s neighbors and predecessors, and then proceed to: ancient Jewish rewritings of Genesis from the Dead Sea Scrolls and other apocryphal texts; Philo of Alexandria’s re-reading of Genesis in light of Greek philosophy; writings from the New Testament indebted to Genesis, particularly the Gospel of John and Paul’s Letter to the Romans; the “reversal” of Genesis’s creation story found in the Gnostic Christian writing Apocryphon of John; the allegorical and typological appropriation of Genesis by the brilliant early Christian exegete Origen of Alexandria; the understandings of Genesis in ancient rabbinic Judaism; the writings of Augustine, arguably the greatest Christian theologian of all time, on Genesis; the interpretation of Genesis in the Qur’an and other early Islamic writings; Genesis in medieval Christian thought; the beginnings of the historical-critical approach to Genesis in the seventeenth century with Baruch Spinoza; the role that interpretation of Genesis has played in American political debates from the colonial era until the present; the challenge posed to literal readings of Genesis by Darwin’s Origin of Species; recent readings of Genesis informed by feminism, liberation theology, and environmentalism; creative retellings of Genesis in contemporary literature, art, music, and film.

Required texts: 1) New Oxford Annotated Bible or HarperCollins Study Bible; 2) Robert Alter, Genesis: Translation and Commentary (Norton, 1996); 3) Ronald Hendel, The Book of Genesis: A Biography (Princeton, 2012); 4) course pack

Grading: attendance, participating, and posting of questions on Canvas discussion forum (20%); three papers of approximately 1500 words each (60%); a final exam (20%).

 

R S 315N • Intro To The New Testament

44165 • Fall 2014
Meets TTH 12:30PM-2:00PM MEZ 1.306
(also listed as C C 304C, CTI 310)

This course introduces students to the academic study of the 27 writings that today comprise the Christian New Testament in their first-century historical context. We willbegin by considering the distinctive ways in which biblical scholars read and interpret these texts, and also by exploring the political and religious background to the birth ofChristianity. We will then address what can be known about the historical individualknown as Jesus of Nazareth and examine how the gospels reinterpret his significance for Christians living several decades after Jesus’ death. The next segment of the course introduces students to the letters and thought of the Apostle Paul, a figure as important for the beginnings of Christianity as Jesus (if not more so). The course concludes with a look at the other writings that comprise the NT, including the Book of Revelation, and also reflects on what we know about the process by which the NT became fixed in its canonical form. The primary goal of the course is to develop the skill of reading each of the NT writings as a distinctive, individual text (which may or may not agree with other NT texts).

 

Grading:

Class attendance and participation: 15%Quizzes: 15% total, 2.5% eachShort-response papers: 25% total, 8.33% eachExams: 45% total, 15% each

 

Texts:

Jewish Annotated New Testament (abbreviated JANT).**Even if you have a Bible, you are required to purchase this one, do the assigned readings from it, and bring it to every class meeting!iClicker.Optional:Dale Martin, New Testament History and Literature (cheap) and/or Raymond Brown,Introduction to the New Testament (not so cheap). You are not required to buy orread either of these! Y

R S 335 • Jesus In Hist And Tradition

44520 • Spring 2014
Meets MWF 11:00AM-12:00PM JES A215A
(also listed as C C 348)

This course explores the possibilities and pitfalls inherent in reconstructing the life, teachings, self-understanding, and death of the first-century historical individual known as Jesus of Nazareth. We will begin by considering both the gospels as historical sources and the actual processes through which human beings remember past events. We will then trace the history of the scholarly quest for the historical Jesus from the eighteenth century until the present day. After examining the range of opinions that biblical scholars hold about the contours of Jesus’ life and teachings, we will conclude by evaluating two significantly different but highly influential reconstructions of the historical Jesus.

Grade Breakdown:

  • 10%: class participation and attendance
  • 30%: three short response papers
  • 25%: midterm examination
  • 35%: final examination

L. Michael White, Scripting Jesus: The Gospels in Rewrite

Anthony Le Donne, Historical Jesus: What Can We Know and How Can We Know It?

Catherine Murphy, The Historical Jesus for Dummies

John Dominic Crossan, Jesus: A Revolutionary Biography

N.T. Wright, Simply Jesus: A New Vision of Who He Was, What He Did, and Why He Matters

Jewish Annotated New Testament

Coursepack of additional readings

R S 346 • Debating The Bible In 21st Cen

44540 • Spring 2014
Meets MWF 10:00AM-11:00AM BEN 1.122
(also listed as AMS 327, CTI 375)

This course investigates the ongoing controversy in the United States about the meaning and continued relevance of the Bible. No knowledge of the Bible is assumed, and the course will begin with a short overview of the Bible’s content. Topics to be discussed include: the variety of perspectives within mainstream academic biblical scholarship; debates within evangelical scholarship about what it means for the Bible to be “inerrant”; the creationism-evolution controversy; the use of the Bible in “hot button” social and political issues (gay rights, for example); “End-Times prophecy”; and the movement to have the Bible taught in American public schools, including in Texas.

Grade Breakdown:

  • 20%: class participation and attendance
  • 30%: three short response papers
  • 20%: take-home midterm examination
  • 30%: take-home final exam

The New Interpreter’s Study Bible

Bart Ehrman, Jesus, Interrupted

Luke Timothy Johnson, The Real Jesus

Five Views on Biblical Inerrancy

Jason Rosenhouse, Among the Creationists: Dispatches from the Anti-Evolutionist Front Line

Dale Martin, Sex and the Single Savior: Gender and Sexuality in Biblical Interpretation

Barbara Rossing, The Rapture Exposed: The Message of Hope in the Book of Revelation

Coursepack of additional readings

 

R S 375S • Relgn, Supernatrl, & Paranorm

44630 • Spring 2014
Meets TTH 11:00AM-12:30PM JES A209A

Practically all religious traditions contain accounts of extraordinary events, typically called miracles. Such events tend to be enormously important for the legitimation of these religions, since they serve to demonstrate why that religion’s view of the world is “true.” And even today, in the technologically advanced twenty-first century, the vast majority of the world’s population believes that miracles do happen. Despite the obvious importance of miracles for many religious people, miracles nevertheless remain understudied by religious studies scholars, in part out of a discomfort with how such logic-defying events can be considered possible under present-day scientific paradigms. Even more neglected by religious studies scholars are those events and experiences of people in the modern world that are termed “paranormal” or “supernatural”: sightings of UFOs, contact with ghosts, people claiming to possess extraordinary physical or mental abilities. The analysis of such phenomena by professional scholars, whether in religious studies or in other fields, has tended to be very meager, in large part due to what some writers have called the “giggle factor” surrounding these events and experiences. This capstone seminar therefore has three central goals in mind: 1) to better understand the range of miraculous phenomena found in religious traditions and the meanings that various religions ascribe to them; 2) to examine from a religious studies perspective some impressive examples of paranormal phenomena in order to see whether they have anything in common with more traditional miracles (put most simply: what is the difference, if any, between seeing an angel or an apparition of the Virgin Mary and seeing a UFO?); 3) to begin to formulate some possible answers to one of the most asked questions about miracles and the paranormal: is this stuff actually real?

Grade Breakdown:

  • 25%: class participation and attendance
  • 25%: five short response papers
  • 50%: final paper (including several graded stages in the writing process and an in-class presentation of your topic)

Jeff Kripal, Authors of the Impossible: The Paranormal and the Sacred

David Eagleman, Incognito: The Secret Lives of the Brain

David Weddle, Miracles: Wonder and Meaning in World Religions

Coursepack of additional readings

 

 

R S 315N • Intro To The New Testament

44170 • Fall 2013
Meets TTH 12:30PM-2:00PM UTC 3.134
(also listed as C C 304C, CTI 310)

This course focuses on some of the most influential religious texts in human history—the 27 texts that were included in the New Testament.  In addition, we will also read several other ancient texts that did not make it into the Christian Bible. During the semester we will explore the content of these texts, theories about how they were produced, methods used by scholars to interpret them, and conclusions that specialists reach about their significance. In the process, students will also have a chance to reflect on the general nature of human religiosity.

R S 353 • Beyond The New Testament

44230 • Fall 2013
Meets MWF 10:00AM-11:00AM BUR 436A
(also listed as C C 348)

Beyond the New Testament

Description: This course studies the vast array of writings that were read by early Christians but not included in the Bible. Readings will include: collections of Jesus’ sayings, such as the “Q Gospel” used by Matthew and Luke; fragments of lost gospels such as the Gospel of Peter and the Secret Gospel of Mark; narratives about Jesus' birth and childhood, such as the Infancy Gospel of Thomas and the Revelation of the Magi; accounts of the apostles' travels, teachings, and miracles; Gnostic Christian writings discovered in Egypt; and apocryphal Jewish writings that were read in Christian circles. Familiarity with the New Testament will be helpful for participants, but not required.

Grade Breakdown:

  • Class Participation and Attendance: 15%
  • Quizzes: 25% (5 total)
  • 3-page Paper: 25%
  • Final Paper: 35%

Textbooks:

  • Tony Burke, Secret Scriptures Revealed: A New Introduction to the Christian Apocrypha.
  • Bart Ehrman and Zlatko Plese, The Apocryphal Gospels: Texts and Translations.
  • Bart Ehrman, Lost Scriptures: Books That Did Not Make It into the New Testament.
  • Brent Landau, Revelation of the Magi: The Lost Tale of the Wise Men’s Journey to Bethlehem.
  • Karen King, The Secret Revelation of John.
  • Hans-Josef Klauck, The Apocryphal Acts of the Apostles: An Introduction.

 

 

R S 373 • History Of Christmas

44320 • Fall 2013
Meets MWF 11:00AM-12:00PM CLA 0.124

The History of Christmas

Description: This course will explore the evolution of the modern Christmas holiday, beginning with the birth stories of Jesus in the New Testament and concluding with the supposed “War on Christmas,” which some recent commentators believe has sought to remove the Christian religious roots of the holiday. Topics to be addressed include: non-Christian antecedents to and influences on Christmas; canonical and apocryphal stories about Jesus’ birth and childhood; the designation of Christmas on Dec. 25th in the fourth century; the raucous and subversive character of Christmas celebrations in the medieval and early modern periods; the sharp criticism of Christmas by the Puritans; the fixing of the current American version of Christmas in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century; the contemporary debate over the constitutionality of religious Christmas displays in public places.

 

Grading:

Class Participation and Attendance: 15%Three Short-Response Papers: 15%Midterm Exam: 20%Final Exam: 25%Final Research Paper: 25%

 

Texts:

Bruce David Forbes, Christmas: A Candid History. University of California Press, 2007.Geza Vermes, The Nativity: History and Legend. Doubleday, 2006.Joseph F. Kelly, The Origins of Christmas. Liturgical Press, 2004.Brent Landau, Revelation of the Magi: The Lost Tale of the Wise Men’s Journey to Bethlehem. HarperCollins, 2010.Stephen Nissenbaum, The Battle for Christmas. Vintage, 1997.Karal Ann Marling, Merry Christmas! Celebrating America’s Greatest Holiday. Harvard University Press, 2009.

Curriculum Vitae


Profile Pages