COMP 272
Father Abraham: The First Patriarch
Last Offered Spring 2014
Division II Writing Skills
Cross-listed COMP 272 / REL 270 / JWST 270
This course is not offered in the current catalog or this is a previous listing for a current course.

Class Details

The figure of Abraham in the Hebrew scriptures is interesting for at least two reasons: he comes first and seems more universal rather than particular. He first received the covenant and the promise of the land of Israel, but before the full revelation of the Torah to Moses. He fathers both the Jewish people and the Arabs and the significance of that wider identity was later captured both by Christianity in the work of Paul and in the Qur’an where Muhammad identified with Abraham as the prototypical and non-sectarian monotheist prophet. This course will trace the figure of Abraham by a close and multidisciplinary reading of the Jewish, Pagan, Christian and Muslim sources on Abraham. Our task is not to decide on the historicity of Abraham, but rather to explore the history of the figure and his continuing relevance for today in understanding Jewish/Christian/Muslim conflict and cooperation. We will begin with an intensive reading of the Genesis material on Abraham (12-25), where the issues of idolatry and monotheism, the covenant and circumcision, relations of the patriarch to his women and sons, and primal model of faith all are articulated. We will then turn to later Jewish developments in the figure of Abraham in midrash and apocalypse. We will then explore the view of Abraham in the classical world, the uses made of Abraham by Christianity as it broke from an emerging Rabbinic Judaism and the development of Abraham’s specific connection with the view of the afterlife. We will then treat the figure of Abraham in the Qur’an and later Islamic traditions. We will conclude with an examination of the cult surrounding Abraham in the city of Hebron, a currently contested site on the West Bank where we will consider the current religious practice regarding Abraham by both Jews and Muslims. The purpose of this tutorial is to read closely a variety of primary religious texts and to explore the variety of tools available for the reading of those texts.
The Class: Format: tutorial; each student will write and present orally five 5- to 7-page essays every other week on the readings for the week; those not presenting an essay will be responsible for offering an oral critique of the work of their colleague.
Limit: 10
Expected: 10
Class#: 3974
Grading: OPG
Requirements/Evaluation: in addition to weekly requirements, students will write a final 7- to 10-page essay; evaluation will be based on written work and critiques
Extra Info: may not be taken on a pass/fail basis
Prerequisites: none; open to all
Distributions: Division II Writing Skills
Notes: meets Division 1 requirement if registration is under COMP; meets Division 2 requirement if registration is under REL or JWST
This course is cross-listed and the prefixes carry the following divisional credit:
COMP 272 Division I REL 270 Division II JWST 270 Division II
Attributes: JWST Elective Courses
REL Comparative Inquiry Courses

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