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Religion and Pluralism, Ancient & Modern

How did the ancient Romans view religious-political differences? How did ancient Jewish, Christian, and Muslim authorities use authoritative texts? What potential for pluralism exists in modern monotheisms and secularisms?

Tension between group solidarity and productive relations with ' others'  has been part of human history for as long as evidence exists. In Europe it has played out most enduringly in relations among the monotheistic religions: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Today, in the face of mass migration from Muslim regions, questions of political identity and belonging remain bound up with religious affiliation. This one-year degree programme focuses on relations between Jews, Christians and Muslims in the antique world and how these relations have formed our modern society. We will explore concepts as religious pluralism, politics, and their many interfaces globally in particular.

In this track within the Master's Programme in Theology & Religious Studies, you will:

* examine the literary sources of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam in a historically informed way in order to bring critical perspectives to modern interpretations;
* identify continuing issues in Jewish, Christian, and Islamic self-definition, toleration of difference, and exclusionary or conversionist tendencies;
* map a range of ancient possibilities for coexistence or conviviality and their opposites under changing conditions.

How did the Romans view religious-political differences? How did ancient Jewish, Christian, and Muslim authorities use authoritative texts? What potential for pluralism exists in modern monotheisms and secularisms?

Tension between group solidarity and productive relations with ' others'  has been part of human history for as long as evidence exists. In Europe it has played out most enduringly in relations among the monotheistic religions: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Today, in the face of mass migration from Muslim regions, questions of political identity and belonging remain bound up with religious affiliation. This one-year degree programme focuses on relations between Jews, Christians and Muslims in the antique world and how these relations have formed our modern society. We will explore concepts as religious pluralism, politics, and their many interfaces globally in particular.

In this track you will:

  • examine the literary sources of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam in a historically informed way in order to bring critical perspectives to modern interpretations;
  • identify continuing issues in Jewish, Christian, and Islamic self-definition, toleration of difference, and exclusionary or conversionist tendencies;
  • map a range of ancient possibilities for coexistence or conviviality and their opposites under changing conditions.

You have reason to think that the origins of things, particularly of the monotheistic religions, still matter for understanding them and their place in the world. You suspect that historical-contextual study might make possible insights not obvious from traditional narratives and claims. You have a curiosity about human experience that extends beyond your own time and place to worlds truly different—but still consequential for our times.

You have reason to think that the origins of things, particularly of the monotheistic religions, still matter for understanding them and their place in the world. You suspect that historical-contextual study might make possible insights not obvious from traditional narratives and claims. You have a curiosity about human experience that extends beyond your own time and place to worlds truly different—but still consequential for our times.

More about this programme
  • Master's Information Event Theology and Religious StudiesOude Boteringestraat 38More information
  • Testimonial of Professor Steve Mason

    Exploring the possibilities of tolerance

    Religious pluralism has never been a more timely theme. Religious interactions, especially among Christians, Jews, and Muslims have taken a central place in western societies. Pluralism is not merely plurality or variety, which is inevitable, but implies some sort of rationale or intention to accommodate plurality and toleration, if not actual acceptance of the Other. These issues can be explored in many ways, for example from political and social-scientific perspectives.

    The unique feature of this track is that it fuses these contemporary concerns with a substantial investigation of the ancient origins of the three traditions, their early interactions, and their mechanisms or rationales for toleration of otherness. An important dimension is the study of ancient social-political discourse, and the tolerance (or not) of Jews and Christians in the Graeco-Roman world. 

    I will lead the core seminar on Politics, Religion, and Pluralism from Alexander the Great to Theodosius II. This is an in-depth investigation of ancient social-political categories (e.g., ethnos, ancestral traditions, laws and customs, polis, sacrificial cults, philosophical schools, and voluntary associations), in which we consider the possibilities of tolerance, protectiveness, fear of others, expulsion of foreigners, and attraction to foreign ways. The course examines the general scene and also the place of Jewish-Judaean minority populations and Christian associations in that framework. You will have the opportunity to reflect in a sustained way on factors influencing community stances toward others, from a wide variety of angles. The alienness of the ancient world along with its importance for our traditions make it an ideal canvas for exploring the possibilities of human existence. Students who complete this programme will have a solid grounding in ancient religious pluralism as a foundation and reference point for addressing related modern phenomena.

     Central questions include these. What limits did the Hellenistic kingdoms and Roman Empire impose on diversity? What sorts of considerations led people to undertake the rigours of migration and resettlement in the ancient Mediterranean? What levels and kinds of cross-cultural interaction (in business, trade, cultural events) occurred in normal times? What happened practically in times of severe crisis? Who was in charge? What was the relationship between political rhetoric and lived reality concerning minority communities?

    I am a historian of the eastern Mediterranean under Hellenistic and Roman rule. My latest books are about inter-ethnic conflict (2016) and the categories of ancient social-political discourse or the mapping of ancient peoples (2017).

    Close
    – Professor Steve Mason
Facts & Figures
Degree
MA in Theology and Religious Studies
Croho code
60824
Course type
Master
Language of instruction
English (100%)
Duration
12 months (60 ECTS)
Start
SeptemberSeptember
Programme form
full-time
Faculty
Theology and Religious Studies