How did the Romans view religious-political differences? 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.
One of my interests in religions is how they help in the formation of identities
I chose the program at the University of Groningen for two reasons: The historical and social approach that the program has (other universities have a more theological approach), and the opportunity of studying the three monotheistic religions (other programs are focused on Christianity or Islam). Also, I like the courses on texts studies.
My master’s thesis is about the split between Jews and Samaritans. Both religious communities share several beliefs, texts, practices, origins, and yet they are not the same. I chose this topic because one of my interests in religions is how they help in the formation of identities. For my internship, I will work at a historical research agency concentrating on museum design and exhibitions. They are currently working on the exhibition at the Jewish Museum in Groningen, and I will help with research. I will be a comparative study on several Jewish museums based in synagogues and how the religious aspect of the building might influence its use for cultural activities.
I did my bachelor's in History at the Universidad Autonoma Metropolitana in Mexico City, and besides the cultural shock and the evident differences regarding the weather, living in Groningen has been a marvelous experience. The international environment in such a small city and its student essence makes studying at Groningen a great experience.
After graduation, I would like to do research and teach at a university. The field of Religious Studies in Mexico is far from being developed and accepted at the universities. I want to help this to change. Also, as a former worker at a Research and Documentary Center of the Jewish Community, which also organizes cultural events, I want to collaborate on the planning of courses and activities for promoting an inter-religious society.
I wanted to study the social aspects of religion
Previously, I studied Anthropology at the University of Lisbon (ISCSP) in Portugal and so I had come across pluralism before. Added to this, I knew that I wanted to study the social aspects of religion and find a course that looked at pluralism in history and debated it with reference to contemporary issues.
I have particularly enjoyed this mixture of historical and contemporary debate in the course. A huge amount of information is covered in the year-long course and I am presently working on my thesis before embarking upon my MA placement.
The Netherlands has proved to be a good context in which to study religion and pluralism. My thesis involves research with young people in the Groningen Feminist Network and the academic research tools taught at the University of Groningen have been very instructive to my research. Our studies have included looking at both gender and sexuality, which are topics that both feed into my thesis and are large parts of many current debates- the small size of classes and quality of the lecturers have also really contributed to my experience.
I hadn’t previously been to Groningen, and have been really happily surprised by the young spirit of the city. It’s the perfect combination of a small city where everything can be reached by foot or on bike whilst at the same time being full of life with a lot to explore. Overall, my experience has been extremely positive; both academically and for meeting people from lots of different countries and backgrounds. In the future I hope to work in education, and the MA here at the UG is setting me up well for this.
Unique perspective on historical-political issues and social inequality
I chose the Master's degree programme in Religion and Pluralism, Ancient and Modern because I saw it as a logical continuation of my Bachelor's programme in Theology in this Faculty, and the Philosophy of a specific discipline (Theology) in the Faculty of Philosophy. I was particularly excited by the part-historical, part-philosophical approach to substantive concepts such as 'religion'.
Every course unit has a specific focus (historical, conceptual, thematic) and at least half your mark is based on a final essay. You are free to choose your subject and I seized the opportunity with both hands, thoroughly enjoying writing essays on a wide range of subjects. Writing essays helps you to develop your organizational skills and discipline. If you know that planning isn’t your strongest point, don’t be afraid to say so. A bit of help from other people can go a long way!
It’s fascinating to merge various approaches and fields of interest in my Master’s thesis. That’s why I combined early Islam with my interest in philosophy and hermeneutics, and ended with the ninth-century Arabic scholar Al-Kindi. He was the one who introduced Aristotelian concepts into Islamic ideology.
The Master’s programme helps you develop a critical attitude and analytical skills. This gives you a unique perspective when it comes to historical-political issues and social inequality. If I can combine this with my placement field (a television company), I might soon find a job making documentaries. But I also have ambitions in politics, journalism and teaching.
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 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).
I teach the core seminar on Jews, Christians and Others: Pluralism and Politics in the Graeco-Roman World . 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?
If you do not have a bachelor's degree in either the Humanities or Behavioural and Social Sciences, you will first need to complete a pre-master's programme before you can enter this master's programme. There are several electives you can choose from. Below, you will find the complete programme.
1st semester (30 ECTS)
2nd semester (30 ECTS)
If you have followed minor courses in Theology or Religious Studies, it might be possible to follow a shorter pre-master's programme. Please contact our student advisors to see what the options are.
For the pre-master's programme, you will pay a so called compensation in stead of regular tuition fees. This compensation is the same for both EU and non-EU students.
If you are interested in a master's degree programme in religion, you might also consider one of our other master's programmes: