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Ancient, Medieval and Modern Judaism - 20 credits (RT2306)

Module Tutor: Dr Daniel King

Summary of course content

The module examines the key ideas and principles in the development and structure of Judaism during the past 2,000 plus years.  As the history of the Jewish religion is hardly separable from the history of the Jewish people, it also provides an overview of Jewish history generally, and a more detailed insight into the history of those periods which are considered of special significance for the development of religious ideas.  The emphasis, however, is on the intellectual and religious history of Judaism, the structure of Jewish religious thought, the ideas and events which have moulded and influenced it, and the challenges it has faced in ancient, medieval and modern times.

Credits: 20

Availability of module: Every year

Prerequisites: N/A

Necessary for: N/A


  1. Provide an opportunity to explore the history of Judaism and the Jewish people, especially to examine what lies at the heart of varying visions of Judaism and to consider what ‘Judaism’ might mean within very different contexts and situations.
  2. Nurture the critical methodologies and skills necessary to analyse and evaluate a wide variety of sources which bear witness to these varying visions of Judaism, to allow such sources to speak for themselves and to be considered independently of the success or otherwise in shaping modern visions of Judaism.
  3. Provide a foundation for intelligent reflection on the key questions facing the Jewish people in the present and on the relation between Judaism and other religions and cultures in the contemporary world.

Learning outcomes

  1. Describe and critically expound the key ideas of a range of ‘Judaistic world-views’, with due consideration of their historical context and their continuity and development.
  2. Critically compare rival views of Judaism and ‘Judaistic world-views’ and evaluate them.
  3. Come to a reasoned position on the question, ‘what is Judaism?’ and feel able to allow insights thus gained to have a positive influence on their own future career.
  4. Present findings and arguments in a clear and logical manner appropriate to the academic standards prevailing in the scholarly study of the subject.

Teaching methods

Lectures and Seminars


Examination (75%); Coursework and Presentation (25%)

Suggested book purchases

P. S. Alexander, Textual Sources for the Study of Judaism (Univ. Chicago Press,1984)
D. Cohn-Sherbok, Judaism (London, 1998)

Suggested preparatory reading

D. Cohn-Sherbok, Judaism: History, Belief and Practice (London 2003)