Fall 2022

Personal Religion

Listed in: Religion, as RELI-125


Susan Niditch (Section 01)


In contemporary discussions about the role of religion in the lives of individuals we often hear questions such as the following: Does God hear me when I call out in trouble? Why do bad things happen to good people? How do I define myself as a believer? What is the role of prayer? Do I have a personal relationship with a divine being, apart from the institutional religion? What roles do material objects, personal images, and private practices play within my religious life? This course will suggest that questions such as these are entirely relevant to the study of early Judaism, especially in the late biblical period, a time when the preserved literature and the evidence of material culture place great emphasis on the individual’s spiritual journey. This course introduces students to ways of thinking about personal religion and applies that theoretical framework to the study of a variety of sources in the Bible and beyond. Topics include the Book of Job, the confessional literature of the prophets, psalms of personal lament, visionary experiences, vow-making, incantations, ancient graffiti, and memoirs written in the first person. This course has no prerequisites and provides students with the methodological and historical background to appreciate this interesting corpus, its social context, and its composers.

Fall Semester. Professor Niditch.

How to handle overenrollment: null

Students who enroll in this course will likely encounter and be expected to engage in the following intellectual skills, modes of learning, and assessment: Students are expected to gain facility both in the reading of ancient biblical literature in translation and in the analysis of scholarly articles that explore the writings in their social and historical contexts. They are also invited to juxtapose their increasing knowledge of personal religion among ancient Israelites with contemporary examples and relevant aspects of their own life experience. The course requires frequent brief essays and in-class work in groups.

RELI 125 - LEC

Section 01
M 12:30 PM - 1:50 PM CONV 108
W 12:30 PM - 1:50 PM CONV 108

ISBN Title Publisher Author(s) Comment Book Store Price
In the Shadow of Empire: Israel and Judah in the Long Sixth Century Bce Society of Biblical Literature (October 15, 2021) Barmash, P. and Hamilton M. W. (eds) Required Amherst Books TBD
Religion and the Self in Antiquity Indiana University Press (November 18, 2005) Brakke, D., Satlow, M., Weitzman, S., eds. Required. Also available as e-reserve. Amherst Books TBD
The Oxford History of the Biblical World Oxford University Press (June 7, 2001) Coogan, M.D., ed. Required Amherst Books TBD
Biblical Prose Prayer Univ of California Press; First Edition (December 1, 1983) Greenberg, M. Required Amherst Books TBD
Mans’s Search for Meaning Beacon Press; 1st edition (June 1, 2006) Frankl, V.E. Required Amherst Books TBD
Life in Biblical Israel Westminster John Knox Press; 1st edition (January 16, 2002) King, P.J. and Stager, L.E. Required Amherst Books TBD
Lived Religion: Faith and Practice in Everyday Life Oxford University Press; 1st edition (August 22, 2008) McGuire, M.B. Required. Also available on e-Reserves Amherst Books TBD
Ancient Israelite Religion Oxford University Press; Reprint edition (April 23, 1998) Niditch, S. Required Amherst Books TBD
Religious Diversity in Ancient Israel and Judah T&T Clark; 1st edition (April 15, 2010) Stavrakopoulou, F. and Barton, J., eds. Required Amherst Books TBD
NRSV Bible (New Revised Standard Edition) HarperOne; Updated edition (August 22, 2006) Attridge , H.W. ed. Required Amherst Books TBD

These books are available locally at Amherst Books.


2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2022