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Part IIB (third year)

Part IIB (third year)

Paper Choices 

Currently, students can offer the following combinations of papers:

two papers from group C, an option from paper D1, and another option from D2, or

three papers from groups C, and one option from a D paper.

They may also offer a dissertation in the place of a Group D paper.

There is also the possibility of offering an additional language paper.

Please consult the University Ordinances to check the combination of papers which can be offered. 


Paper C1a - Advanced Hebrew

Paper coordinator: Dr James Aitken.

Assessment method: Examination

This paper is concerned with a selection of texts, and is designed (apart from their intrinsic interest) to introduce students to the special features of poetic Hebrew (parallelism, grammatical features, imagery) and also to text-critical and lexicographical problems of Hebrew generally. Throughout the course lectures and private study are expected to be supplemented by fortnightly supervision work on translation from English into Hebrew, which will be tested in the examination. The lectures will focus mainly on linguistic aspects of the texts, but their theological and literary aspects will be explored in two or three essays which students will write in the course of the year.


Paper C1b - Advanced New Testament Greek

Paper coordinator: Dr Jonathan Linebaugh.

Assessment method: Examination

This paper will allow students to extend their understanding of Hellenistic Greek and also to study in detail particular texts that extend students’ familiarity with the New Testament. Students will develop skills in questions of textual criticism, language, historical background, exegesis, and theology, particularly as these are encountered through the exercise of translation. In addition to working with prescribed texts students will also develop skills in translating unseen passages which may be taken from the New Testament, other early Christian literature of similar date, or the Greek Bible.

In addition to the translation classes, four lectures on New Testament Textual Criticism will normally be offered.

The Part IIA set texts paper will normally be a pre‐requisite, but students who have taken our Part I Greek paper (or its equivalent) to a high standard will be considered.

Paper C1c - Advanced Sanskrit

Paper Coordinator: Dr Eivind Kahrs

Assessment method: Examination


Paper C1d - Advanced Qur'anic Arabic

Paper Coordinator: Dr Tony Street

Assessment method: Examination

This paper aims to build on the knowledge acquired by students who have taken Paper B1D. In addition to a representative selection of Qur’anic texts, candidates will study portions from two Qur’anic commentaries, and from several advanced texts of Islamic theology, philosophy and law.

Paper C2 - Creation and Covenant

Paper coordinator: Dr Katharine Dell.

Assessment method: Examination

Creation and covenant are two major theological themes of the Hebrew Bible, found in texts either individually or in close interaction with each other. It has been recognised in recent years that while covenant remains such a key issue in the biblical narratives, an equally important place is given to creation, and the relationship between the two has been productive in discussions of ‘Biblical theology’, both from a Jewish and a Christian perspective. This course seeks to examine these themes, and to chart changing ideas across differing social and historical contexts as represented in the Israelite material, including interaction with the creation myths of the ancient Near East. From this the paper will examine the development in scholarly perceptions of these themes, how they have evolved over time, and how far it is possible, or desirable, to explore biblical theology from either a Jewish or a Christian perspective.


Paper C3 - New Testament Christology

Paper coordinator: Dr Andrew Chester.

Assessment method: Examination

The paper will involve detailed investigation of main themes and issues involved in the study of Christology within the New Testament. The main topics that will be dealt with are: Problems and Issues involved in New Testament Christology; Questions concerning Jesus as Prophet, Son of Man, and Messiah; Messianic Hope in relation to Christology; Resurrection and the Beginnings of Christology; The Scope and Significance of Christological Titles; Wisdom, Logos and Pre-existence; Angelology and Angelomorphic Christology; Visionary Traditions and Christology; The Use of Scripture in relation to Christ; The Worship of Christ; Christology and Jewish Monotheism; Christology in John, Hebrews and Revelation; Political Significance of Christology.


Paper C6 - Disputed Questions in the Christian Tradition

Paper coordinator: Dr Philip McCosker.

Assessment method: Examination

The paper will examine theological problems arising within 'classical' Christian theology, in the context of the doctrines of God and the Trinity, Christology, soteriology and sanctification, and faith and rationality.  In each section of the paper, we will examine primary texts discussing aspects of the doctrines in question, comparing and assessing their various forms, alongside modern critiques of those doctrines. 


Paper C8 - Judaism II

Paper coordinator: Dr Daniel Weiss

Assessment method: Examination

A. The Ethics, Theology, and Scriptural Hermeneutics of Classical Rabbinic Literature.

This topic provides an introduction to the basic literary genres of classical rabbinic Judaism, including Midrash, Mishnah, and Talmud. Full of legal disputes, humor, and creative biblical interpretations, these texts have shaped Jewish imagination and modes of reasoning through the centuries. The chief focus will be close readings of primary texts (in English translation), alongside relevant secondary literature, in order to develop a sense of how these texts ‘work’ and to draw out their distinctive ethical, theological, and pedagogical features.

B. Jewish Law: Historical Development and Modern Dilemmas.

This topic studies the place of halakhah (law) in modern Judaism. It begins by exploring the history of the codification of the laws, and how their implementation has been influenced by the realities of Jewish life under non-Jewish rule. It then examines the different ways that the various religious denominations (such as Reform and Orthodox Judaism) have defined the place of halakhah in Judaism, and how they have dealt with specific questions. There will be a focus on important contemporary issues such as bio-medical, sexual and business ethics, and gender issues.


Paper C9 - Islam II

Paper coordinator: Dr Tony Street.

Assessment method: Examination

The course investigates two principal areas of medieval Muslim intellectuality and spirituality, relating these, where appropriate, to cognate developments and debates in Christian and Jewish thought, and with occasional references to contemporary developments. The course aims to introduce students to the contemporary study of Islamic philosophy, and the major methods used in that study. It examines these methods as they are deployed to deal with the writings of Kindi (d. c. 870), Alfarabi (d. 950) and Avicenna (d. 1037). It goes on to examine how the theologian Gazali (d. 1111), reacted to the various philosophical systems. It concludes by examining major Sufi thinkers, including Ibn `Arabi and Rumi, and the sources on which they draw.


Paper C10 - Hinduism and Buddhism II

Paper coordinator: Dr Ankur Barua.

Assessment method: Examination

This course inquires with some detail into specified topics in Hinduism and Buddhism. It is not necessary to have done the Introductory course earlier, but, of course, this would be of help. The specified topics are mentioned separately (below) under headings for each of these traditions. As religio-cultural traditions of great antiquity and richness (over two and a half millennia in each case) which, on the one hand, have interacted in important ways, but on the other, have developed for most of their history more or less independently of the Abrahamic traditions, Hinduism and Buddhism have a great deal to offer in the exploration of what it is to be human in all the fundamental areas of human living. They have basic religious, philosophical and ethical insights and presuppositions which are not only mutually challenging, but which also interrogate many of the basic presuppositions of the Abrahamic faiths. As such, they are richly rewarding of careful study, especially on such topics as the scope and use of language in constructing and understanding our systems of reality, the nature of human suffering, compassion and fulfilment, and the goal of the ethics of the individual and community.


Paper C11 –God, metaphysics and the modern challenge

Paper coordinator: Professor Sarah Coakley.

Assessment method: Examination

This paper studies the major problems of (religious) metaphysics that have been handed down to contemporary philosophy of religion from the Enlightenment period. Taking Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason as its starting point, it first provides a close, critical examination of Kant’s own reworking of the notions of ‘God’ and ‘soul’, and of his rejection of the classical arguments for God’s existence. It then provides a systematic account of the major responses to, or evasions of, Kant’s challenge in the 20th and 21st centuries amongst those philosophers of religion who have sought either to repristinate theological metaphysics, or to give philosophical credence to God-talk by means of other, ‘post-metaphysical’, strategies of defence. Once this map of current philosophical alternatives is outlined, the lectures turn to re-examine four classic problems of theological metaphysics in the light of them:  ‘natural theology’ and its current possibilities; the problem of evil; the soul and immortality; and God and time.


Paper C12 - Theology and the Natural Sciences: God and Creatures

Paper coordinator: Dr Andrew Davison.

Assessment method: Examination

This paper covers a focused range topics in the overlap of theology and natural sciences, with an emphasis on the nature of creaturely existence. It will consider accounts of ‘creaturehood’ from the perspectives of the biological sciences and from theological traditions, with attention to areas of agreement and disagreement, and the shape of potential dialogue. The emphasis will be on Christian theology, although consideration will also be given to the debate between theology and natural sciences in other theological traditions.


Paper D1b - New Testament Special Subject - Jesus and Paul in the Second Century

Paper coordinator: Dr James Carleton Paget.

Assessment method: Two essays of 5,000 words each

The paper will examine the reception of traditions relating to Jesus and to Paul in early Christian writings of the second century.  Students will be introduced to a range of early Christian writings without reference to subsequent categories of ‘orthodox’ and ‘heretical’, and to the variety of ways in which Jesus and Paul are presented or used (or ‘received’). By discovering the variety of forms of reception, whether based on subsequently canonical texts or independent traditions, students will be encouraged to recognise how different factors and contexts influence any reception, and also to reflect on the influence of this period on the later reception of Jesus and Paul. The paper will familiarise students with the current emphasis on diversity as a primary characteristic of the period with particular reference to these topics. Although students will not be required to have taken papers on Jesus and the Gospels (A3) or on Paul (B4), this paper complements those in that it illustrates that contemporary approaches and reconstructions of Jesus and Paul, and of the literary traditions used for these purposes, do not reflect the variety of concerns current in the early church.


Paper D1c - Political theology

Paper coordinator: Dr Elizabeth Phillips.

Assessment method: Two essays of 5,000 words each

This paper explores approaches to political theology arising from within Christian theology. ‘Christian political theology’ describes an area of tradition and contemporary discourse that seeks to establish and refine the relationship of theological and political thinking and practice.  This set of enquiries is necessarily grounded in key doctrinal questions of Christology, creation, theological anthropology and eschatology, which offer implications for how to understand human society. These implications are worked through in specific constructive responses to contemporary global issues such as religious violence, social exclusion, human rights, and intercultural encounters.


Paper D1d - The Doctrine of God: Love and Desire

Paper coordinator: Dr Andrew Davison.

Assessment method: Two essays of 5,000 words each

This seminar-based paper is concerned with the Christian doctrine of God, focusing on ‘love and desire’.  By means of primary readings taken for the most part from the patristic to the Renaissance period we will consider the love of God (both human love of God and divine love for the world), love of neighbour and love of self.  The four main topics under consideration will be Love of God, Marriage, Friendship, and Love and Justice. The first pair of seminars will consider the theme of Love of God.  The order of the further topics will be announced at the beginning of term.

Students will enjoy considerable freedom in their essays to bring current critical theory to apply to these classic texts and considerations.


Paper D1e - Philosophy in the Long Middle Ages

The course is taught within the Faculty of Philosophy

This paper covers philosophy in the period from c. 400 to c. 1700, in the Latin, Arabic and Hebrew traditions. All texts are studied in translation. 


Paper D1f - Jews, Christians and Muslims before and after Muhammad 

Paper coordinator: Professor Garth Fowden.

Assessment method: Examination

Judaism, Christianity and Islam – the three scriptural monotheisms – are usually taught separately. Here they are intertwined within a historical frame, broadly the First Millennium CE from Augustus to Avicenna. The course pivots more specifically around the Qur’an, which emerged in Arabia on the peripheries of the two ‘world-empires’ of Iran and Rome, and variously refracts rabbinic Judaism and patristic – especially Syriac – Christianity. These pre-Islamic imperial and religious contexts, and contacts between them, are examined in the first part of the course. Particular attention is given to how the formation and exegesis of scriptural canons helped define the major religious communities and identities – both before and after Muhammad. The latter part of the course concentrates on the interaction of these communities, especially their scholars, under the Caliphate and beyond, along the Silk Road. Particular attention is given to Abbasid Baghdad in the ninth and tenth centuries, and to the theological and philosophical debates that flourished there, distilling much of what was most historically and intellectually significant in the First Millennium.

Paper D1g - Self and Salvation in Indian and Western Thought

Paper coordinator: Dr Douglas Hedley

Assessment method: Two essays of 5,000 words each

This is a broad-brush paper, which treats of the theme of "selfhood" and "salvation". These are western terms, of course, aligned for alliterative effect, but the aim is to focus on the condition of self-consciousness and its fulfillment in a comparative context. "Self-consciousness" need not refer (only) to human personhood, as we shall see, nor "salvation" to (ultimate) communion with a personal God. This will come out more clearly in the course's comparative context of Indian (viz. Hindu and Buddhist) and western (i.e. western Christian and secular) thought. Thus "self" and "salvation" in more attenuated senses, e.g. those of Plato, Plotinus, Hegel, the Buddhists and the Samkhyas, will also be considered.

It is a defining mark of human beings that they are self-aware, capable of reflecting on existence, the world, and human fulfillment, particularly in a religious context. This course is meant to give a leading insight, from the point of view of philosophy and the history of ideas, into the human exploration of this process, in a western and Indian context.

The comparative method of the course in the increasingly global framework of our lives is meant to be a particularly advantageous component educationally.


Paper D2a - A Topic in the History of Christianity – Councils in Context

Paper coordinator: Dr Thomas Graumann

Assessment method: Two essays of 5,000 words each

The course will address questions such as the conduct of discussion and methods of decision making at synods, their theological achievements, questions of standing and authority of councils, the mirroring of social reality and the formation of church organisation in disciplinary rulings. The paper will introduce students to the texts produced by, or relating to, these councils. It will be based largely on primary sources and intends to teach skills and methods of source analysis and interpretation, as well as discussing questions and topics prominent in recent scholarship. This focus and style requires examination by long essay to allow the source-based and in-depth analysis of exemplary conciliar contexts.


Paper D2b - Religious Experience: Mesmerism, Spiritualism and Psychical Research.

Paper coordinator: Dr Timothy Jenkins.

Assessment method: Two essays of 5,000 words each

This seminar-based paper is concerned with the history of Mesmerism, Spiritualism and Psychical Research as a way of investigating the topic of ‘religious experience’. We will draw on a range of primary documents – advocacy, reports and theories by practitioners and investigators – as well as considering a range of recent studies by social historians and social scientists on these topics. In their essays, students will be encouraged to evaluate the nature of the evidence, to ask whether contemporary and more recent scholarship accounts well for this evidence, and also to take into account the appearances of such materials in novels, short stories and films as evidence of the context of reception of these ideas.


Paper D2c - Judaism and Western Philosophy

Paper coordinator: Dr Daniel Weiss.

Assessment method: Two essays of 5,000 words each

This paper will explore ways in which the ideas of modern thinkers were shaped by their attempts to navigate between ‘Judaism’ and ‘philosophy,’ looking at ways in which their engagement with philosophy reshaped their understanding of Judaism, as well as ways in which their engagement with Jewish tradition reshaped their understanding of philosophy. Thus, while the thinkers that we will examine draw upon and respond to the mainstream tradition of Western philosophy (from Aristotle and Plato to Kant, Hegel, and Heidegger), we will also consider the extent to which their thought was simultaneously refracted through the lens of Jewish theological and sociological particularity. We will pay particular attention to ways in which the textual tradition of Judaism (in particular, the Hebrew Bible and classical rabbinic literature) might later have proved challenging for thinkers seeking to engage the method and presuppositions of philosophy.

While focusing on Jewish thinkers, we will also examine ways in which tensions between modern philosophy, on one hand, and Judaism and Jewish particularity, on the other, might also be linked to modernity’s critique of religious claims and religious particularity more broadly.  As such, the ways in which Jewish philosophers respond to the challenge of modernity may also shed light on attempts by thinkers in other religious traditions to do so as well.


Paper D2d - Judaism and Hellenism

Paper coordinator: Dr James Carleton Paget.

Assessment method: Two essays of 5,000 words each

The issue of how Jewish identity was formed in contact with Hellenistic tradition will be studied in relation to the literature, history and religion of the period. Attention will be given to the development of biblical tradition in the setting of Greek and Roman culture, utilising where appropriate pagan and Christian sources as well as Jewish. There will also be consideration of historical sources and archaeological evidence for the interaction of Jews with their surrounding cultures, and the problems of defining and delineating identity will be discussed.

The period begins with the translation of the Hebrew Bible into Greek and continues beyond the composition and compilation of the Mishnah in Hebrew, a time in which Jews negotiated with, adopted or reacted against Hellenism. The paper takes up some texts and themes encountered in other papers on the Old Testament, New Testament, ancient history, the early church, and Judaism; but it draws special attention to the interaction of Judaism and Hellenism. Some basic knowledge of Hebrew or Greek is helpful, but not required.


Paper D2f - Topics in Christian ethics

Paper coordinator: Dr Michael Banner.

Assessment method: Two essays of 5,000 words each

The seminar-based paper will consider the debates about the nature of Christian ethics and moral theology in the modern period, and will test conceptions of Christian ethics through a close engagement with questions raised in contemporary bioethics to do especially with conception, reproduction, birth and the formation of families. It will require attention to issues of methodology in their own right, but also to the nature and possibility of the contribution of Christian moral thought to debates in the current social context.


Paper D2g - Imagination

Paper coordinator: Dr Douglas Hedley.

Assessment method: Two essays of 5,000 words each

The aim of this paper is to explore the links between aesthetics, imagination and religion. In doing so, this paper will explore the return to image and the ‘iconic’ or ‘pictorial turn’ in thinkers like Hans Belting or W.G.T. Mitchell. Such writers are frequently drawing upon the Romantic interest in the imagined ‘image’ and post-structural critiques of the metaphysical ‘gaze’. The paper will also explore the idea of seeing an invisible God and the idea of image implicit in the Platonic conceptions of participation or likeness. This is a strand of thought which influenced Islam and Jewish traditions as well as Christian. We shall also consider and contrast this with the Indic aesthetic tradition and the atheistic theories of aesthetic value which become prominent in the 19th and 20th centuries. Historically art and religion have often been closely linked. Many of the objects which one can observe in museums were originally in Temples or Churches. Sometimes the relationship between art and religion has been conflictual, even violent. An integral element in this deep but ambivalent relationship is clearly the role of the imagination.

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