DLM110: Adventures in Monotheism


This course is part of the first year DLM sequence. A major component of the course is the teaching of effective written and oral communication. The course explores the traditions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam as they have developed individually and in relation to each other. Particular emphasis will be placed on the manner in which they have influence each other and how they have shaped Western civilization.


  • Proficiency in writing, primarily in the expository form
  • Practice in oral communication
  • Basic knowledge of the history, beliefs, and practices Judaism, Christianity, and Islam


The following materials are required reading for the course.  Texts are available in the bookstore.
  • Richard Fletcher, Moorish Spain (University of California, 2005)
  • Jacob Neusner, ed., Religious Foundations of Western Civilization: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam (Abingdon, 2005)
**Other electronic sources, reserve materials, and biblical and Qur’anic passages; you will be responsible for procuring a bible and a Qur’an.


Participation and attendance: My basic assumption is that we are mutually dedicated to the common cause of education conceived as the advancement of critical thinking. Because of this basic assumption, I assume that you will come to class prepared and ready to participate in class discussion.  This means, first, that you will have completed assigned readings prior to the class meeting. (Many of the readings are difficult and I do not expect you to understand them completely; I do, however, expect you to engage the material seriously and to ask about anything you do not understand.) Second, I expect that you will be ready and willing to discuss the material, i.e., to raise questions, criticisms, thoughts, etc. Class participation is worth 50 points toward your final grade. I also assume that you will be in attendance and on time to all class sessions, barring unforeseen circumstances. Each unexcused absence will result in subtraction of 5 points from your final general participation grade.
 Writing assignments: You will complete two expository writing assignments. Writing assignments will incorporate paper conferences, peer review sessions, and rough drafts; each component will be graded. The writing assignments will be worth 150 points each.
Weekly forums: You will participate in weekly discussion forums through the Moodle page. Forum participation is worth 50 points toward your final grade.


A total of 500 points is possible for the class.  The point breakdown is as follows: class participation = 50 points; writing assignments = 300 points (150 points each); weekly forums = 50 points (10 points each) The grading scale is as follows:
 370-400 points: A
360-369 points: A-
350-359 points: B+
330-349 points: B
320-329 points: B-
310-319 points: C+
290-309 points: C
280-289 points: C-
240-279 points: D
 Below 240 points: U
A NOTE ABOUT GRADING: A grade is an assessment of your effort and your abilities; therefore, simply fulfilling the course requirements does not constitute an A!  Exceptional work will warrant an A; good work will win you a B; adequate work will get you a C; below adequate work gets you a D; a final grade of U means that your work has been unsatisfactory.  (A word of warning: I am a difficult, but fair grader, and I am always willing to discuss a grade with a student.)


With regard to academic honesty, the Centre College Student Handbook states:
A high standard of academic honesty is expected of students in all phases of academic work and college life. Academic dishonesty in any form is a fundamental offense against the integrity of the entire academic community and is always a threat to the standards of the College and to the standing of every student. In taking tests and examinations, doing homework or laboratory work, and writing papers, students are expected to perform with honor. In written and oral work for college courses, students will be held responsible for knowing the difference between proper and improper use of source materials. The improper use of source materials is plagiarism and, along with other breaches of academic integrity, is subject to disciplinary action. . . . If the instructor has a concern about a student’s academic honesty, the Associate Dean of the College must be notified (Academic Honesty/Dishonesty).


Origins and Beginnings

10/12: Introduction
10/13: Scripture and interpretation
  • Paul Ricoeur, “Writing as a Problem for Literary Criticism and Philosophical Hermeneutics”
10/14: The Jewish Abraham
  • Genesis 12: 1-9
  • Genesis 15-18
  • Genesis 21-22
  • Genesis 25:1-6
10/15: The Christian Abraham
  • Gospel of Matthew, chapt. 1
  • Romans, chapts. 2-6
  • Hebrews, chapt. 3
  • Hebrews, chapts. 8-12
10/16: The Muslim Abraham
  • Qur’an 2: 84-142
  • Qur’an 6: 73-93
  • Qur’an 37: 82-122
 10/19: Paper discussion
10/20: Abrahamic Religions?
  • Aaron Hughes, “Abrahamic Religions: A Genealogy”
10/21: Film, “Children of Abraham”
10/22: Film, “The Story of the Jews,” episode 1

The Religions: On Their Own and In Relation

10/23: Telling the story of the Jewish people – Exile and return
  • Neusner, pp. 27-37
  • Exodus, chapts. 1-3, 32-35
  • Joshua, chapts. 1-6
10/26: Living the story of the Jewish people – Ethical monotheism
  • Neusner, pp. 37-52
10/27: Retelling the story of the Jewish people – Emancipation and Zionism
  • Neusner, pp. 485-90, 375-89 (Please read in this order)
  • Count Clermont-Tonnerre, “Speech to the French National Assembly, 1789”
  • Proclamation of the Grand Sanhedrin
  • “Pittsburg Platform”
  • Theodore Hertzl, “On the Jewish State”
  • “The Balfour Declaration”
10/28: Film, “The History of Christianity’s First 1000 Years”
10/29: Defining Christianity – the emergence orthodoxy
  • Neusner, pp. 78-90
  • Nicene Creed
  • Chalcedonian Creed
  • Augustine, “On Nature and Grace” chapts. 1-5
  • Sacraments–United States Conferens of Catholic Bishops
10/30: Defining Christian Community – the conversion of Constantine
  • Tertullian, “On Idolatry” chapts. 18-19
  • Eusebius, “In Praise of the Emperor Constantine” Prologue, chapts. 1-2
  • Gelasius I, “On Spiritual and Temporal Power”
  • Martin Luther, “Concerning Christian Liberty”
11/2: Redefining Christianity – Reformation and Westphalian Settlement
  • Neusner, pp. 444-62
11/3: Film: Paradise Found
11/4: The return to the religion of Abraham – Islam
  • Neusner, pp. 105-16, 119-23
  • Suras 1 and 47
  • Muhammad’s Last Sermon
11/5: Living the religion of Abraham – the 5 pillars and the shari’ah
  • Neusner, pp. 116-19, 195-208
11/6: Returning to the religion of Abraham – revivalism or reform
  • Neusner, pp. 409-19, 530-48
  • Sayyid Qutb, “Milestones,” Introduction

Encounters, Good and Bad: Medieval Spain

11/9: Medieval Spain: The arrival of Islam
  • Neusner, pp. 305-10
  • Fletcher, pp. 15-32
11/10: The caliphate
  • Fletcher, pp. 52-78
11/11: The taifas
  • Neusner, pp. 310-22
  • Fletcher, pp. 79-103
 11/12: Reconquest
  • Fletcher, pp. 105-30
11/13: Convivencia
  • Fletcher, pp. 131-56
11/16: Christianity in power
  • Neusner, pp. 322-37
  • Fletcher, pp. 157-69
11/17: Inquisition and expulsion
  • Neusner, pp. 337-47
  • Fletcher, pp. 171-75
11/18: Conclusion