Roman, Jew, and Christian

Roman, Jew, and Christian

CLAS3375 - RELS4360


Course Schedule

Introduction to Roman, Jew, and Christian


The first century A. D. was a time of significant transformation for the Roman Empire, for adherents to the Jewish religion everywhere around the Mediterranean world, and for the earliest Christian communities.

This class will focus on the administrative framework of the Eastern Roman Empire as a way of understanding how religious, social, political, and historical differences conditioned the interactions between the Romans, their Jewish subjects, and the emergent Jesus movement.

Central to Roman and Jewish interactions is the problem of imperial power. How did the Jews adapt to Roman domination, following upon centuries of interaction with other empires? What demands did Roman power make upon the Jews, and how was this power visible in the region? What elements of conflict led to the great Jewish Rebellion of 66-70 CE, and was this rebellion inevitable? Lastly, what role did the Rebellion and destruction of the Temple play in forcing change on Judaism and encouraging religious transformations in early Christianity?


Week 1: Terms, Definitions, and the Geographical Framework

Complete Week 1 Assignments

We begin by specifying what we mean in antiquity by terms such as religion, cult, ritual, temple, etc. We’ll also take a snapshot of the geography of the Roman Empire in the reign of Augustus, in order to frame the geopolitical situation for the topics of this course. Everything we talk about this week will be threaded through the rest of the course, so learn the basic terms well!

Week 2: Roman Religion: Basic Aspects

Complete Week 2 Assignments

Roman religion evolved and expanded over centuries. Its evolution mirrors in many ways Rome’s gradual transition from an agrarian city-state to an expansive Mediterranean empire. We begin by looking at some of the more ancient aspects of Roman religion, which remained constant into the period of the Principate. Basic things like the calendar, the priesthoods, the most ancient festivals will gives us a sense of what the core of Roman piety was.

Week 3: Roman Religion: Imperial Aspects

Complete Week 3 Assignments

Though in origin a city state with a pronounced agrarian character, Rome grew over several centuries into an imperial power with strong military traditions. How did this change the nature of Roman religion? How did the Romans create a kind of “theology of victory” after centuries of conflict? Lastly, how did the shift from republic to principate change the basis of religion generally?

Week 4: The Age of Augustus

Complete Week 4 Assignments 

This week we’ll explore the various ways in which the first emperor, Caesar Augustus, used religion to transform Roman society during his long reign (27 BCE – 14 CE).

Question Sheet #1 Due Monday 2/10/2014, 11:50pm.

Week 5: Israel, Judah, and Judea: Who are the Jews?

Complete Week 5 Assignments

This week we take a look at what defines Judaism and the Jews, particularly in the Second Temple period.

Week 6: Herod the Great and his Dynasty

Complete Week 6 Assignments

Here the focus is on the “client king” Herod the Great, whose dynasty was installed by Rome to rule over subjects in Judea and surrounding areas. We will discuss particularly his development of infrastructure and the rebuilding of the Temple complex in Jerusalem.

Week 7: Judea and Roman Rule

Complete Week 7 Assignments

This week we will exam particular flash points in the relations between the people of Judea and their Roman overlords, with a look at very particular events.  One familiar character will be Pontius Pilate.

Week 8: Sectarianism in the Second Temple Period

Complete Week 8 Assignments

We discuss the various factions that existed during this period among the Jews themselves, such as the Sadducees, Pharisees, Essenes, and Zealots.

Week 9: Spring Break: NO CLASS



Question Sheet #2 Due Monday 3/17/2014 11:50pm.

Week 10: Jesus in the Context of Roman Rule

Complete Week 10 Assignments

This week we talk about the “historical Jesus,” looking at Horsely’s analysis of the political situation in which his ministry occurred.

Week 11: The First Jewish Rebellion: 66-70 CE

Complete Week 11 Assignments

We now trace the outbreak, development and bitter end of the Rebellion of 66-70 CE, which culminates in the destruction of the Temple and the city of Jerusalem. It also is directly linked to the emergence of a new dynasty, the Flavians, who were the commanders during the Rebellion.

Week 12: The Consequences of the First Jewish Rebellion

Complete Week 12 Assignments

The destruction of the Temple had profound consequences for Jews and the emergent Jesus movement. This week we will discuss how 70 CE is a watershed in the development of both religions.

Week 13: The Early Phase of the Jesus Movement

Complete Week 13 Assignments

Here we take a new look at the earliest documents of the Jesus Movement, and what they can tell us about the origins of Christianity in terms of its sociological and political position in the Empire.

Question Sheet #3 Due Friday 11:50pm.

Week 14: Dissension and Persecution

Complete Week 14 Assignments

We see now how growing tensions between the Jesus movement and the Jewish communities begin to define a new attitude towards Judaism’s place within the new religion.  We also see how the emergent Christian culture responds to persecution from Roman authority.

Week 15: Christian Self-Definition in the Imperial Context

Complete Week 15 Assignments

We end with a look at how the Christians came to see themselves within the Roman Empire, and how an apologetic culture emerged in the 2nd century CE.

Final Examination

Tuesday May 6, 2-5pm



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If you didn’t get the Second Question sheet in class, you can get it here.

We’ll resume the weekly quizzes shortly.  In the meantime, get to writing and remember: 400 words minimum on EACH question!

Don’t forget that Dr. Zecher has written a blog post on Fun with Roman Geography. Read it and explore!


Blogos: Tips for Success

Roman, Jew, and Christian

The Nitty Gritty

GradingLocationDownloadsInstructorsOther Stuff

Written Work (70%)

Participation (10%)

Final Exam (20%)

Warning: Absences are extremely inadvisable in this class! 3 unexcused absences are grounds to be dropped from the course.

All written work must be submitted to to count as valid.

Course ID: 11486780

Password: incense

This course meets in GAR 118, Tuesdays and Thursdays 1-2:30pm.

Please note that Dr. Armstrong’s main office is in the Honors College, L205B. He is available for office hours MW 2:30-3:30 and by appointment.

Dr. Zecher’s office is in Moody Gardens.

Prezis for Review
Question Sheets and Guides
Richard H. Armstrong
Associate Professor of Classical Studies, Department of Modern & Classical Languages and the Honors College.
Office: L212G
telephone: 713-743-3306

Professor Armstrong works on the reception of ancient culture and translation studies. He is particularly interested in forms of symbolic and real violence in the cultural clashes of antiquity.

Jonathan Zecher
Visiting Assistant Professor in the Honors College and Lecturer, Department of Modern & Classical Languages.
Office: CPH 268

Jonathan L. Zecher  works in early Christianity, focusing especially on ascetic engagements with death and the intersection of tradition and originality in Byzantium.

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Students with Disabilities

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