REDI4002 – Sacred Scriptures and their Complex Receptions

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Course content

Sacred texts are key points of reference for individuals and communities within several religions and cultures. Such scriptures have been blamed for causing discrimination and global problems, but also valued for their potential role as part of the solution for future development. These texts and their receptions throughout history represent huge variety and diversity. This course provides an overview of sacred scriptures in a broad perspective and offers critical knowledge, skills and attitudes towards sacred texts within Judaism, Christianity and Islam - from historical and contemporary perspectives.


In religious and cultural contexts, these texts are still perceived as normative or canonical, with different degrees of authority. Establishing and using a canon involves discussion, disagreement and power struggle. These texts come from historical contexts that are very different from those we know today. Knowledge about these different contexts helps us understand the continuous meaning production, and offers insight into a distant but also near past. The reception history is equally important: these texts have been read, understood and used in constantly new situations. It is readers’ privilege and responsibility to choose an interpretative strategy, whether the reading is presented in a piece of art, a political statement or a sermon. This course will provide some tools to better understand sacred texts and their receptions, to critically and constructively engage with them.


We will ask questions of what sacred scriptures are and include a variety of perspectives in order to rethink scripture. The students will read selected source texts from each tradition, passages with a significant reception history, texts with aesthetic value, as well as texts that have been experienced as problematic or challenging. Shared narratives and inter-religious readings will also be emphasized. Theoretical and methodological questions will be central. In addition, each student will choose one out of six given topics relevant for understanding sacred texts and their complex receptions. Elective topics, connected to course literature and the lectures are: 1. The role of the sacred text in a secular age, 2. Jewish slavery in Antiquity, 3. Critical authority and New Philology, 4. Islamic Theology of religious pluralism, 5.The characters of Hagar, Sarah, and their children in sacred texts, and 6. Inter-religious relations and “scriptures” in Antiquity.

Learning outcome


If you complete this course, you should have knowledge of canonical scriptures, with a special focus on Judaism, Christianity and Islam. You should be able to make an informed reading of translations of such texts, with a glimpse of their complexity and rich meaning potential. You should know the main content of the text, genres and literary features, their possible original historical context and aspects of their use and reception. You will have knowledge of different strategies used by readers and reading traditions today and about how reading canonical texts can be part of establishing power relationships and political positioning.


You should be able to apply different perspectives on sacred texts and be able to engage with different reading strategies. You should also be able to reflect independently and critically on the use of religious texts today. Based on theoretical and methodological knowledge, you should be able to formulate challenges and questions regarding sacred texts and their receptions.


Engagement with sacred texts and their various readings will help to build your critical reflection on the texts and their historical and current meaning production. You should be aware of how reading strategies can mirror or legitimate theological and social value choices.


Students who are admitted to study programmes at UiO must each semester register which courses and exams they wish to sign up for in Studentweb.

Students enrolled in other Master's Degree Programmes can, on application, be admitted to the course if this is cleared by their own study programme.

If you are not already enrolled as a student at UiO, please see our information about admission requirements and procedures.


Assignment and compulsory activities

  1. Written essay, book review (overall perspectives), 1500 words: Compare two essays in What is Scripture? (see Reading list).
  2. Group assignment: Receptions of sacred scriptures in public space.
  3. One short oral individual presentation and one response of essay in Rethinking Scripture (see Reading list) or another article/Chapter.


Portfolio exam:

1. Book review (20% of grade) 2. Power points/notes from assignment 2 (10% of grade) 3. Power points/notes from assignment 3 (10% of grade) 4. Written essay on elective, individually formulated research question, 4000 words. Supervision with teacher related to written individual essay is highly recommended.(60% of grade).

Submit assignments in Inspera

You submit your assignment in the digital examination system Inspera. Read about how to submit your assignment.

Use of sources and citation

You should familiarize yourself with the rules that apply to the use of sources and citations. If you violate the rules, you may be suspected of cheating/attempted cheating.

Language of examination

The examination text is given in English, and you submit your response in English.

Grading scale

Grades are awarded on a scale from A to F, where A is the best grade and F is a fail. Read more about the grading system.

Explanations and appeals

Resit an examination

Withdrawal from an examination

It is possible to take the exam up to 3 times. If you withdraw from the exam after the deadline or during the exam, this will be counted as an examination attempt.

Special examination arrangements

Application form, deadline and requirements for special examination arrangements.

Facts about this course






Autumn 2019

Autumn 2018

Spring 2018


Autumn 2019

Autumn 2018

Spring 2018

Teaching language