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You have a choice of questions from which to respond. Please carefully read each section’s instructions so that you complete the right number of questions from each section. Please clearly identify the question’s section and number before each of your answers (e.g. Question 1A, 2B, 3C, etc.).
You must write FOUR (4) essays in response to FOUR (4) questions. You must select ONE (1) question from each one of the three sections (e.g. you MUST respond to one question from the Christianity Section, one question from the Islam Section, and one question from the Comparative
section). The fourth question can be from either of the first two sections (on Christianity or on Islam): your choice. Each of your FOUR (4) responses should be approximately TWO (2) pages (double-spaced, typed) long, for a TOTAL of EIGHT (8) pages (double spaced).
Please compose well-written, detailed, formal essays in response to each of your four chosen questions, using the opportunity to demonstrate the breadth of knowledge and sophistication of analysis. Please DO NOT use point form. Please DO engage with readings in each response.
Section I: Questions on Christianity
Section Instructions: For this section, you MUST choose ONE (1) question and compose a formal, well-written essay of two pages in response to it. You also have the option of writing a second essay on a question from either this section or Section II (but NOT from Section III).
1A) From a Jewish perspective, Jesus of Nazareth was a deeply unexpected Messiah. Write an essay in which you explain this statement. How did early Christian writers attempt to explain Jesus’s brutal and torturous death? How did his execution at the age of only 33 significantly retard the development of Christianity as a religion? Be specific and detailed in your explanations.
1B) What does it mean to say that Jesus’ female followers have been “disgraced and erased” from history? Write an essay in which you apply this arresting phrase to a careful, thoughtful analysis of the figure of Mary Magdalene, building on the evidence presented in the Griffith-Jones article and in the lectures. Why is there so much confusion around who Mary Magdalene was and what she did? What are the stakes in the debate surrounding this figure so high? Explain your response.
1C) Christianity was a religion born in blood: from the horrifying death of Jesus of Nazareth to the centuries of intermittent persecution that followed. The specter of martyrdom deeply influenced the entire ethos of Christianity, establishing a strong link between suffering and sanctity, long after persecution and execution became a thing of the past. How did these echoes of the past linger on? In what rituals, and what beliefs? How did Christians adapt to a life in which martyrdom was no longer a possibility? Explain, drawing in particular on the readings by Middleton and Hartney.
1D) Write an essay in which you explain five major themes of Protestant teachings articulated during the Reformation. What aspects of medieval Roman Catholicism did Protestants most strongly condemn, and why? In what sense did Protestant teachings bring Christianity back into line with the other two major monotheistic faiths? On what basis did Protestant reformers reject five of the seven Catholic sacraments? On what basis did they choose to keep two of them? Finally, what elements of Catholicism lingered in the hearts and minds of Protestants? Draw upon the readings of Jakobsh and Scribner in your response
Section II: Questions on Islam
Section Instructions: For this section, you MUST choose ONE (1) question and compose a formal, well-written essay of two pages in response to it. You also have the option of writing a second essay on a question from either this section or Section I (but NOT section III).
2A) Who is the founder of Islam (and in what sense is calling him a religious founder misleading)? Write an essay in which you describe the events of his religious life and explore his relationship with the prophets who preceded him. What does it mean to say that he is the “seal” of the Prophets? Draw in particular on the readings by Jakobsh and Khalidi in your response.
2B) Write an essay in which you enumerate (in both English and Arabic) the Five ‘Pillars’ of Islam, carefully describing each and explaining its importance in Islam and the series of practices and rituals it mandates.
2C) The Hajj is paradoxical for religious studies scholars. On the one hand, it is the prototypical religious pilgrimage. On the other, there are at least four elements that make the Hajj highly unusual. Write an essay in which you discuss this paradoxical quality of the Hajj, exploring the many aspects that make it typical of religious pilgrimages in general, and at least four aspects that make it unique. In the end, in your judgement, is the Hajj more like other pilgrimages than it is different? Or is it more different than similar? Draw in particularly on the reading by Werbner in your response.
2D) Holma Hoodfar’s article, “More Than Clothing: Veiling as an Adaptive Strategy,” explores the meaning of the hijab for contemporary Canadian Muslim women. Sheema Khan also touches on this issue in several of her short essays that we are reading for this course. Write an essay in which you explain, in detail, three commonly expressed reasons Muslim women articulate for wearing the hijab, as well as three common reasons other Muslim women give for not wearing it. Did you find any of their perspectives or arguments surprising? If so, which ones and why?
Section III: Comparative Questions
Section Instructions: For this section, you MUST choose ONE (1) question and compose a formal, well-written essay of two pages in response to it. You MAY NOT answer more than one question from this section.
3A) Write an essay in which you enumerate the three aniconic religious traditions and review four common theological justifications for aniconism. Which of these arguments are common to ALL of the aniconic traditions? Which one is unique to a single tradition? Given the strong aniconic tendencies in these religions, into what other artistic forms have their channelled their adherents channelled their creativity? Finally, given the existence of so many exceptions to aniconism (including the many examples that we saw in class) do you agree with art historian David Freedberg that aniconism is “a myth?” Why or why not? Explain your response.
3B) Write an essay in which you explain how, according to researcher Myfanwy Franks, conservative Christian and Muslim women understand the concept of “submission” or “obedience” in marriage. Specifically, what arguments do each group of women use to question, contest, reframe, or limit the degree of submission expected of them? How are Christian and Muslim arguments different? Which group of women was more willing to accept a great degree of religious submission to their husbands’ authority, according to Franks’s research?
3C) How do Muslims view Isa (Jesus)? What are the main differences between the Muslim and Christian perspectives on who Isa/Jesus was? Explain each difference in detail, being sure to include why each group believes what they do. What are some striking similarities between the lives of Jesus and that of the Prophet Muhammad? What are some equally interesting differences? Explain in detail, drawing upon the assigned readings by Jakobsh and Khalidi.