Twin Cities campus
Twin Cities Campus

Religious Studies Minor

Classical and Near Eastern Religions and Cultures
College of Liberal Arts
Link to a list of faculty for this program.
Contact Information
Religious Studies Program, 245 Nicholson Hall, 216 Pillsbury Avenue S.E., Minneapolis, MN 55455 (612-625-6393)
  • Program Type: Graduate free-standing minor
  • Requirements for this program are current for Fall 2022
  • Length of program in credits (master's): 9
  • Length of program in credits (doctoral): 12
  • This program does not require summer semesters for timely completion.
The minor in Religious Studies is available to master's and doctoral students in relevant University of Minnesota departments, schools, and colleges, including but not limited to American Studies, Anthropology, Art History, Classical and Near Eastern Studies, English, History, Philosophy, Sociology, Hubbard School of Journalism and Mass Communication, School of Music, and the College of Education and Human Development.
Program Delivery
  • via classroom (the majority of instruction is face-to-face)
Prerequisites for Admission
Other requirements to be completed before admission:
Students interested in the minor are strongly encouraged to confer with their major field advisor and director of graduate studies, and the Religious Studies director of graduate studies regarding feasibility and requirements.
For an online application or for more information about graduate education admissions, see the General Information section of this website.
Program Requirements
Use of 4xxx courses toward program requirements is permitted under certain conditions with adviser approval.
All coursework applied to the minor must be taken on the A-F grade basis.
Required Course (3 credits)
Take the following course:
RELS 5001 - Theory and Method in the Study of Religion: Critical Approaches to the Study of Religion (3.0 cr)
Electives (6 to 9 credits)
Masterís students select 6 credits, and doctoral students select 9 credits from the following in consultation with the Religious Studies director of graduate studies. Other courses can be applied to this requirement with approval of the Religious Studies director of graduate studies.
RELS 5013W - Biblical Law and Jewish Ethics [WI] (3.0 cr)
RELS 5071 - Greek and Hellenistic Religions (3.0 cr)
RELS 5072 - The Birth of Christianity [AH] (3.0 cr)
RELS 5115 - Midrash: Reading and Retelling the Hebrew Bible (3.0 cr)
RELS 5121 - Gender and Body in Early Christianity [AH] (3.0 cr)
RELS 5204 - The Dead Sea Scrolls (3.0 cr)
RELS 5254 - Archaeology of Ritual and Religion (3.0 cr)
RELS 5612 - Baroque Rome: Art and Politics in the Papal Capital (3.0 cr)
RELS 5707W - Anthropology of the Middle East [SOCS, GP, WI] (3.0 cr)
RELS 5777 - The Diversity of Traditions: Indian Empires after 1200 (3.0 cr)
RELS 5781 - Age of Empire: The Mughals, Safavids, and Ottomans (3.0 cr)
RELS 5993 - Directed Studies (1.0-4.0 cr)
RELS 8070 - Readings in Religious Texts (3.0 cr)
RELS 8190 - Comparative Seminar in Religions in Antiquity (3.0 cr)
Program Sub-plans
Students are required to complete one of the following sub-plans.
Students may not complete the program with more than one sub-plan.
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RELS 5001 - Theory and Method in the Study of Religion: Critical Approaches to the Study of Religion
Credits: 3.0 [max 3.0]
Course Equivalencies: RelS 3001/5001/5521
Typically offered: Every Spring
Theoretical/methodological issues in academic study of religion. Theories of origin, character, and function of religion as a human phenomenon. Psychological, sociological, anthropological, and phenomenological perspectives. prereq: Sr or grad student or instr consent
RELS 5013W - Biblical Law and Jewish Ethics (WI)
Credits: 3.0 [max 3.0]
Course Equivalencies: JwSt 3013W/Cnes 3016W/RelS 301
Typically offered: Periodic Fall & Spring
This course introduces students to the original meaning and significance of religious law and ethics within Judaism. Law is the single most important part of Jewish history and identity. At the same time, law is also the least understood part of Judaism and has often been the source of criticism and hatred. We shall therefore confront one of the most important parts of Jewish civilization and seek to understand it on its own terms. In demonstrating how law becomes a fundamental religious and ethical ideal, the course will focus on the biblical and Rabbinic periods but spans the entire history of Judaism. Consistent with the First Amendment, the approach taken is secular. There are no prerequisites: the course is open to all qualified students. The course begins with ideas of law in ancient Babylon and then studies the ongoing history of those ideas. The biblical idea that a covenant binds Israel to God, along with its implications for human worth - including the view of woman as person - will be examined. Comparative cultural issues include the reinterpretations of covenant within Christianity and Islam. The course investigates the rabbinic concept of oral law, the use of law to maintain the civil and religious stability of the Jewish people, and the kabbalistic transformation of law. The course concludes with contemporary Jewish thinkers who return to the Bible while seeking to establish a modern system of universal ethics. The premise of the course is the discipline of academic religious studies. The assumptions of the course are therefore academic and secular, as required by the First Amendment. All texts and all religious traditions will be examined analytically and critically. Students are expected to understand and master this approach, which includes questioning conventional cultural assumptions about the composition and authorship of the Bible. Willingness to ask such questions and openness to new ways of thinking are essential to success in the course.
RELS 5071 - Greek and Hellenistic Religions
Credits: 3.0 [max 3.0]
Course Equivalencies: CNES 3071/CNES 5071/RelS 3071/
Typically offered: Periodic Spring
Greek religion from Bronze Age to Hellenistic times. Literature, art, archaeology. Homer/Olympian deities. Ritual performance, prayer, sacrifice. Temple architecture. Death/afterlife. Mystery cults. Philosophical religion. Near Eastern salvation religions. Meets with 3071.
RELS 5072 - The Birth of Christianity (AH)
Credits: 3.0 [max 3.0]
Course Equivalencies: CNES 3072/CNES 5072/RelS 3072/
Typically offered: Periodic Fall & Spring
Early Jesus movement in cultural/historical setting. Origins in Judaism. Traditions about Jesus. Apostle Paul, controversies/interpreters. Authority, religious practice, structure. Emergence of canon. Contemporary methods of New Testament study. Biblical writings as history/narrative. CNES 3072/CNES 5072/RELS 3072/RELS 5072 meet together.
RELS 5115 - Midrash: Reading and Retelling the Hebrew Bible
Credits: 3.0 [max 3.0]
Course Equivalencies: CNES 3115/JwSt 3115/RelS 3115
Typically offered: Periodic Fall & Spring
How did the Jews of the first seven centuries of the common era read and understand the Hebrew Bible? What were the problems they faced -- interpretive, historical, theological -- in trying to apply their holy scriptures? This course explores key issues that led to the development of a new form of Judaism in late antiquity, rabbinic Judaism, and its methods of scriptural interpretation. The course?s study will focus on the forms and practices of rabbinic scriptural interpretation (midrash) as it developed in Roman Palestine and Sasanian Babylonia, focusing on key narrative and legal passages in the Five Books of Moses (Torah). A main focus of the course will be on the ways the rabbis adapted the Hebrew Bible to express their own core concerns.
RELS 5121 - Gender and Body in Early Christianity (AH)
Credits: 3.0 [max 3.0]
Course Equivalencies: CNES 3221/CNES 5121/RelS 3121/
Typically offered: Fall Odd Year
Ancient Christians, like any other social group in the ancient world, represented themselves through images, stories, and discourses using the cultural tools available to them in their own contexts. In this course, we will explore two key texts of early Christianity (1 Corinthians and the Gospel of Mark) with special attention to how representations of the body and gender served to communicate the nature of what it meant to be Christian for these authors. The study of ancient material offers a space to acquire the skills of critical analysis of body and gender dynamics so that we can better understand the roles that the body and gender play in shaping our self-identity, social interaction, and societal structures.
RELS 5204 - The Dead Sea Scrolls
Credits: 3.0 [max 3.0]
Course Equivalencies: CNES 3204/RelS5204/JwSt 3204/
Typically offered: Periodic Fall & Spring
Introduction to Dead Sea Scrolls and Qumran. Contents of Dead Sea Scrolls, significance for development of Bible. Background of Judaism and Christianity. Archaeological site of Qumran. The course will focus on the material in translation and academic scholarship on the literature and archaeological site. Open to graduate students across the college; knowledge of classical Hebrew will not be required. The course is open to upper level undergraduate students with permission of the instructor.
RELS 5254 - Archaeology of Ritual and Religion
Credits: 3.0 [max 3.0]
Course Equivalencies: Anth 3255/Anth 5255/RelS 3254/
Typically offered: Fall Even Year
The course discusses evidence for the origins of religion and its diverse roles in human societies over millennia. It focuses on how artifacts and architecture are essential to religious experience. It asks: What constitutes religion for different cultures? Why is religion at the heart of politics, social life, and cultural imagination?
RELS 5612 - Baroque Rome: Art and Politics in the Papal Capital
Credits: 3.0 [max 3.0]
Course Equivalencies: ArtH 3335/Rels 3162/Hist 3706/
Typically offered: Fall Even Year
Center of baroque culture--Rome--as city of spectacle and pageantry. Urban development. Major works in painting, sculpture, and architecture. Ecclesiastical/private patrons who transformed Rome into one of the world's great capitals.
RELS 5707W - Anthropology of the Middle East (SOCS, GP, WI)
Credits: 3.0 [max 3.0]
Course Equivalencies: Anth 3021W/Anth 5021W/RelS 370
Typically offered: Fall Even Year
Anthropological field methods of analyzing/interpreting Middle Eastern cultures/societies.
RELS 5777 - The Diversity of Traditions: Indian Empires after 1200
Credits: 3.0 [max 3.0]
Course Equivalencies: ArtH 3777/ArtH5777/RelS 5777
Typically offered: Periodic Fall & Spring
This class considers the development of Indian and Pakistani art and architecture from the introduction of Islam as a major political power at the end of the 12th century to the colonial empires of the 18th century. We will study how South Asia?s diverse ethnic and religious communities interacted, observing how visual and material cultures reflect differences, adaptations, and shared aesthetic practices within this diversity of traditions. Students in this class will have mastered a body of knowledge about Indian art and probed multiple modes of inquiry. We will explore how Muslim rulers brought new traditions yet maintained many older ones making, for example, the first mosque in India that combines Muslim and Indic visual idioms. We will study the developments leading to magnificent structures, such as the Taj Mahal, asking why such a structure could be built when Islam discourages monumental mausolea. In what ways the schools of painting that are the products of both Muslim and Hindu rulers different and similar? The course will also consider artistic production in the important Hindu kingdoms that ruled India concurrently with the great Muslim powers. In the 18th century, colonialist forces enter the subcontinent, resulting in significant innovative artistic trends. Among questions we will ask is how did these kingdoms influence one another? Throughout we will probe which forms and ideas seem to be inherently Indian, asking which ones transcend dynastic, geographic and religious differences and which forms and ideas are consistent throughout these periods of political and ideological change. To do all this we must constantly consider how South Asia's diverse ethnic and religious communities interact.
RELS 5781 - Age of Empire: The Mughals, Safavids, and Ottomans
Credits: 3.0 [max 3.0]
Course Equivalencies: ArtH 5781/RelS 5781
Typically offered: Periodic Fall
Artistic developments under the three most powerful Islamic empires of the 16th through 19th centuries: Ottomans of Turkey; Safavids of Iran; Mughals of India. Roles of religion and state will be considered to understand their artistic production.
RELS 5993 - Directed Studies
Credits: 1.0 -4.0 [max 24.0]
Typically offered: Every Fall & Spring
TBD prereq: instr consent
RELS 8070 - Readings in Religious Texts
Credits: 3.0 [max 12.0]
Course Equivalencies: CNES 8570/RelS 8070
Grading Basis: A-F or Aud
Typically offered: Periodic Fall & Spring
Close reading of selected literary or epigraphical texts of importance for the history of ancient Mediterranean religions, along with critical discussion of trends in recent scholarship. The texts may be read in the original languages (such as Greek, Latin, Hebrew, etc.) but may also be accessed in translation where appropriate.
RELS 8190 - Comparative Seminar in Religions in Antiquity
Credits: 3.0 [max 6.0]
Grading Basis: A-F or Aud
Typically offered: Periodic Fall & Spring
Topics vary. Major cultural movement as it developed over several centuries. Draws on evidence in literature, archival records, inscriptions, documentary papyri, and archaeological remains. Artistic media such as wall painting, architectural ornament, funerary sculpture, or manuscript illumination. prereq: Grad student in relevant field