Classics I


Course Objective

The student is able to
1. Reproduce the main insights of the author as presented in this
classic work;
2. Do literature research into the context and place in the history of
ideas of this classic;
3. Give a scholarly analysis and discussion of the content of the text;
4. Describe and present the main argumentative steps in a specific part
of the text, and evaluate their coherence with other aspects of the
5. Discern anomalies and ambiguities in the text and bring them to bear
on the argumentative power of it;
6. Apply insights from this classic to other texts and issues related to
science and religion;
7. Reflect on ways of approaching this text from the perspective of
one’s own specific methodology within theology and/or religious studies;
8. Analyse contemporary discussions on science and religious belief from
the perspective of reading this classic work so as to stimulate
discussion in a community of readers;
9. Confront ideas proposed by the author of the classic with one’s own
or with other theological and/or scientific views;
10. Organize the material in a logical fashion, pick out the key issues
and present those to the reading community;
11. Reflect critically on and develop skills in reading classics in a
scholarly and independent way.

Course Content

In this course, research master students and divinity students read a
top classic from the field of theology and/or religious
studies. In this course, this will be Peter Harrison’s book, The Bible,
Protestantism and the Rise of the Natural Sciences (Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press 1998). It is an acclaimed historical study about a
period in history which was formative for the ensuing relation between
science and religion. Harrison, a well-known historian and one of the
key figures in the contemporary field of science and religion, points
out how specific views on nature and the Bible (especially a literal
reading of the Bible) changed during the Reformation and so had a major
impact on the rise of the natural sciences. More particularly, he argues
that the change in approach to texts created the conditions which made
possible the emergence of modern science. The book offers a balanced
view of a crucial period in Western history. Though it is a historical
study, it still is highly relevant since a lot of issues that are dealt
with in the book are still present in contemporary discussions of
science and religion. In particular, it challenges the view that science
and religion are in a perennial state of conflict by showing the
complexities of issues in a historical period in which issues in science
and religion were still very much intertwined.

Teaching Methods

Seminar, reading the book at home and plenary close-reading sessions,

Method of Assessment

The student reads the indicated chapters of Peter Harrison’s The Bible,
Protestantism and the Rise of Natural Science and contributes to the
discussion on Canvas and in class (25%): aims 1, 3, 4, 5, and 8.

The student gives an oral presentation during class and actively engages
with presentations by others (25%): aims 1, 2, 3, 5, and 8.

The student writes a paper of 2000-2300 words (50%): aims 7, 10, and 11.

Criteria for evaluating the paper: a clear, coherent, well-defined,
concise text with relevant research question(s), justification for the
choice of at least one particular methodology, and relevant
bibliography, transparently composed answers to the research question(s)
in a well-documented manner (i.e. with detailed references to the texts,
and interacting with relevant literature), clear conclusions, adequate
bibliographical annotations and layout.


Primary text / required reading:
Peter Harrison, The Bible, Protestantism and the Rise of the Natural
Sciences (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 1998)
Recommended secondary literature: Made available through Canvas

Target Audience

This course is part of the Research Master Religion and Theology and
part of the three-year master Theology. It is open for all other

General Information

Course Code G_CLAS1
Credits 6 EC
Period P4
Course Level 500
Language of Tuition English
Faculty Faculty of Religion and Theology
Course Coordinator dr. E.V. Tolstoj
Examiner dr. E.V. Tolstoj
Teaching Staff prof. dr. M.A. Smalbrugge
dr. A. Goudriaan
dr. E.V. Tolstoj

Practical Information

You need to register for this course yourself

Last-minute registration is available for this course.

Teaching Methods Seminar
Target audiences

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