Penn State Penn State: College of the Liberal Arts

Department ofClassics and Ancient
Mediterranean Studies

RLST 123: History of God

RLST 123: History of God

This course examines the early history of God; that is, the concept of the divine as a single supreme being. In particular, it focuses on the origins of monotheism and the development of its three major traditions in the Near East: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, from their respective beginnings to around 1000 C.E. The course will begin with an analysis of the polytheistic religious milieu of the Ancient Near East in the second and first millennia B.C.E., and will consider the question of how, when, and why belief in one God first appeared in ancient Israel. Various modern theories about the origins of Israel’s national God (Hebrew Yhwh/Yahweh and Aramaic Yhw/Yaho) will be analyzed, with careful attention to the evidence of ancient texts and archaeology. Following a discussion of the nature of the religion(s) of early Israel, the course will then turn to the development of Judaism as the world’s first monotheism. It will then examine the subsequent emergence of Christianity in Roman-era Palestine and Islam in Late Antique Arabia, with a brief glance at the Persian religion of Zoroastrianism, which shares some commonalities. Finally, the course will compare and contrast some of the major beliefs, practices, and significant historical trends and movements within the first centuries of the three major monotheisms.


Michael Stahl
Assistant Teaching Professor of Classics and Ancient Mediterranean Studies
Pronouns: He/Him