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Between Jerusalem and Rome: Judaism and Christianity in the First Century


Admission requirements

In addition to the general rules set out for admission to the master program students are required to have a BA either in Religious Studies, Classical Languages, Ancient History, Egyptology, Assyriology or Archaeology. Minimum number of participants 3.


The 1st c. CE did not only see the “birth” and spread of a new religion (Christianity), but also the fundamental transformation of Judaism from a sacrificial cult centered on a temple to a “Religion of the Book” as the tragic result of the first Jewish revolt against Rome in 66-73 CE. Both developments are fundamentally connected: Christianity started as Palestinian Jewish “sect” inspired by the prohetic Galilean miracle worker Jesus of Nazareth and took the devastation of the Temple as proof of its legitimacy. Judaism reconstituted itself, among others, by drawing an increasingly sharp line against Christians. At the same time, Jews and Christians struggled over he same basis – who rightly can claim “ownership” of the “Old Testament”. While Judaism was already firmly established in the Mediterranean World, early Christian groups spread across Asia Minor and Greece in competition and – more and more – in conflict with Judaism. What were the most prominent points of dissense? How did both groups define their identity about themselves and against each other?

We will look into these developments on the background of the rapid expansion of the Roman Empire and its diverse and colourful religious and social life and locate Jews and Christians in this process – of course always with a keen eye on relevant texts and archaeological finds.

Course objectives

Specific course objectives:

  • Understanding theoretical questions of religious transformations during the Early Roman Empire with special attention on Judaism and Early Christianity;

  • Knowledge of and insight into key persons / groups and locations related to the topics discussed in the class including relevant texts and material culture;

  • Carrying out independent research on a specific topic, related to the theme of the course.

Abilities and knowledge:

  • The ability to independently identify and select sources

  • The ability to independently formulate a clear and well-argued research question

  • The ability to analyze and evaluate literature and sources for the purpose of producing an original scholarly argument

  • The ability to interpret a corpus of sources

  • Knowledge and comprehension of one of the specialisations and its historiography specifically in the Ancient History specialisation: unification processes in the Graeco-Roman World, 400 BC – 400 AD; insight into the recent large-scale debates in the field with respect to the history of mentality.

  • Knowledge and comprehension of the theoretical, conceptual and methodological aspects of the specialisation, more specifically in the Ancient History specialisation: the comparative method; application of socio-scientific methods; specialised source knowledge, in particular of documentary sources, and more specifically epigraphy;

Extra course objectives for Research Master Students:

  • The ability to interpret a potentially complex corpus of sources

  • The ability to identify new approaches within existing academic debates

  • Knowledge of the interdisciplinary aspects of the specialisation


View Timetable History or Timetable Classics and Ancient Civilizations.

Mode of instruction

  • Lecture elements by instructor

  • Assignments to students

  • Presentations and discussions by students.

Course Load

Total: 280 hours

  • Seminars, 24 hours.

  • Study of compulsory literature, 30 hours.

  • Writing a paper (including reading/research/presentation), 226 hours.

Assessment method

Mark will be based on final paper based on

  • Paper (80%).
    Demonstrating the following skills:

  • The ability to independently identify and select literature

  • The ability to give a clear written report on the research results in English or Dutch

  • The ability to engage with constructive academic feedback

  • Presentation and contribution made to seminar sessions (20%).
    Demonstrating the following skills:

  • The ability to give a clear oral report on the research results in English or Dutch

  • The ability to provide constructive academic feedback

Assessment additional course objectives for the ResMa students: (course objectives 10-12):
ResMA students need to extend their paper by 2000 words by incorporating specific methodological or source-related topics.

The final grade for the course is established by determining the weighted average. The grade for the final paper should be satisfactory. Should the overall mark be unsatisfactory, the paper is to be revised after consultation with the teacher.


Blackboard is used for this course:

  • For communication

  • To distribute study material

Reading list

For a first orientation the book M. Goodman, Rome and Jerusalem. The Clash of Ancient Civilizations, London 2007 is highly recommended. A full bibliography will be distributed at the beginning of the seminar. All primary texts will be made available either by Blackboard, as handouts or via a special reading shelf at the University library.


Students are required to register for this course via uSis, the course registration system of Leiden University. General information about uSis is available in English and Dutch.

Contact information

mr. Prof.dr. J.K. Zangenberg