Foundational Religious Texts

I.     Course Prefix/Number: PHL 245

       Course Name: Foundational Religious Texts

       Credits: 3 (3 lecture; 0 lab)

II.    Prerequisite


III.   Course (Catalog) Description

Course studies one or more of the foundational documents of world’s major religions, from a humanistic viewpoint. Documents studied may include the Hebrew Bible, New Testament, Qur’an (Koran), or the Vedas. Course can be repeated once.  IAI H5 901

IV.   Learning Objectives

After having completed the course, students will be able to:

  1. Identify a critical distinction between foundational religious texts, or scripture, and other forms of literature.
  2. Sketch an outline of the major aspects of the historical, economic, social, and cultural circumstances of the composition of the text being studied.
  3. Identify and critically discuss literary motifs and styles through close readings of the texts.
  4. Identify critically discuss philosophical themes emerging in the texts. 
  5. Explain and critically discuss the basic approach and position of at least two schools of interpretation for each text studied; for example, literalism, intentionalism, and constructivism.
  6. Express respect for each religious tradition studied through familiarization with its scriptures.
  7. Formulate implications of the texts in regards to contemporary questions concerning ethics, politics, science, and aesthetics.
  8. Exhibit values related to teamwork and collaboration, fostered by the pedagogy of shared-inquiry and critical dialogue appropriate to the humanities and philosophy.

V.    Academic Integrity and Student Conduct

Students and employees at Oakton Community College are required to demonstrate academic integrity and follow Oakton's Code of Academic Conduct. This code prohibits:

• cheating,
• plagiarism (turning in work not written by you, or lacking proper citation),
• falsification and fabrication (lying or distorting the truth),
• helping others to cheat,
• unauthorized changes on official documents,
• pretending to be someone else or having someone else pretend to be you,
• making or accepting bribes, special favors, or threats, and
• any other behavior that violates academic integrity.

There are serious consequences to violations of the academic integrity policy. Oakton's policies and procedures provide students a fair hearing if a complaint is made against you. If you are found to have violated the policy, the minimum penalty is failure on the assignment and, a disciplinary record will be established and kept on file in the office of the Vice President for Student Affairs for a period of 3 years.

Please review the Code of Academic Conduct and the Code of Student Conduct, both located online at

VI.   Sequence of Topics

(Below is a sample outline. Other approaches could include basing the organization of the class on the structure of the text(s) being studied.)
Outline for each text covered:

  1. The Context of Scriptural Origins
    1. Historical and Religious Contexts
    2. Issues of Authorship
    3. Language and Communities Addressed
  2. Scriptural Content and Interpretation
    1. The Organization and Contents of the Scripture
    2. Philosophical, Literary and Narrative Themes
    3. Commentarial Traditions and Interpretive History
  3. Tradition and the Modern World
    1. Dissemination and Translation
    2. Modern Interpretations and Social Relevance

VII.  Methods of Instruction

  1. Lectures and discussion
  2. Small group work
  3. Films
  4. Student presentations and debates
  5. Guest speakers
  6. Field trips may be required

Course may be taught as face-to-face, hybrid or online course.

VIII. Course Practices Required

(Please include information here about all expectations you have for your students regarding behavior, work, etc. The following are sample topics you may wish to cover. Please be aware that you must require students in this course to produce at least 15 pages of critical written assignments over the course of the semester. These may be assigned in a variety of ways including journals, response papers, field trip projects, etc.)

  1. Attendance
  2. Standards for written work
  3. Quizzes/Exams
  4. Participation
  5. Essays
  6. Final Project
  7. Special policies about make-up exams, late papers, or other matters of concern

IX.   Instructional Materials

Note: Current textbook information for each course and section is available on Oakton's Schedule of Classes.

Text(s) such as:

Scriptures of the World’s Religions. James Fleser, John Powers, eds., McGraw-Hill, 2003.

Tanakh: A New Translation of the Holy Scriptures. Jewish Publication Society, 1985.

The New Testament of the New Jerusalem Bible. Henry Wansbrough, ed., Image Books, 1986.

The Koran. N.J. Danwood, trans., Penguin Classics, 5th ed., 2000.

The Bhagavad Gita. Barbara Stoller Miller, trans., Bantam, 1986.

The Buddhist Tradition in India, China and Japan. William Theodore de Bary ed., Vintage, 1972.

Songs of the Saints from the Adi Granth. Nirmal Dass, trans., SUNY Press, 2000.

The Analects of Confucius. Roger T. Ames and Henry Rosemont Jr., trans., Ballantine, 1999

Dao De Jing: A Philosophical Translation. Roger T. Ames and David L. Hall, trans., Ballantine, 2003.

Nihongi: Chronicles of Japan. Shoi Nihon and W.J. Aston, trans., Charles E. Tuttle, 1972.

X.    Methods of Evaluating Student Progress

(In this section, please present the percentages or point breakdown of their final grade. The writing assignments should count for at least 40% of the final grade. An example follows.)

  1. Quizzes/Exams……40 points
  2. Essays……40 points
  3. Final project with oral presentation……10 points
  4. Attendance and participation………10 points
  5. Grading scale: 90-100, A…….80-89, B………70-79, C……….60-69……..D

XI.   Other Course Information

Instructor information
•    Office and office hours:
•    Phone:
•    Email and website:

If you have a documented learning, psychological, or physical disability you may be entitled to reasonable academic accommodations or services. To request accommodations or services, contact the Access and Disability Resource Center at the Des Plaines or Skokie campus. All students are expected to fulfill essential course requirements. The College will not waive any essential skill or requirement of a course or degree program.

Oakton Community College is committed to maintaining a campus environment emphasizing the dignity and worth of all members of the community, and complies with all federal and state Title IX requirements.

Resources and support for
  • pregnancy-related and parenting accommodations; and
  • victims of sexual misconduct
can be found at

Resources and support for LGBTQ+ students can be found at

Electronic video and/or audio recording is not permitted during class unless the student obtains written permission from the instructor. In cases where recordings are allowed, such content is restricted to personal use only. Any distribution of such recordings is strictly prohibited. Personal use is defined as use by an individual student for the purpose of studying or completing course assignments.

For students who have been approved for audio and/or video recording of lectures and other classroom activities as a reasonable accommodation by Oakton’s Access Disabilities Resource Center (ADRC), applicable federal law requires instructors to permit those recordings. Such recordings are also limited to personal use. Any distribution of such recordings is strictly prohibited.

Violation of this policy will result in disciplinary action through the Code of Student Conduct.