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Religions and Violence I


Granaroli B.


Menon M.



The aim of the course is to consider the concept of “violence” in Judaism through that of “idolatry”. Idolatry in Jewish thought is in fact the extreme paradigm of violence, inasmuch, as it represents the negation/destruction of the relationship with the Other and of life itself: a totalitarian mindset. We will explore this connection, reading biblical, rabbinic-exegetical, and philosophical texts. These readings will challenge the widely held prejudice—both at a popular level and in the form of ‘sophisticated’ interpretive theories—that identify anti-idolatrous monotheism with violence per se and a kind of “clash of civilisations”. With the help of the biblical readings of Rabbi Jonathan Sachs, even the most ostensibly disturbing and conflictual verses will reveal peaceful dimensions of meaning—peace that is perceived in Jewish thought, even in the most monotheistic messianic visions, as a paradoxical relationship between unity and difference, identity and otherness, universalism and particularism.


  • Acquire new knowledge, particularly regarding the significance of a fundamental component of Jewish identity: the rejection of idolatry as a paradigm of violence.
  • Gain familiarity with Jewish conceptual, linguistic, cultural, and hermeneutical approaches.
  • Learn complex and paradoxical concepts (e.g. Jewish monotheism as unity in plurality).
  • Create conceptual connections (e.g. between idolatry and violence).
  • Navigate a wide range of texts (from biblical texts to contemporary philosophy)
  • Engage in critical thought (e.g. with regard to anti-Jewish prejudice).
  • Translate the specific Jewish question of idolatry and its connection to violence into a universal problem relevant to their own present reality.

Teaching mode


Learning methods


Examination information

At the end of each term of the course, the student must take a written exam. It focuses on the topics covered during the courseas well as on the texts listed in the recommended bibliography.
The exam consists of 5 open questions. Each answer must be 3000 characters long, including spaces.
The exam paper must be uploaded onto the dedicated area on the eLearning platform, during the one-week long exam session.
Dates can be consulted in the academic calendar.