In the 12th of 17 lectures in his "Civilizing the Barbarians" course, Stepanov stresses the importance of discussing religion in a course about Western civilization. He argues that one cannot fully understand Western civilization without understanding the role of religion, and that many students are illiterate in terms of religion and the Bible. He also mentions that some people believe that the Bible is a bunch of superstitious nonsense, and that some students think that Christians are fundamentally stupid.
Next, Stepanov talks about the different sects of Judaism during the time of Jesus. He mentions the Pharisees, who had synagogues and schools and believed in reincarnation. He also talks about the Essenes, a monastic sect that lived in communities without women, practiced strict observance of the Sabbath, and viewed other Jews as fundamentally unclean. Stepanov mentions that Jesus likely shared elements of their lifestyle and beliefs which influenced the development of Christian monasticism. Stepanov also mentions the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, which are believed to be from the Essene sect, and that the Essene sect disappeared after the Jewish War in 70 AD.
Continuing the lecture, Stepanov talks about the Jewish War in 70 AD when the temple was burned, lots of people were slaughtered, and many Jews were taken as slaves or killed. He mentions that Jesus criticized the Jewish leadership for their actions that had led to such a total disaster for the Jews. Stepanov also mentions that the Jewish historian Josephus praised the Essenes for their ability to survive any torture inflicted by the Romans. He concludes that the Essenes was a very interesting and fairly major branch of Judaism which utterly disappeared and there is nothing left from it now.
Finally, Stepanov reiterates the importance of understanding religion when studying Western civilization. He emphasizes that knowledge of religion is necessary to fully appreciate art, music, and literature. He also mentions that many people have a narrow-minded view of religion and that it is important to have a deeper understanding of it. He mentions that Bible literacy is not as common as it used to be in the United States and that people often have misconceptions about religion. He suggests that students should get a copy of the Oxford annotated Bible with Apocrypha for the class, as it contains additional books and annotations that will help students understand the material better. He encourages students to read the books of Maccabees in particular, to learn more about the history of the Jewish faith.