Religion 122b: INTRODUCTION TO THE NEW TESTAMENT
Spring 2009, T Th 10-11:30 a.m.
Prof. Anne McGuire, Haverford College
This course offers an introduction to the scholarly study of the New Testament and early Christian literature. Our primary focus throughout the course will be literary and historical analysis of the 27 writings of the New Testament and selected non-canonical sources, such as the recently discovered Gospel of Judas, The Gospel of Thomas, and The Gospel of Mary Magdalene. Topics include: the Jewish origins of the "Jesus movement"; the development of oral and written traditions about Jesus; various images of Jesus, especially in the NT gospels, the letters of Paul, and non-canonical texts; the relation of texts to their communities; and the formation of the "New Testament" canon.
Gospel Parallels: Look at the GP Index (xxxiii-xl) and GP #1-6 (pp. 11-14) to become familiar with its structure and form
Suggested Topic: Read the stories of Mark 1-4 with particular attention to the types of material gathered there: e.g., sayings; miracle stories [nature miracles, healings]; controversy stories; other kinds of narrative material, etc. Do you see any evidence for patterns of arrangement (e.g., clustering of similar types of material; thematic similarity; dramatic tension; transitional material?). Is it possible to distinguish layers of composition in the text (i.e., traces of oral tradition, the work of an editor/s, the voice of the narrator).
Exercise: Look over all of the sections of GP that cover material from Mk 1-4; GP #1, 4, 6, 8-9, 11-16, 45, 52-54, 69-72, 85-86, 89-91, 93-95, 97, 99, 105.
Required Exercise to start now and continue over the next several weeks: Begin to use highlighting markers in 4 colors to set off material in the Gospel Parallels. Use a different color for each of the following kinds of material: 1) material common to all 3 synoptic gospels [Mt, Mk, Lk]; 2) common to Mt and Lk [Q]; 3) common to Mk and Lk; 4) common to Mk and Mt. Uncolored material represents unique material in each gospel.
Exercise: Read through the entire Gospel of Mark, giving special attention to the recurring themes of the gospel, the movement of the plot, and the depiction of its central characters. As you read, underline all references to: the disciples of Jesus (the 12 and others who follow him); his family; the opponents of Jesus; and his demands for secrecy or silence.
Suggested Topic: Analyse the GMk's depiction of the confrontation between the reign of God and the reign of Satan. What characterizes each 'reign' or 'dominion' in Mark's presentation?
Suggested Topic: Who is Jesus, according to Peter and the other disciples of Mark (see esp. 8:22-10:52)? Why do they follow him? How do the actions and words of the disciples and other characters reveal their understanding or misunderstanding of the mission, message, and/or identity of Jesus? What are the effects of the theme of misunerstanding on the reader's sense of the "gospel"? What does it tell us about the "secret" of the Kingdom and of the "gospel" in Mark?
Suggested Topic: Analyse and interpret the use of passages from the Hebrew Bible that are quoted and/or alluded to in the Passion Narrative. What significance do these add to the telling of the story?
T 2/17 The Kingdom of God and the Identity of Jesus in the Gospel of Thomas and the Gospel of Mark
Suggested Topic: Consider the different sense of "Gospel" as a literary genre when applied to the gospels of the NT and the Gospel of Thomas. What, in your view, are the distinctive features of each type of "Gospel" -- including its distinctive senses of "good news"?
Suggested Topic: GThomas 6b parallels GMark 4:22. In GT 6, Jesus says: "There is nothing hidden that will not revealed, there is nothing covered that will remain undisclosed." How does the context of this saying in GT 6 and GMark 4 make a difference to the reader's sense of what is hidden/revealed, covered/disclosed?
Suggested Topic: As you read GThomas, pay particular attention to its sayings about the Kingdom. Compare with those in Mark. What is the "Kingdom" in GThomas? How does "Kingdom" relate to the other distinctive themes of GThomas?
Suggested Topic: Compare 3 sayings in GThomas with their parallels in Mark: e.g., GThomas 5-6, 9, 13, 14, 20, 21, 22, 33, 35, 41, 46, 47, 48, 55, 65, 66, 71, 99, 100, 104, 106, 111.
Suggested Topics: 1) Who is Jesus, according to the Gospel of Thomas? How does the Christology of GThomas compare to that of GMark? 2) How does the gospel's representation of the teaching of Jesus and of the disciples compare with Mark's? 3) Analyse the imagery of creation in GThomas. What do the sayings about Adam and life in the world suggest about the text's attitude toward creation? 4) What is the GT's conception of salvation?
Exercise: Look over the Index to the Gospel Parallels to compare the structure of Mt 1-7 with Mark. Use the Gospel Parallels to focus on Matthew's redaction [editing or revision] of Mk and Q in GP 1-44. Make a list of verbal changes as well as structural changes.
Suggested Topic: Examine closely the ways in which Scripture is interpreted in Mt's Infancy Narrative and in the Sermon on the Mount (Mt 5-7). Compare Mt's depiction of Jesus and of the Pharisees as interpreters of the Law.
Suggested Topic: Compare the versions of the Parable of the Banquet/Marriage Feast in Mt, Lk, and Th. What do you make of the differences, particularly of the distinctive features in Mt's version?
Suggested Topic: Compare the resurrection narrative of Matthew with the ending of Mark's gospel. What is the significance of the women at the empty tomb in each story? of the male disciples? of the commission of the disciples in Mt 28? Compare Mt's conception of discipleship with Mark's.
Suggested Topic: Consider the interrelation of Matthew's Christology, his rules for the new community, and his attitudes toward the Pharisees. What do you make of the explanations offered by Ehrman?
Exercise: Use Gospel Parallels to focus on Luke's composition: his addition of new material, and his redaction and restructuring of material from Mk and Q. Examine closely the material unique to Luke.
Suggested Topic: Look closely at the way Luke 1-9 uses scripture; compare with Matthew. How does the theme of fulfilling prophecy function in each?
Due Wednesday, 3/19, 4 p.m., Paper on Synoptic Gospels - Guidelines; Drop off in Gest, second floor or send by email attachment to email@example.com.
Exercise: Examine closely the Special Luke passages listed in Gospel Parallels, paying special attention to Luke's redaction (verbal and structural) of material from Mk and Q. Analyse the role of the Holy Spirit in the narrative of Luke-Acts and its role in prophecy.
Suggested Topic: Select and examine carefully 3 of the Lukan passages concerning women.
Suggested Topic: Named and Unnamed Women in Luke-Acts.Focus on the women in Galilee who are named in Luke 8, on Mary and Martha in Luke 10:38-42, and the women at the cross and empty tomb (Luke 23:49, 23:55-56; 24:1-12.
Suggested Topic: Compare GLk's references to the women with GMk and GMt in GP. Is it significant that the women from Luke 8 are only named again in Lk 24:10? Think about the ways you use names in your own story-telling. What are the effects of naming the people involved in an event at the beginning of a story or only at the end? What are the effects of Luke's revisions here?
Suggested Topic: Women and Men in Acts' Account of the
Earliest Jerusalem Church.
What do you make of Luke's references to women and men in the Jerusalem church after Jesus' death? Consider the resurrection appearances at the end of GLk and women who are present or absent, named or unnamed in Acts 1-8 -- from the account of Pentecost through the early mission outside Jerusalem. How does Luke-Acts lead its reader to think about the roles of women and men in the early church?
Suggested Topic: Martha and Mary / Serving Tables and
Serving the WORD.
What do you think of the argument that there are possible connections between the two paths represented by Mary and Martha in Luke 10 and the controversy about Serving Tables and Serving the Word (Ministry of table fellowship and Ministry of the Word/preaching, etc.) in Acts 6. Do you think there might be a connection between "Mary" in Luke 10:38-42 and those engaged in the Serving the Word" (Acts 6:4), on the one hand, and between "Martha" and those appointed to the task of "Serving Tables" and distributing food (Ministry of Table fellowship) given to the "Hellenists" (Acts 6:1-6)?
Suggested Topic: Compare the resurrection narrative of Luke with that of Matthew. Compare the beginning and end of Luke with the beginning of Acts. What do you make of their relation?
III. Jesus in the Memory of the Early Church
II: The Letters and Communities of Paul (3/24-4/7)
T 3/24 Introduction to the Apostle Paul and His Letters; Freedom from the Law in Galatians
Th 3/26 Power and Wisdom, Freedom and Limits in 1 Corinthians in 1 Corinthians and Philippians
Suggested Topic: What are the social issues and factions that have arisen in Corinth? What might their sources be? What's at stake - socially and theologically - for Paul? for the Corinthians?
Suggested Topic: Examine closely the paradoxical logic of 1 Cor. 1:17-31. What are the meanings that "wisdom and folly," "power and weakness" take under the central contrast between the things "of God" and the things "of the world"? How does Paul relate these categories to the gospel/the cross? to the Corinthians and their values, especially boasting about spiritual gifts, "all things are lawful," et al.
Suggested Topic: Analyse the Christological hymn of Phil. 2:5-11. What is the identity of Christ according to this passage? How does the language and conception of this passage compare to other Pauline passages on the identity of Christ?
T 3/31 Christology and Salvation in the Letter to the Romans
Suggested Topic: Analyse Paul's interpretation of the figure of Adam (Gen. 2-3) and his relation to Christ in Romans 5:12-21 and 1 Cor. 15:42-58. What is the basis in each case for the relationship between the two figures? What is Paul's main point in each case?
Suggested Topic: What is Paul's view of the relation between Israel and the Church, according to Romans 9-11? What is Israel's place in God's plan of salvation, according to Paul?
Th 4/7 Social Order, Prophecy, Gender, and Authority in Pauline, Post-Pauline and Other Early Christian Communities
Suggested Topic: Analyse closely Paul's arguments in 1 Cor. 7, 11, and 14. Compare his interpretation of the "image of God" in 1 Cor. 11 with Gen. 1:26-27 and Gal. 3:28. What do you make of the evidence that women played a variety of important roles in the Pauline communities (consider, e.g., Chloe, Phoebe, the women mentioned in Romans 16, etc.), yet there clearly are limits and restrictions in place? In what senses can one claim of the Pauline communities that there is "no male and female" in Christ?
Suggested Topic: Compare the "household codes" of Col. 3:18-4:1 and Eph. 5:21-6:9. What do the relations of masters/slaves, husbands/wives, parents/children have in common, according to this code? How do these texts work to legitimate the social order of the codes?
Suggested Topic: Compare the understanding of the "gospel," the "church," and the role of women in the Pastoral letters with those found in the earlier letters of Paul. Do you think a plausible argument can be made for Pauline authorship? How does your image of Paul the apostle change, depending on the view you take of the authorship of these disputed letters?
Suggested Topic: Examine closely the prologue of John. Who is Jesus, according to John? What is his role? How do his words and actions reveal his identity and purpose? Collect a list of "I AM" statements in GJohn. Compare with the Christologies of the synoptic gospels.
Suggested Topic: Compare the structure of GJohn with that of the Synoptic Gospels. To what extent do they overlap in content? in perspective? in their presentation of the teachings of Jesus?
Suggested Topic: Read Exodus 16:1-17:7 and compare to Jn's references to "bread from heaven" and "living water" (Jn 3-4). How is the Exodus imagery reinterpreted in Jn? to what effect?
T 4/14 Mary Magdalene as Visionary in the Gospel of John and Gospel of Mary
Suggested Topic: What do you make of efforts to reconstruct the history of the Johannine community on the basis of the theological and literary evidence of the Johannine corpus? What sort of historical results would similar methods applied to the Gospel of Mary produce? Class exercise: The class will be divided into small groups that represent each of the following perspectives on the role of Mary Magdalene:
Suggested Topic: Examine the uses of the term "love" and "abide" in GJn and in the letters of John. What are the theological and social meanings of this imagery?
Suggested Topic: What do you make of the varied representations of Peter, James, Mary Magdalene, and John in early Christian literature? Consider for example, the portrayals of Peter in GMark, GMt, Paul's Letter to the Galatians ("Cephas"), GThomas, GMary -- or the representation of Mary Magdalene in the canonical gospels, her absence from 1 Corinthians 15, and her role in the Gospel of Mary. Or the contrast between the "doubting Thomas" of GJohn and Thomas the twin of GThomas? What do these varied images tell us about the role of apostles in the diversity, conflict, and authority of early Christian communities?
Th 4/16 A "Gnostic" View of Christology and Salvation: The Redemptive Work of Christ in the Gospel of Truth from Nag Hammadi
Suggested Topic: Analyse the Christology and conception of salvation in the GTruth. Discuss two significant differences in the theological imagery and/or perspectives of this text from the letters of Paul, the GJohn or GMatthew. Consider, for example, the interpretation of the cross in GTruth, and compare with Galatians, GJohn, and/or GMatthew.
Suggested Topic: Compare the uses of the term "gnosis" (knowledge) in the Johannine writings, The Gospel of Thomas, and the Gospel of Truth. How would you evaluate Ehrman's argument (161-69) about the relation between the Johannine community and Christian "Gnostic" traditions?
The Book of Revelation
Suggested Topic: Examine the Book of Revelation for evidence of the social situation(s) to which is addressed and its message to the original readers. Who is the author, where is he, and what does he seek to communicate?
Suggested Topic: Examine the text's extravagant use of imagery, focusing on chapters 1-11. What are the effects of the text's images of: the divine; the 7 churches; the powers at work in the world?
Suggested Topic: If 666, the Beast, and Babylon are symbolic codes for the Roman Empire, what do you make of the mythic scenarios of attack and of the ultimate demise of the Beast/Babylon? What sort of religious/social function do you think Revelation might have served in late first-century Roman Empire? Compare with ways it has been used in contemporary American culture (e.g., David Koresh and the Branch Davidians, as well as more 'moderate' uses).
Suggested Topic: Analyse the symbolism of the New Jerusalem; compare with that of the beasts and Babylon in Rev. 12-14 and 17-21.
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