Religion 122b: INTRODUCTION TO THE NEW TESTAMENT

Spring 2012, T Th 10-11:30 a.m.

Prof. Anne McGuire, Haverford College

This web syllabus will be updated throughout the semester with new links and other possible changes to the assignments. Students are expected to check it regularly.

Course Description:

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.

Course Outline:

  1. The Worlds of Jesus and the First Christians
  2. Jesus in the Memory of the Early Church I: The Jesus Movement and the Formation of the Gospels
  3. Jesus in the Memory of the Early Church II: The Letters and Communities of Paul
  4. Later Writings of the New Testament: Apostles and their Authority; The Gospel and Letters of John; Revelation; the Formation of the New Testament Canon

Required Textbooks:

Course Requirements:

I. Introduction to the Course; The Worlds of Jesus and the First Christians (1/17-1/19)

T 1/17 Introduction to the Course: Key Questions in the Study of the New Testament: Who Was Jesus? What is the Relation between the New Testament and the Varieties of Early Christianity?

Th 1/19 The Religious and Cultural Worlds of Jesus and the Earliest Christians: Varieties of Religion in Judaism and the Roman Empire

II. Jesus in the Memory of the Early Church I: The Synoptic Gospels (1/24-2/23)

T 1/24 The Jesus Movement and the Beginnings of the Early Church (Ekklesia); The Synoptic Gospels

Th 1/26 Jesus as Prophet, Teacher, Healer, "Messiah"; Mark and the Origin of the Genre "Gospel"

T 1/31 The "Secret" of the Kingdom in Mark; The Identity of Jesus and the Blindness of the Disciples in Mark

T 2/7 The Passion, Crucifixion, and Resurrection of Jesus in Mark

Th 2/9 The Kingdom of God and the Identity of Jesus in the Gospel of Thomas and the Gospel of Mark

Th 2/9 The Literary Form, Theology, and Social Setting of the Gospel of Thomas

T 2/14 Introduction to Matthew: Wisdom, Law, and Scripture in the Gospel of Matthew

  • Review the Gospels of Mark and Thomas
    • Discussion groups that didn't report on Wednesday will share briefly their perspectives on GThomas
  • The Gospel of Matthew, focus on ch. 1-7
  • Ehrman, review 105-113 on the synoptic problem; 114-133 on GMatthew
  • Comparison of the Structures of Mark and Matthew
  • J. D. Kingsbury, "The Form and Message of Matthew," Interpreting the Gospels (pdf)

    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.

Th 2/16 Christology, Kingdom, and the New Righteousness in Matthew

  • The Gospel of Matthew, focus on the themes of Kingdom, righteousness, conflict, and discipleship
  • The Parable of the Marriage Feast/Banquet/Dinner in Matthew, Luke, and Thomas (GP 170/205; GThomas 64)
  • Kingsbury, "The Plot of Matthew's Gospel," Gospel Interpretation, pdf [If you can't access this, go to Course Documents]

  • Class Exercise: Bring Gospel Parallels and a set of 4 highlighting markers to class. We'll work closely through several passages in Matthew and look to the parallel versions in Mark, and Luke for comparison. For preparation, examine closely Matthew and Luke's redaction of material from Mark and Q in the sections of Gospel Parallels listed above.

    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?

T 2/21 Luke's Interpretation of the Gospel: Jesus the Eschatological Prophet

  • The Gospel of Luke, focus on ch. 1-9
  • Ehrman, 134-153
  • Structures of GLuke and GMatt Compared

    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?

Th 2/23 Prophecy and Fulfillment, Forgiveness and Mercy in Luke-Acts; Women in the Gospel of Luke

  • The Gospel of Luke, focus on Luke 10-18, 24; Acts of the Apostles 1-3
  • Mary Rose D'Angelo, "Women in the Gospel of Luke," Women and Christian Origins (pdf )

    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: 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?

Due Monday, 2/27, 4 p.m., First Draft of Paper on Synoptic Gospels - Guidelines; Submit by email attachment to amcguire@haverford.edu. Please send your paper saved in your name, with a 1d to indicate this is the first draft of paper one (e.g., amcguire1d.docx).

III. Jesus in the Memory of the Early Church II: The Letters and Communities of Paul (2/28-3/27)

T 3/14 Women and Men in the Earliest Churches: Luke-Acts and Paul Compared

  • Ehrman, 154-175; 306-323
  • Acts of the Apostles 1-15
  • Galatians 1-2, close reading; Quick reading of 1 Corinthians 15:3-11 and Romans 16
  • A Brief Chronology of Paul's Career + The Letters of Paul: Disputed and Undisputed
  • Ehrman,285-315; 331-339
  • Frontline: From Jesus to Christ:

    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: Intro to Paul - Comparing Acts' Account with Paul's Self-Description in Galatians 1-2. Consider Acts' portrayal of SAUL -- PAUL. Now look closely at Galatians 1:11-2:21 for Paul's self-described account of his "conversion" or "call" to be an Apostle. In addition, consider Paul's references to the "Pillars" or leaders of the Jerusalem church in Galatians 1-2; look also at 1 Corinthians 15 for the list of people who witnessed the Resurrection and look at Romans 16 for his greetings to women and men involved in the Pauline mission.

Th 3/15 Paul's Eschatology; Freedom from the Law and Paul's Interpretation of Scripture in Galatians

  • 1 Thessalonians, focus on Paul's relationship with the Thessalonians and Paul's conception of the end time
  • Galatians, first reading of the entire letter
    • Focus especially on the arguments in Gal. 2-3 and the baptismal formula in 3:28, Paul's argument about freedom from the Law, love (agape), and his lists of the works of the Spirit and the works of the flesh
    • 1 Thessalonians -- quick reading for comparison; focus on Paul's tone in 1-3 and on his eschatology in 1 Thess 4-5
  • Examine Genesis 1:26-27; 12-15, esp. 12:3 and 15:6 as you read Galatians; How does Paul interpret scripture?
  • Ehrman, 354-362
  • Frontline: From Jesus to Christ:
  • Suggested Topic: Controversy in Galatia. Why does Paul write Galatians? What do you make of the tone and content of the letter? [Compare with a quick reading of 1 Thesslanians for a striking contrast]. What's the main point he's trying to get across to the Galatians? Choose one verse that in your view best summarizes the message of the entire letter.
  • Suggested Topic: Paul's Christology. Using only the text of Gal., look for evidence of Paul's conception of Jesus Christ. What is significant about Jesus as the Christ -- his teachings? healings? proclamation of the Kingdom? Ethics? Gathering of disciples? Death on the cross? Resurrection? His Return (Parousia) in the future?
  • Suggested Topic: New Identity and New Creation. Consider the claims about a new identity in Christ and a "new creation" throughout Galatians. What do you make of the baptismal unification formula of Galatians 3:28 -- "there is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus."
  • Suggested Topic: Freedom in Christ. What is Paul's conception of "freedom" in Galatians (5:1, 13)? How does it relate to his ethical exhortations in Gal. 5-6, e.g., not to do the works of the flesh, but to do the works of the Spirit (5:16-26) and to "fulfill the law of Christ" (6:2)?
  • Suggested Topic: Paul's Interpretation of Scripture: Abraham, Hagar, and Sarah. Analyse Paul's use of Scripture, esp. of Gen. 12-15, in Gal. 2-4. What do you make of his reading of the figures of Abraham (Gal. 3) and of Sarah, and Hagar (Gal. 4:21-31)?
  • Goals for Class : To some to a clearer understanding of:
    • Paul's theology, with specific focus on: his understanding of God and Christ; and his view of human nature.
    • The controversy over circumcision of male Gentiles in the church. The view of the other apostles and Paul's view. Paul's view on the difference between circumcision and baptism as rituals of initiation to a new identity.
    • Paul's Eschatology -- Already/Not Yet -- the idea that a New Creation has Already come into being -- yet this new reality is NOT YET fully manifested in the world or the church. What are the implications of this view of Already/Not Yet for life in the world? Consider Paul's view of the "Spirit" and the "Flesh" in Galatians 4-5

  • First drafts of your papers will be handed back by the end of this week. Revised papers are due four days after the draft is received.

T 3/20 Power and Wisdom, Freedom and Limits in 1 Corinthians and Philippians

    • 1 Corinthians, focus on Wisdom-Folly in 1-2, and images of sexuality and the "body," esp. in chapters 5, 7, 12 and 15
    • Philippians, focus on the Philippians Hymn
    • Ehrman, 339-371

    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?

    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: Examine closely Paul's argument about the body of Christ and the gifts of the Spirit in 1 Cor. 12. How well does the "body" metaphor serve to address the factions in Corinth? How well does the "body" metaphor present a useful model of community - for the Corinthians? for others, including us?

    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?

Th 3/22 Christology and the "Good News" of Salvation in the Letter to the Romans

  • We will meet at the usual time - 10-11:30 a.m.
  • The Letter to the Romans, focus on chapters 1-11
  • Ehrman, 372-396

    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 in Paul's view is the relation between "Jews" and "Gentiles" before Christ? in Christ?

  • Suggested Topic: What is Paul's view of the Jewish Law - for Jews? for Gentiles? for the church?

    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?
  • 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?

T 3/27 and Th 3/29 Women, Prophecy, and Authority in Post-Pauline and Other Early Christian Communities

    • Ehrman, 397-434
    • Colossians and Ephesians, with special attention to the "household codes" (Col. 3:18-4:1, Eph. 5:21-6:9)
    • 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, Titus, pay particular attention to references about women and slaves, e.g., 1 Timothy 2:9-15. 6:1-2)
    • Reread the references to women in the Pauline and deutero-Pauline letters: e.g., 1 Corinthians 11, 14, 15; Romans 16; the household codes in Col & Eph; 1 Timothy 2
    • The Gospel of Mary, in Meyer, 31-41 [read briefly, focusing on the ending of the gospel]
    • "Women in Early Christianity: The New Discoveries," Karen L. King
    • "The Roles for Women," Elizabeth A. Clark
    • Recommended: The Acts of Paul and Thecla (pdf to be provided)

      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?

III. Later Writings of the New Testament: Apostles and their Authority; The Gospel and Letters of John; Revelation; and Others (4/3-)

T 4/3 Christology and Salvation in The Gospel of John: Jesus as Incarnate Word (Logos)

  • The Gospel of John - Focus on GJn 1-8 (esp. the Prologue, and the story of the Samaritan woman at the well (GJn 4), and all of Jesus' "I AM" discourses
  • Ehrman, 198-216

    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?

Th 4/5 Mary Magdalene as Visionary in the Gospel of John and Gospel of Mary

  • GJohn - Reread the account of the death and resurrection of Jesus in the Gospel of John, with special attention to the roles of Mary Magdalene and the beloved disciple
  • Read 1, 2, 3 John with special attention to the themes of 1) Love and 2) controversy in the Johannine community
  • The Gospel of Mary, edited and translated by Karen L. King
  • Pope Gregory the Great, Homily 33, 591 CE Authorizes the Composite Mary Magdalene
    • Homily 33: "We believe that this woman [Mary Magdalene] is Luke's female sinner, the woman John calls Mary, and that Mary from whom Mark says seven demons were cast out. And what did these seven devils signify, if not all the vices?...It is clear, brothers, that the woman previously used the unguent to perfume her flesh in forbidden acts."

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?

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 representation 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?

Suggested Topic: Look for references to "love," "abide," and "knowledge" (gnosis) in the Gospel and Letters of John.

T 4/10 Jesus as High Priest: The Letter to the Hebrews; The Problem of Anti-Judaism in the New Testament

  • Hebrews, with special attention to the notion of Jesus as High Priest according to the order of Melchizedek
  • Genesis 14:17-20; Ps. 110:4 on Melchizedek
  • Outline of Hebrews; New Covenant in NT
  • Ehrman, 435-453
  • Suggested Topic: Analyse the conception of Jesus as "High Priest" in Hebrews. What is the meaning of " the order of Melchizedek"? How does Jesus effect salvation, according to Hebrews? Compare with the christologies of Paul, the synoptic gospels, and John.

Th 4/12 Christians and Pagans in the New Testament and Early Christianity; Peter in the New Testament

  • Ehrman, 454-473; 485-489
  • 1 Peter and 2 Peter

  • Suggested Topic: What are the responses to anti-Christian attitudes, Persecution, and/or the Delay of the End Time in 1 and 2 Peter?
  • Suggested Topic: Review the representation of Peter in the writings we've covered, esp. GMark, GMatthew, GThomas, GMary, and the two letters written in his name

T 4/17 Persecution and the Vision of the End: Symbolism and Millennium in the Book of Revelation

The Book of Revelation, focus on chapters 1-11
Ehrman, 490-508

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?

Th 4/19 Persecution and the Vision of the End 2: Symbolism, Millennium, and Anti-Roman Imagery in the Book of Revelation

The Book of Revelation, focus on chapters 1-11
Ehrman, 490-508

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.

Sample Take-Home questions for the final exam will be distributed in class; Students are invited to write up their own essay questions and bring to class.

Due Monday, 4/23, 4 p.m., Second Interpretive Paper (on Paul, GJohn, or other Post-Pauline Texts). Guidelines for Paper 2. When you email your paper, be sure to save the paper in your name followed by a 2 (e.g., amcguire2.docx) to indicate this is paper 2.

T 4/24 Unity and Diversity in the New Testament, Early Christianity, and the Christian Tradition

  • The Book of Revelation
  • Ehrman, review 1-16
  • Robert A. Markus, From Sect to Church, " [pdf will be posted], Jewish and Christian Self-Definition, Vol. 1: The Shaping of Christianity in the Second and Third Centuries, ed. E.P. Sanders 1-15
  • The Nicene Creed
  • NO POSTS Due this week
  • Suggested Topic: Consider the composition of the New Testament canon: 4 gospels, various letters, Acts, Revelation. What do you make of the relation between this collection and the formation of Christian orthodoxy, as expressed, for example, in the Nicene Creed?

Th 4/26 Last Class: Review and Wrap-up

Exercise for Review and Preparation for Final Exam: Review your posts on Discussion Board from throughout the semester. Select 6-7 posts that reflect important moments of your learning this semester. Begin to construct a narrative about the development of your thinking about the New Testament and early Christianity around these posts. How do your postings reflect the ways in which your study of the New Testament and early Christian literature this semester has informed, changed, opened up your thinking about this [and other] material?

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