Religion 343a: Interpreting the Gospels

Prof. Anne McGuire

Haverford College

The full syllabus for this course is available only through the Tri-College network at

Course Description

This course offers a close reading of selected gospels and a selection of recent interpretative approaches. Primary sources will include the Gospels of Mark and Matthew, the Gospel of Thomas, the Infancy Gospel of James, and other non-canonical gospels. The primary goals of the course are to become thoroughly familiar with the text of the gospels selected, to develop the skills of close textual analysis and scholarly research, and to work critically with a variety of interpretative approaches.

Among the topics we will consider are: theories of the composition of the gospels; the literary genre of the various gospels and their parts - such as parables, miracle stories, controversy stories, passion narrative; close reading and interpretation of selected passages; attention to theories about the social and cultural contexts in which the gospels were written and circulated; and the reinterpretation of the gospels in various cultural contexts, including those of New Testament scholarship and contemporary culture.

Required Reading

The following books are available for purchase at the Haverford College Bookstore:

Recommended if you don't already own:

Course Outline

Course Requirements

This is a seminar course. All students are expected to come to class prepared to participate in discussion, to make frequent presentations to class, and to respond actively to others' comments and reports. Students are responsible for close reading of primary and secondary sources each week.

Syllabus of Class Topics and Readings

M 1/16 Introduction to the Course: Interpreting the Gospels

I. The Gospel of Mark (1/23-2/6)

1/23 Interpreting the Gospel of Mark: Parables, Secrecy, and Misunderstanding

1/30 Boundary Crossings and Reversals in Mark: Power and Weakness, Inside and Outside: Interpreting the Kingdom in Mark's Story of Jesus

2/6 Reading and Interpreting the Gospel of Mark: Discussion of Selected Passages and of the Gospel as a Whole

II. Interpreting the Gospel of Matthew and Synoptic Comparison (2/13-2/27)

Spring Break (3/3-3/12)

III. Interpreting The Gospel of Thomas (3/13-3/20)

IV. Interpreting the Gospel of John (3/27-4/10)

V. Presentation of Seminar Papers in Progress (4/17-4/24)

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