Instructions for Class Presentation
This assignment offers an opportunity for you to apply what you have learned in this course to a specific topic related to contemporary debates about the New Testament. Your presentation should provide tightly argued evidence both from the New Testament and contemporary Christian groups. Textual evidence should not be taken out of context but must show an awareness of the themes, Christology and/or issues of the writers/books that are cited. The presentation must show your familiarity with the historical-critical approach to the New Testament.
Obviously the reason these are debated issues is that conflicting evidence exists within the texts themselves. In many cases conflicting evidence, or at least ambiguity, exists in a single text. This means that you will need to re-familiarize yourself with the texts as a whole in order to show that 1) you are aware of the conflicts or ambiguities of the text(s); 2) you are making an informed presentation based on all of the evidence. You will be presenting contrasting views from different Christian groups on a specific topic over which there is disagreement. Your job is not to decide who is "right", but to explain the interpretations of the New Testament that each group chooses in support of its beliefs. You will also be investigating how each group views the New Testament itself.
Choice of Topics
1. The New Testament and Anti-Semitism
A number of New Testament passages historically came to be used by Christians in vicious opposition against Jews. Yet Jesus was a Jew and the earliest "Jesus movements" were Jewish and/or consisted of both Jewish and Gentile members. How do you reconcile this fact? What specific New Testament passages feed anti-Semitic sentiments? Do you think the New Testament is anti-Semitic? Is there another way to read these disturbing passages? Your presentation should exhibit the complexity of this problem, recognizing, for example, the different time periods and different places in which various texts were written and the different audiences the writers addressed.
2. The New Testament and Women
There is no single view of women in the New Testament and throughout two milennia of interpretation the New Testament has been both a source for gender-based social hierarchies and a source for egalitarian gender roles. How do you account for this? What are some of the passages that contribute to these differences? Can you make any "general" assessment about women in the New Testament? What are the specific passages, persons, and/or situations that support your position? Your presentation should also show your familiarity with a variety of the texts and views that would complicate or contravene your position. Keep in mind the different time periods in which the texts were written and the different audiences and problems addressed.
3. The New Testament and Family Values
In recent years a number of political and religious groups in the United States have advocated a "return to family values," often suggesting that such values are intrinsically related to biblical exhortation and Christian faith. What are these modern "family values?" The term "values," a modern social-scientific term, is itself not in the New Testament, so what concepts are used to talk about family in the New Testament? What are some of the things the New Testament has to say about family relations? Are the ideals associated with "family values" advocated? Support your position with careful textual analysis, showing your awareness of contradictions within the texts.
4. The New Testament: Peace or Violence?
The New Testament has been an inspiration for groups who advocate love, peace, and justice. A recent Christian theologian, for example, argues that the core of the New Testament is Jesusí message of radical love and forgiveness as presented in the Sermon on the Mount (Wayne Mahan, 2001). On the other hand, the New Testament has also served as inspiration for groups advocating war and violence. How do you account for this paradox? How can the New Testament be both an advocate for peace and war? What are some specific passages that have been the source for each of these positions? Your presentation should exhibit awareness of the complexity of this problem as it relates to the texts of the New Testament.
Length, Format, Bibliography
The presentation will occupy part of the class hour for that day. You should plan on a 30 minute class presentation. Preparation for the presentation will require the following:
1. It is imperative that you practice your presentation as a group before the actual day. You will be surprised at how long it takes to impart written information. You will also need to make sure the parts of your presentation fit together in terms of time and organization. No group performs well without a dress rehearsal. All materials must be ready one week before the actual presentation.
2. It is important (and your classmates will be grateful) that you present the information to the class and not just read aloud a written paper. Handouts, visual aids, questions and answers, are all methods that can be used to capture the attention of your audience. Most important, speak to the class rather than look down at notes. This requires practice to do well (see #1 above).
3. There should also be spirited discussion from the rest of the class. This discussion is the shared responsibility of presenters and audience. One way that discussion is fostered is to plan for it within your presentation instead of hoping it magically appears at the end. It is generally useful to divide the presentation into parts with different presenters. Each person in the project should have some public role during the presentation and should be responsible for some aspect of the research for the project.
Each presentation should contain the following elements:
A. Handout for the class. Information from the presentation will be on the final exam. Therefore each group has the responsibility to provide information clearly so that the rest of the class can understand it. You should have at least one handout or web page handout that explains the different passages and arguments you encountered. Students can refer to this handout when studying for the exam. NOTE: Since the presentation will be available to the class, the handout should not merely replicate the presentation slides. It should be no more than one page (both sides) and must succinctly contain your main topics, arguments, and Biblical passages.
B. Explanation of relevant passages from the New Testament. You must carefully research all New Testament passages that relate to your topic. Be sure you explain the context in which these passages occur. As a group you must decide which position you think the New Testament advocates. If you can't agree you must present each argument and defend it clearly.
C. Explanation of contemporary arguments. This assignment requires you to research some contemporary views about the New Testament. For example, to find out about the New Testament and "family values" you have to find out what groups mean when they use this term. Does everyone have the same conception of "family values"? You must decide which contemporary groups most nearly approximate the actual content of the New Testament. Are some groups taking New Testament passages out of context? Do they ignore conflicting passages? Again, if you can't agree you must present each argument and defend it clearly.
D. Bibliography. You must provide a written bibliography of both New Testament and contemporary sources.
E. Explanation of individual members' roles within the project. You must each include a typed sheet which explains your individual role in the project. Note: If members of the group feel that someone is not doing his/her share, it is imperative that you inform me well before the presentation.
All written materials will be due on the day of the presentation.
The grade for each person in the project will be in two parts:
1. Effectiveness of the overall presentation (the group aspect): 50%
2. Your individual work on the project (individual grade): 50%
Grades will be based on the following criteria: click here.
Items to Remember
1. For all writing and presentations in this course, avoid the use of the first person plural pronouns "we" and "us," as in "this is meant to teach us to have more faith." The use of "we" forms a confession, assumes that your reader accepts your view, and is not the model used in an academic analysis.
2. The commentary and notes provided in study bibles can be very helpful. Keep in mind, however, that these notes are written from the perspective of specific theological interests that have developed within the Christian tradition over time and in this sense are biased, as are all notes and commentaries. Make the analysis your own.
3. It is customary to inform the reader of the translation you are using (if it is not the Harper Collins Bible) in a parenthesis after the passage quoted or used.
4. Use the web to search for words, etc., but include in your bibliography the bible program that you have used to do this (see #2 above).
5. When using terms which later became related to Christian doctrine such as "salvation," "soul," "Son of God," "Messiah," be sure to explain what you intend by this term and/or what a particular writer/redactor seems to imply.