Kenyon College homepage Department of Religion
Mary Suydam 

Religious Studies 225: The New Testament

Prof. Mary Suydam Spring 2009
Class: Tues-Thurs. 2: 40 - 4
Phone PBX 5067
Office: Ascension 11
Office Hours: MW 1 - 3

Links Selected Handouts
Resources on Just War Theory Glossary of Terms
New Testament Gateway Ten Commandments of Essay Writing
From Jesus to Christ (PBS) Film Viewing Guidelines
Online Greek Bible The Academic Study of Religion
Hyperhistory Online Twenty Rules Not to Follow
Jesus Seminar Comparison of Mark and Paul
A Synoptic Gospel Primer Timeline of Jewish Biblical History
E-Res and Course Reserve (LBIS) Passion Timeline: Mark, Matthew, John
Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary Formation of the Jesus/Christ Myth

Goals of the Course: This course is an introduction to the New Testament, focusing primarily on the four gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John), and some of the letters of Paul. We will also analyze books such as Acts, Hebrews, and the book of Revelations. We will learn how these books came to be written, who wrote them, and their intended audiences. We will study how the New Testament slowly assumed its final form. We will learn about some of the methodologies (source, form, and redaction criticism) that scholars use to study the New Testament. The New Testament is critical to understanding the origins of Christianity. We will study the many (and sometimes competing) approaches to Christianity within the ancient world. We will particularly focus upon differing New Testament views of Jesus and his message. We will also study other writings from the ancient world, such as other gospels, testaments, and books of Acts.

Required Texts:

Harper Collins Study Bible.

Gospel Parallels. B. Throckmorton (Nelson Press), 5th edition.

From Jesus to Christ. Paula Fredriksen (Harper-Collins Press).

Lost Christianities. Bart Ehrman.. (New York: Oxford University Press, 2005).

Suggested Texts (we will be reading portions of these texts):

Who Wrote the New Testament? Burton Mack. (San Francisco: Harper San Francisco, 1995).

Jesus: Apocalyptic Prophet. Bart Ehrman. (New York: Oxford University Press,).

There will also be E-res and Course Reserve Readings.

Class Format: This class is organized as a collaborative exploration with the professor as guide. There will be occasional presentations by the teacher. Classes will focus on serious discussion of the readings. You should come to class each day prepared to discuss the reading for that day. You should also bring the relevant reading materials. Plan especially on bringing the Bible and Gospel Parallels every day. Some classes will begin with a problem-solving or analytical exercise related to the topic to be discussed in class. Then we will discuss our theories and strategies. There will also be weekly written assignments (see below).

Course Requirements:

1. Attendance and Participation: 20%. Regular attendance is a requirement of this course. This course is structured as a collaborative exchange of information between students and professor. The format of the class is a combination of lecture and discussion, with emphasis on discussion and exploration of texts together. Active discussion of the topics is a critical component of this class. If you are present for every class but never say a word, that is a C. Missing more than two unexcused classes will lower your final grade by one full point (B becomes C, for example). You will be given written feedback on your participation midway through the course.

2. Weekly writing assignments: 20% There will be weekly writing assignments each week to aid in preparing for discussions of the texts. These assignments will focus on the methodology for reading the texts and your discoveries as you apply these critical tools.

3. Exegesis Paper: 20%. This will be a critical examination of a portion of New Testament text. For detailed instructions on this assignment, click Exegesis Paper Instructions. Exegesis papers are due Feb. 26.

4. Group Project: 20%. This project will allow you to apply what you have learned in the course to a specific topic related to contemporary debates about the New Testament. The reason there are debates is because there is conflicting evidence on these issues within the New Testament texts. As a group you will have to analyze the relevant texts for your topic, study some competing views about these texts, come to an informed decision about them, and present your findings to the rest of the class. For a list of topics and detailed instruction on this assignment, click Group Project Instructions. Class presentations will occupy the last week of class. For important dates click here. The information presented will be part of the material on the final exam. See also List of Group Members.

For grade criteria click here.

5. Final Exam: 20%. The final exam will test your ability to think critically about the texts you have studied, including aspects of the class presentations. It will be an open book exam.  The final exam is May 7.

Topics and Reading Assignments

Week 1: The New Testament World

Jan. 13: Introduction to the class; a short walk through the Roman world

A bit of the beatitudes

Assignment: gospel beginnings: compare the actual beginnings of each gospel (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) with your original ideas about how they begin or ought to begin. Write a 1-2 page paper about your reactions to this comparison: surprises, questions, issues you would like to know more about.

Jan. 15: The story of Israel; Gospel beginnings

The Story of Israel

Readings: From Jesus to Christ, chapters 2, 5

Ehrman, Lost Christianities, Introduction

Harper Collins Study Bible, xxxix - xliii:  "Strategies for Reading Scripture"

Who was Jesus? Images of Jesus in the 19th and 20th centuries

Film:From Jesus to Christ, part I

Gospel Beginnings
Week 2: Composition of the New Testament: Gospels

Jan. 20: Discovering the gospels; the triple tradition

Readings: From Jesus to Christ, chapter 1

E-res: Jesus, Apocalyptic Prophet (Bart Ehrman)

Schweitzer, The Quest for the Historical Jesus (Handout)

When were the gospels written?

Jan. 22: Understanding the triple tradition; the double tradition and Q

Assignment: The triple tradition: Gospel Parallels #52, pages 42-43

Who was Jesus? What was his historical context?

What's in the Triple Tradition?

Week 3: Q

Jan. 27: Working with Q

Readings: The Lost Gospel of Q, chapter 5 (E-Res)

Gospel Parallels, #167, 2, 18, 19

Ehrman, Jesus, Apocalyptic Prophet, chapter 3, 41-53 (Course Reserve)

Triple Tradition Insights

The Double Tradition

Jan. 29: Form criticism

Readings: Ehrman, Lost Christianities, chapter 3

Gospel of Thomas sayings

Assignment: The double tradition: Gospel Parallels #35 and 38.

Week 4: Paul

Feb. 3: Who was Paul?

Double tradition Insights

Readings: Galatians 4:1-8; Galatians 5:16-26; I Thessalonians 5: 9-26;

Burton Mack, Who Wrote the New Testament, chapter 4 (Course Reserve)

Film: From Jesus to Christ, part 2

Paul's Kerygma

Feb. 5: Paul and other Christians; responses to the resurrection

Readings: Ehrman, Lost Christianities, chapter 2

Readings: From Jesus to Christ, chapter 8

Paul's First Letter to the Corinthians

Early Christian Dilemmas

Week 5: Paul and Mark

Feb. 10: Understanding Paul's context

Readings: Burton Mack, Who Wrote the New Testament, chapter 5 (Course Reserve)

From Jesus to Christ, chapter 3, pp. 52-61

Mack/Frederiksen Insights

Pauline concepts

Paul's Letter to the Romans

Assignment: Pauline terminology

Scriptural Quotations

Feb. 12: Understanding Mark's context: the Jewish war and the destruction of the Temple
Readings: From Jesus to Christ, chapter 9, 177-185

Jewish and Christian Responses to the Destruction

Gospel Parallels, #91, 93, 95

Signups to Discuss Exegesis Paper

Week 6: The Gospel of Mark

Feb. 17: The Secret Messiah

Readings: From Jesus to Christ, chapter 3, pages 44-52

Pauline Terminology Insights

Gospel of Mark, chapters 1-6

The Structure of Mark

Features of Mark's Gospel

Feb. 19: Miracle and controversy stories

Readings: Gospel of Mark, chapters 7-12

The Structure of Mark, Chapters 6-9

Ehrman, Lost Christianities, chapter 4

A Review of Stephen Carlson's The Gospel Hoax

Morton Smith: One Assessment

Morton Smith and the Secret Gospel of Mark

The "James" Ossuary Controversy

Week 7: Mark Continued: the Passion Narrative

Feb. 24:

The Structure of Mark: Chapters 11-13

Reading: Gospel of Mark, chapters 13-16

Assignment: Mark's Passion Narrative

Feb. 26: Passion Narrative continued

Mark's Passion Narrative: Class insights

Film: From Jesus to Christ, part 3

Mark's Themes

Structure of Mark: Chapters 14-16

Exegesis Papers due Thursday, Feb. 26.

Choose Topics for Group Presentation.

-------------------------------------SPRING BREAK ------------------------------------------

Week 8: Matthew

March 17 :

Readings: From Jesus to Christ, 36-43

Matthew, chapters 1-7; 20: 1-16

Gospel Parallels, #59, 60, 63, 68

The Gospel of Matthew: Background and Motifs

March 19 :

Readings: From Jesus to Christ, chapter 9, 185-191

Matthew, chapters 24-28 (and corresponding Gospel Parallels 227-231)

Lost Christianities, chapter 5

Adding New Stories: Truth or Lie?

Week 9: Luke

March 24:

Readings: From Jesus to Christ, chapter 9, 191-198

Luke, chapters 1-2; Gospel Parallels E-L

Luke, chapters 10-16; Gospel Parallels 139-141, 143-144, 173-174, 177

Factors contributing to the diversity of Christian groups

Luke: the book and the author

Luke's Narrative Trajectory

Unique features of Luke

March 26:

Readings: From Jesus to Christ, 185-191, 36-44

Luke, chapters 21-22; Gospel Parallels 214, 238-240, 244-246, 249-250, 253, CC, DD, EE

From Jesus to Christ, 191-198, 27-36

Ehrman, Jesus, Apocalyptic Prophet, chapters 8-10 (Course Reserve)

Assignment for Thursday: Themes in Luke

Week 10 and 11: John

March 31 : The cosmic Christ


Readings: From Jesus to Christ, 198-204, 19-26

John, chapters 1-4

Structure and Features of the Fourth Gospel

The Logos in Jewish and Hellenistic philosophy

The Logos in John

Differing Christologies

April 2: Seeing is believing

Readings: John, chapters 4-9

Robert Kysar, John, the Maverick Gospel,  chapter 3 (Online through Netlibrary)

Study Assignment: Themes in John

Signs in John


Seeing, Hearing, Knowing

April 7: John and Qumran

Readings: John, chapters 10-16

John and "the World"

The Fourth Gospel and Qumran

Robert Kysar, John, the Maverick Gospel, chapter 2 (Online through Netlibrary)

Study Assignment : Johannine Dualism

Groups 1 and 2:  Meet with instructor to go over data for group presentations

April 9: The farewell discourse

Readings: John, chapters 13-17

Ehrman, Lost Christianities, chapter 6

A Gnostic Cosmic Myth

Gnostic Codes

Hymn of the Pearl

The Gospel of Truth

Study Assignment for Thursday: John's Passion Narrative

Group 1:  Dress rehearsal outside class
Groups 3 and 4:  Meet with instructor to go over data for group presentations.

Week 12: The New Testament in context: Acts

April 14 and 16

Study Assignment for Tuesday: Read the first four chapters of the Book of Acts. Jot down three major themes that are established.

Read also: E-res: Mack, Who Wrote the New Testament, chapter 9: "Inventing Apostolic Traditions"

Ehrman, Lost Christianities, chapter 7

Acts of the Apostles: Sequence of Events

Acts of the Apostles: Myth, Fiction, Tradition

Letter of Clement (ca. 96)

The Apostles' Creed

The Martyrdom of Perpetua

April 16: Dress Rehearsal: Groups 2 and 3 (outside class)

Study Assignment for Thursday: Read the book of Acts, chapters 9-15.

Readings: Lost Christianities, chapter 8

From Jesus to Christ, chapter 10

Orthodoxy and heresy

Features of the Proto-Orthodox churches

Assumptions of the Historical Critical Method

Writing Assignment

Week 13: Early Christian Communities

Class presentations will take place Weeks 12, 13 and 14: April 16, 21, 23 and April 28 .

April 21 and 23

April 21: Dress Rehearsal: Group 4 (outside class)

Lost Christianities, chapter 11

Forming the Canon

I and II Timothy; Titus; James

E-Res: Pagels, Gnostic Gospels, "The Controversy over Christ's Resurrection"

The Pastoral Epistles and James

Arguments over Authority in the Second Century

April 23: Putting the New Testament Together

Colossians-Hebrews Insights

Readings:  Excerpts from The Da Vinci Code (E-Res)

Assignment: Spot the Whoppers
Da Vinci's Last Supper

Week 14: Revelations

April 28

Readings: Revelations 1-7, 17-22

Lost Christianities, chapter 1 and chapter 12

About Apocalypses


Battle hymn of the republic (performance)

Battle hymn of the republic (lyrics)

Class Presentations:

April 16: The New Testament and Anti Semitism

April 21: The New Testament and Women

April 23 : The New Testament and "Family Values"

April 28 : The New Testament: Peace or War?