Kenyon College homepage Department of Religion
Mary Suydam 

Religious Studies 225: The New Testament

Prof. Mary Suydam Spring 2014
Class: Tues-Thurs. 2: 40 - 4
Phone PBX 5067
Office: Ascension 11
Office Hours: T- Th 11-12 and 1:2:30

Links Selected Handouts

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
How to Cite the Bible 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, and the challenges it represented to established views. We will also study other Christian writings from the ancient world, such as other gospels, testaments, and books of Acts.

Required Texts:

Encounter with the New Testament. Russell Pregeant. Fortress Press, 2009.

Harper Collins Study Bible.

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

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. If you are sick you should not come to class. Instead email questions and responses about the reading prior to class and be sure to get notes from someone after the class.

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. NO LATE PAPERS.

3. Weekly Quizzes on the Reading: 10%: There will be weekly Moodle short quizzes to answer on the reading from the textbook, Encounter with the New Testament.  Quizzes must be taken  by class time as indicated.

3. Midterm: 15%. This will be a review how scholars conduct a critical examination of a portion of New Testament text. The Midterm is due Feb. 27.  NO LATE PAPERS ACCEPTED.

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: 15%. 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 Thursday, May 8, at 8:30 AM.  I will offer an alternate early exam on Sunday, May 4.

Topics and Reading Assignments

Week 1: The New Testament World

Jan. 14: Introduction to the class; a short walk through the Roman world

Galatians 3: 4: While we were children, we were enslaved to the elemental powers of the world.

A bit of the beatitudes

I Corinthians 13: 1-10

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. 16: The story of Israel; Gospel beginnings

Sayings of Jesus

The Story of Israel

Reading: Encounter with the New Testament, pp. 1-20.

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. 21: Discovering the gospels; the triple tradition

Readings: Encounter with the New Testament , 25-50

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

Schweitzer, The Quest for the Historical Jesus (Handout)

When were the gospels written?

Codex Sinaiticus

Jan. 23: Understanding the triple tradition; the double tradition and Q

Reading: Encounter with the New Testament , 57-70

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

GP 52

Who was Jesus? What was his historical context?

What's in the Triple Tradition?

Week 3: Q

Jan. 28 : 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 (P/Class)

Triple Tradition Insights

The Double Tradition

Jan. 30 : Form criticism

Readings: Ehrman, Lost Christianities, chapter 3

Encounter with the New Testament , 71-82

Gospel of Thomas sayings

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

Week 4: Paul

Feb. 4: Who was Paul?

Double tradition Insights

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

Encounter with the New Testament , 85-101

Film: From Jesus to Christ, part 2

Paul's Kerygma

Feb. 6: Paul and other Christians; responses to the resurrection

Readings: Ehrman, Lost Christianities, chapter 2

Encounter with the New Testament ,200-243

Paul's First Letter to the Corinthians

Early Christian Dilemmas

Week 5: Paul and Mark

Feb. 11: Understanding Paul's context

Encounter with the New Testament , 244-268

Mack/Frederiksen Insights

Pauline concepts

Paul's Letter to the Romans

Assignment: Pauline terminology

Scriptural Quotations

Feb. 13: Understanding Mark's context: the Jewish war and the destruction of the Temple
Encounter with the New Testament , 104-108

Jewish and Christian Responses to the Destruction

Gospel Parallels, #91, 93, 95

Week 6: The Gospel of Mark

Feb. 18: The Secret Messiah

Readings: Encounter with the New Testament , 111-116 and 124-125, "Mark and Liberation"

Pauline Terminology Insights

Gospel of Mark, chapters 1-6

The Structure of Mark

Features of Mark's Gospel

Feb. 20: Miracle and controversy stories

Readings: Gospel of Mark, chapters 7-12

Encounter with the New Testament ,116-119

Ehrman, Lost Christianities, chapter 4

The Structure of Mark, Chapters 6-9

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. 25:

The Structure of Mark: Chapters 11-13

Reading: Gospel of Mark, chapters 13-16

Encounter with the New Testament , 119-127

Assignment: Mark's Passion Narrative

Feb. 27 : 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

Midterm due Thursday, Feb. 27

Choose Topics for Group Presentation.

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

Week 8: Matthew

March 18:

Readings: Encounter with the New Testament , 128-137

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

Gospel Parallels, #59, 60, 63, 68

The Gospel of Matthew: Background and Motifs

March 20:

Readings: Encounter with the New Testament , 138-144

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

Lost Christianities, chapter 5

Adding New Stories: Truth or Lie?

Week 9: Luke

March 25:

Readings: Encounter with the New Testament , 147-157

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

Luke, chapters 3-9

Factors contributing to the diversity of Christian groups

Luke: the book and the author

Luke's Narrative Trajectory

Unique features of Luke

March 27:

Readings: Encounter with the New Testament , 157-173

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

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

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

Assignment for Thursday: Themes in Luke

Week 10 and 11: John

April 1 : The cosmic Christ


Readings: Encounter with the New Testament , 174-186

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 3: Seeing is believing

Readings: John, chapters 4-9

Encounter with the New Testament , 186-192

Robert Kysar, John, the Maverick Gospel,  chapters 3 and 4 (Online through Netlibrary)

Signs in John


Seeing, Hearing, Knowing

Study Assignment for Tuesday: Johannine Dualism

April 8: 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 : Themes in John 

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

April 10: 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


Week 12: The New Testament in context: Acts

April 15 and 17:

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 and 8

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

Study Assignment for Thursday: Read the book of Acts, chapters 9-15.
Groups 1 and 2:  Meet with instructor to go over data for group presentations.

Orthodoxy and heresy

Features of the Proto-Orthodox churches

Assumptions of the Historical Critical Method

Week 13: Early Christian Communities

April 22: Authority and Orthodoxy in the 2nd and 3rd centuries

I Timothy, Titus, and James

Encounter with the New Testament , 279-283, 285-291: Keeping Paul's Legacy

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

The Pastoral Epistles and James

Arguments over Authority in the Second Century

April 24: Putting the New Testament Together

Forming the Canon

Readings: Encounter with the New Testament , 306-315, 271-279

Lost Christianities, chapter 11

Excerpts from The Da Vinci Code (E-Res)

Assignment: Spot the Whoppers
Da Vinci's Last Supper

April 27-29: Dress Rehearsal: Groups 3 and 4(outside class)

Week 14: Other NT Writings: Colossians andRevelations

April 29 : Colossians

Readings: The book of Colossians (4 chapters)

Lost Christianities, chapter 1

Class Presentation: The New Testament and Family Values

May 1: Revelations

Readings: Revelations 1-7, 17-22

Lost Christianities, chapter 12

About Apocalypses

Battle hymn of the republic (performance)

Battle hymn of the republic (lyrics)

Class Presentation: May 1 : The New Testament: Peace or War?