Life and Literature of the
RS 10.1 & 10.2
Bruce N. Fisk
Clark (CL A) / Tuesday and Thursday
8:00 to 9:50 a.m. (10.1) ; 10:00 to 11:50 (10.2)
Porter Center 15
Mon 12:00 - 2:00 & Wed: 11:00 - 1:00
In office or DC. Also by appointment.
1. Catalog: Survey of the New Testament in the historical and cultural context of the Greco-Roman world. Special attention to literary forms and theological contents. (GE)
2. My Goals for You.
Why require an academic course in New Testament? Doesn't the Bible properly belong in church? Will this course strengthen, or undermine, my faith? Are there risks when the Word of God becomes an object of rigorous study? Shouldn't this course be an elective, rather than a GE requirement? Whether or not these are your questions, let me offer something of a course rationale and lay out a few of my goals for you.
At the heart of this course will be the text of the New Testament, which we will read and discuss together as much as possible. Even if you've grown up in the church, this book can still be quite foreign, since it is always easier to talk about it rather than read it carefully. To be a good reader, you'll need to develop your skills of observation, grasp various bits of the historical context, learn some new vocabulary, cultivate your imagination, and develop a knack for identifying your own bias--the way you tend to distort what you read to make it agree with you.
Good readers learn to dance between strangeness and familiarity. That is, they recognize that the text of the New Testament is very old and strange, from another world almost, and yet they cling to the conviction that this ancient text has something profound to say to us today. One more thing: the best readers don't go it alone. The scariest, safest place to read the New Testament is within the Christian community, alongside others who ask different questions and who can help keep you awake and honest.
Sound, responsible readers of the New Testament also know when to go for help. They dip into Bible commentaries and read books by the best biblical scholars, but they also seek help from a host of other disciplines, many of which you'll be exploring here at Westmont alongside your RS classes. It would be foolish to ignore the rich contributions--questions, methods, findings--of other fields of study. Historians, for example, study the ways history gets written down--historiography is what this is called--which helps big time when we turn toward historical texts like the four Gospels and Acts. Scholars of literature have a keen eye for the quirks and surprises of language, and help us listen for texts within other texts, something so critical for students of a book (the New Testament) so connected to another book (the Old Testament). Social scientists are experts at tracking social forces and dynamics (like poverty, war, taxation, patronage) that exert pressure on new movements, movements like the early church. Archaeologists unearth and interpret ancient artifacts not because artifacts are intrinsically important, but because clay pots and stone walls reveal to us how ancient peoples (like 1st century Jews and Christians) lived, what they cared for, and how they organized their lives. Philosophers like to decode ancient world views and to get inside the heads of very important (but very dead) thinkers--Jewish maybe, or Greek--who have left their mark on the New Testament world. Rhetoricians understand the powers and the dangers of the spoken word, which means they can shed light on why preachers like Jesus and Paul captivated some but aggravated others. On and on we could go. To study the New Testament closely is to draw on almost every one of the liberal arts. Maybe all of them. As we do, we find our insights into Scripture bouncing back to enrich and challenge the very disciplines that lent us help in the first place.
Interdisciplinary dialogue may be win-win, you say, but what about me? Will an academic course like this nudge me over the cliff into spiritual crisis? That depends. College is the time when we discover that some of the pat answers we've clung to won't sustain us for the long haul. You'll find that in all your classes, not just this one. The time has come for you to puzzle things out for yourself. I deeply hope that when surprises come in this class, and when questions loom large, you'll not escape into agnosticism or stoop to cynicism. Instead, I hope you'll allow your world to grow larger (and, I suppose, messier), and you'll find ways to enjoy the journey into a more thoughtful, reflective, sustaining faith. I may be a few steps ahead of you, but I'm on the same path.
I especially hope that "biblical scholarship" becomes one of your favorite terms--no longer an oxymoron (like "jumbo shrimp") nor a fire swamp to be avoided. In my experience, untethered biblical scholarship can be destructive, but it can also raise exciting new questions, supply useful reality checks, introduce fresh ways of reading, ground private faith in public reality, and supply a roadmap to get past the glib cliches we sometimes mistake for thinking Christianly. So, with all that, I'm hoping this course will help you. . .
- know your way around the New Testament, and associate its major ideas, themes and arguments with particular NT works or authors
- enter imaginatively into the world of the New Testament, as you show increasing respect for its social context while refusing to read the NT in a historical vacuum
- appreciate the complex and compelling portrait of Jesus depicted in the Gospels, and discover the importance of contemporary debates about the historical Jesus
- situate Paul's epistles within the historical context of his ministry and of the emerging NT church
- discover some of your own presuppositions and biases in Biblical interpretation
- develop life-long habits of reading and studying the NT, particularly in the context of the Christian community
- make connections between the New Testament and the rest of your studies in history, science, literature, philsophy, psychology, sociology, you name it
- grow as a Christian (or maybe even become one), as your character, heart and mind are transformed by a sustained, thoughtful encounter with Jesus.
So these are my goals. What are yours?
3. Course Format: In addition to lectures, we'll emphasize large and small group discussion of assigned readings and worksheets, periodic video screenings, web-based interaction, and occasional quizzes on reading assignments.
4. Course Texts:
||David Wenham and Steve Walton, Exploring the New Testament: A Guide to the Gospels & Acts. InterVarsity Press, 2001.
This is volume one of a two-volume set that is full of useful stuff, discussion questions, reading suggestions and more. I've not used it before so let me know what you think of it. I like how it seeks to foster dialogue and discussion, and doesn't avoid some of the harder questions in Gospels studies. Sections include "Setting the Scene" on Greco-Roman and Jewish backgrounds to the Gospels and Acts; "Approaching the Gospels" on ways of studying the first four books; "Getting into the Gospels" dealing with each Gospels individually; and sections on the so-called "Historical Jesus" and on the book of Acts.
Readings in ENT-I are indicated below in the Schedule.
I. Howard Marshall, Stephen Travis, Ian Paul, Exploring the New Testament: A Guide to the Letters & Revelation. InterVarsity, 2002.
This volume, by different authors, but in the same series, picks up where volume one left off: with the many epistles by Paul, Peter, James, Jude and John, as well as the anonymous book of Hebrews and the final, most exotic book: Revelation. It will fill in many gaps in your Biblical knowledge and who want a trustworthy guide through many puzzling issues and passages.
Readings in ENT-II are indicated below in the Schedule.
Theissen, Gerd. The Shadow of the Galilean: The Quest of the Historical Jesus in Narrative Form. Fortress, 1987. This novel, set in first century Roman Judaea and Galilee during the time of Jesus, is about a Jewish merchant forced to become a spy for the Romans. As he travels the land on assignment he discovers a wild diversity of opinions about Jesus of Nazareth. But was Jesus a threat to the Empire? With what other known groups and figures might Jesus be compared? Why did he attract followers, and why did Jewish and Roman officials want him executed. I suspect this book will challenge a few of your ideas about Jesus. As you read, consider the following questions:
1. How does Theissen's portrait of Pilate compare and contrast with the Pilate of the Gospels?
2. How does the story of Susanna and Tholomaeus and their sons affect the way you think about Jesus?
3. Why does Theissen intrude the letters to Dr. Kratzinger?
4 Do you see parallels between Jewish Zealots and Iraqi insurgents? Why / why not?
5. What do you think of the descriptions of Jesus as "philosopher," "poet," "prophet," and "Messiah"?
6. Why was Jesus crucified, according to the novel? Does this agree / disagree with the Gospels?
7. Does Andreas become a Christian? What happens to him at the end of the story? What happens to Jesus?
Longenecker, Bruce, W. The Lost Letters of Pergamum. Baker, 2002. From inside the cover: an "introduction to the New Testament world, disguised as a collection of 'lost' letters between Luke and several well-positioned members of Roman society. The genius of the book lies in its fusion of current New Testament scholarship with a very plausible, personal narrative: the sobering story of one man's shift in allegiance from Caesar to Jesus. Along the way we overhear pagan reactions to Jesus' message and endearing stories from household churches; we sense the perils of sea travel and witness the horrors of the Roman games; we identify with privileged benefactors and hurt for subsistence farmers. . . . a reliable, if not always comfortable, guide to the dangerous world of the first-century Roman Christianity." As you read, consider the following questions:
1. What social roles did the gladiatorial games play in Roman society? Do we have modern counterparts?
2. How similar / different are the two house churches?
3. What do "honor" and "shame" mean in Roman society? Does your (sub-)culture operate with similar values?
4. What factors persuade Antipas to become a Christian?
5. Should faithful Christianity be politically subversive? Has this book challenged your ideas about the relationship between "church" and "state"?
6. Are the churches you know more like the church of Antonius or of Kalandion? Why?
7. Was Demetrius, the stone mason, heroic or foolish at the end of the story?
||Frederick Buechner, The Faces of Jesus:A Life Story. Paraclete, 2005. Buechner is a gem--idiosyncratic and grandfatherly but never dull. From inside the cover: Buechner "retells the stories of the Gospels and reminds us that to see Jesus afresh is to be changed and challenged and to be put back on our feet. The Faces of Jesus is a distinctive and warm-hearted look at this person, this God, this teacher, this wanderer, this man of suffering." Enjoy.
Read according to the Schedule. We'll discuss together some of its more provocative claims.
New Oxford Annotated Bible with the Apocrypha (NRSV). Oxford, 1991, 1994. This is one of the better study Bibles available, in a version that may be new to you: the New Revised Standard Version. More formal than the NIV or the NLT, smoother than the NASV, less antique and opaque than the KJV, it is widely used in the academy, in part because it aims to be ecumenical and it seeks to employ gender-inclusive language when possible. You'll find the notes and maps helpful but not overwhelming, and the inclusion of the Apocrypha is helpful, especially for Protestants many of whom know little about these "extra" books. See the essay on pages AP iii-xv for a valuable introduction. Read it, mark it up, bring it to class.
The biblical books to be read are indicated in brown in the Schedule.
NOTE: In addition to these textbooks, I'll point you to on-line bits (linked in the Schedule below) and to reserve readings (available in the library) that you'll need to read before class on the day they are due. All readings are "quizzable."
|IN-COURSE HONORS: If you qualifyfor Honors courses and would like to earn in-course honors in RS10, plan to read the additional material listed in red in the Schedule below. During the first week of class we will meet to determine a weekly meeting time (perhaps over lunch) to discuss the readings together. In addition to weekly readings and discussion, you'll need to keep a journal of notes on the readings, indicating the date read and a page of reflections / reactions for each reading. Bring this journal to the weekly meeting.
Assignments and Evaluation (top of page)
1. Worksheets (6 x 5% = 30%)
- I'll be distributing seven worksheets during the course of the semester. If you miss or lose a handout, print out the PDF version linked to the Schedule.
- You are expected to complete six. Value:5% each.
- Worksheets are due at the beginning of class on their duedate. No late worksheets will be accepted.
- Lateness or absence does not constitute an excuse for late submissions. Unanticipated absences (due to illness, family emergency, etc.) may or may not merit an exception and shall be handled on a case-by-case basis. It is best to work ahead and be on time.
- Anyone wishing to earn up to three additional points may complete an additional one.
2. Digging Deeper (2 x 5% = 10%)
Select two of the following topics from the "Digging Deeper" boxes in ENT I or II on which to write 600 word (roughly 2 pages) essays. (So that is two essays on distinct topics.)
Options in ENT I (note that not all "Digging Deeper" boxes are listed below):
40 (Pharisees), 63 (Matthew's additions to Mark's stories), 77 (Redaction Criticism), 87 (characterization), 94 (exegesis), 100 (interpretation of the sower), 119 (Last Supper OR divorce), 128 (resurrection of Jesus), 163 (Mark 13), 169 (rewriting Jesus' stories), 172 (the antitheses), 192 (overview of Mark), 209 (themes in Matthew), 229 (hymns of Luke 1-2), 230 (Jesus and the poor), 232 (prophecy in Luke-Acts), 235 (charges against Jesus), 236 (Jesus and women), 238 (prayer), 248 (glory), 268 (departure of Jesus), 274 (Damascus road encounter), 278 (Paul's missionary journeys), 291 (God's action in Paul's mission), 293 (sharing possessions), 298 (patterns in Acts),
Options in ENTII
19 (Roman view of Jews), 32 (Paul in the Acts of Paul), 35 (pseudonymity), 64 (Paul as missionary), 67 (Paul's theology of persecution and suffering), 88 (church meetings), 88 (rising of the dead), 112 (Romans 3:24-26), 115 (Romans 7:14-25), 117 (Romans 8 and God's character), 119 (Jewish evangelism), 120 (the state), 125 (Romans 16), 133 (hostility), 138 (Christ and emperors in Philippians), 146 (persuasion), 158 (Paul and Aristotle), 168 (Ephesians 2:1-10), 171 (Pauline authorhip of Ephesians [requires two people and a class presentation]), 180 (church leaders), 183 (wrong teaching and disagreement), 186 (ministry and leadership), 206 (1 Corinthians 12-14), 208 (Paul and the Law), 220 (rhetorical tactics), 222 (what Paul meant and what Paul would say), 237 (faith and Abraham), 257 (speech ethics), 263 (1 Peter 3:1-7 and marriage), 264 (aliens and exiles), 267 (church and Israel), 271 (authorship of 1st Peter), 306 (Ezekiel, Daniel, Revelation), 309 (Revelation and persecution), 315 (Revelation 4), 320 (Revelation 1, 21-22), 322 (numbers in Revelation ).
Please indicate the word count at the end. In some cases, as the instructions indicate, you will need to consult library books (some will be on reserve, some in the regular stacks). Do not include a title page; simply include the following at the top left corner of the first page.
|RS10.1 or 10.2
|ENT I or II page #
When you consult additional sources (beyond the Bible and class texts), be sure to include a bibliography, using the following form. (Replace underlined elements with correct data but do not use underlining.)
||Last name of author, first name. Title of book in italics. City:Publisher, Year of publication.
|Dictionary / encyclopedia entries
||Last name, first name. "Title of article in quotation marks." Pages ##-## in vol. # of Title of Encyclopedia/dictionary in italics. Edited by Name of editor. # vols. City:Publisher, Year of publication.
When you quote from any source (including class texts), or when your ideas have been influenced in some way by a reading, be sure to insert a footnote (at the bottom of the page), or an endnote (at the end of the paper), according to the following form. (Again, replace underlined elements but do not use underlining.)
||First and last name of author, Title of book in italics (City:Publisher, Year of publication), page number or range.
|2nd reference to same book
||Last name of author, Abbreviated title of book in italics, page number.
|Dictionary / encyclopedia entries
||First and last name of author, "Title of article in quotation marks," Title of Encyclopedia/dictionary in italics Volume number: page number or range.
NOTE: Failure to acknowledge sources used in a paper amounts to plagiarism. There is an entire level of hell dedicated to people who plagiarize. To avoid perdition, and to understand why it matters, please read Westmont College's plagiarism policy, and check out these helpful strategies for avoiding plagiarism.
Essays will be graded on clarity, evidence of careful thought, evidence of substantial work, lack of errors (grammatical, typographical, spelling), and absence of plagiarism. NOTE: Some topics will be more demanding and thus stand to earn a better grade. All essays are due in class, at the beginning of class, stapled, on the day the corresponding page of reading in ENT is due. No exceptions. If you miss the deadline (because you slept in, your printer malfunctioned, you left it in your room, you forgot to staple it, etc.), you will need to do another one for a different day in order to earn any credit.
3. Attendance and Reading Quizzes (10%)
I'll be quizzing on the daily readings to encourage you to stay current. Quizzes will be objective (multiple choice, True/False) and may include the question: Did you bring your NRSV Bible to class? (A truthful Yes on this will earn a point.) You might find helpful these Survival Tips for Academic Reading.
4. Three Unit Tests (10 + 15 + 10 = 35%)
Each Unit Test will be based on readings in ENT I-II, class notes, and either Theissen's Shadow or Longenecker's Pergamum. The 4th Unit Test will serve as the Final Exam.
- #1:ENTI chapters A &B
- #2:ENTI chapters C & D AND Theissen, Shadow of the Galilean
- #3:ENTI chapter E AND ENTII chapters A &B.1-10 AND Longnecker, Pergamum, 9-98
5. Final Exam (15%): Unit #4 (ENT II chapters B.11-15, C, D, Longenecker, Pergamum, 99-182) AND selected elements from entire semester.
Anyone caught giving or receiving information, or using study notes, during a test will receive an F for the test and probably for the course.
Preparing for largely objective tests can be daunting. Consider the following suggestions:
- get enough sleep (if you follow this, you can probably safely ignore the rest)
- do your readings in advance; review before class
- attend faithfully; sit near the front to avoid distractions
- listen actively; ask questions
- Note Taking
- indicate the day's date in the top right corner of the page
- begin new thoughts or sentences on a new line
- consider leaving blank lines between major ideas, to allow you to add more later
- don't copy passively; good note-taking is thoughtful and active; use your mind to summarize, simply, emphasize and organize
- think before you write; only rarely is it more important to write than to think
- print or write as neatly as you can but develop your own set of abbreviations (e.g., drop final letters or some vowels; use symbols) to save time & space
- don't try to write down everything said in class; people talk at about 125-140 words per minute; you likely write at about 25. Seek to put the main points in your own words.
- listen for clues pointing toward the big ideas and key points: repetition, inflection, transitions, pauses, Powerpoint
- use outline form (bullets, dashes, indentation) to subordinate minor points and to show parallel ideas
- use boxes, arrows, asterisks or underlining, etc. to highlight key ideas that you'll want to find quickly
- take notes on student comments and questions when they seem helpful, when they generate good discussion or when I stress their importance
- start early; use small blocks of time
- don't rewrite your notes; use the time you save to re-read, review, reflect, hi-lite, discuss
- use left margin of notes for adding key words that "reduce" the lecture to its basic ideas
- don't use study time to socialize; select your study partners carefully; study alone first and then consult with others; avoid large groups
- study from text books and notes, not just from summary sheets and flash cards
Unit One: Setting the Scene and Approaching the Gospels
||Daily Topics and Readings in New Testament
||Other Readings, Links, Worksheets (Honors Readings in Red)
||Introduction & Syllabus; The Face of Jesus
||Historical Context of the New Testament
I Maccabees 1-4 (Apocrypha 201-214)
Jesus as a person of color (Mark Goodacre)
A new face of Jesus (CNN)
Browse: Images of Jesus (BeliefNet)
||Judaism in first-century Palestine
Judith (Apocrypha 32-52)
||Worksheet #1 due: Outsiders Weigh In
What are the Gospels? Where did they come from?
Browse Gospel Parallels site
R. Bauckham, "For whom were the Gospels Written?" in The Gospels for AllChristians (1998), 9-48.
||Understanding the Gospels today (pdf outline)
||Unit Test #1: Setting the Scene and Approaching the Gospels
||CLICK FOR STUDY GUIDE
Unit Two: Understanding Jesus; Getting into the Gospels
Daily Topics and Readings in New Testament
Theissen, Buechner, etc.
||The "Quest for theHistorical Jesus"
Josephus and Luke on the Census of Quirinius
N. T. Wright, The Challenge of Jesus (1999),13-33.
||The life of Jesus in the light of history
The Passion of Christ:Four Gospels Compared
||Worksheet #2 due:Two Men and a Baby
The teaching and aims of Jesus
Ehrman, "Did Jesus Get Angry. . . ?" (BR 21.5; 2005) 17-26, 49-50.
Is Matthew's Gospel anti-Semitic?
Worksheet #3:Magic and Miracle
Sirach 24 (Apocrypha 133-135)
Fisk, Hitchhikers' Guide to the Gospels (excerpts to be distributed).
||Unit Test #2: Jesus and the Gospels
||Review Shadow (all) CLICK-FOR-STUDY-GUIDE
Unit Three:Acts, first-century Roman world, Paul and his letters
||Daily Topics and Readings in New Testament
||Worksheet #4:Resurrection: Empty Tomb, Appearances
||World of first-century Christians; Letters in the New Testament
||Vol II 3-29
Selected articles from Dictionary of New Testament Background (2000):"Revolutionary Movements"; "Roman Social Classes"; "Ruler Cult"; "Slavery" (copies on reserve; original in Reference section)
|3-13 to 3-17 SPRING BREAK
||Paul, letters and life; Galatians and the Thessalonian letters
B. N. Fisk, "Paul: LIfe and Letters" in S. McKnight &G. Osborne, eds. The Face of New Testament Studies (2004), 283-325.
||1 & 2 Corinthians
||Worksheet #5:Paul's Knowledge of Jesus
||Philippians and Philemon
||N. T. Wright, "Paul's Gospel and Caesar's Empire" in R. Horsley, ed., Paul and Politics (2000), 60-183.
||Unit Test #3: Acts and Paul
||Review I:267-299; II:3-148
||Review Pergamum 9-98 (CLICK HERE FOR STUDY GUIDE)
Unit Four: Paul's Letters continued; other letters; Revelation
||Daily Topics and Readings in New Testament
||Colossians and Ephesians
G. B. Shaw, "The Monstrous Imposition upon Jesus" (1913), 296-302, and
K. Stendahl, "The Apostle Paul and the Introspective Conscience of the West" (1963) ,422-434 in W. Meeks, ed. The Writings of St. Paul (1972).
||1 & 2 Timothy and TItus
Worksheet #6:Leadership in the Early Church
||Paul's Thought and Missionary Activity / NTLetters
R. B. Hays, "Reading Scripture in light of the Resurrection" in E. F. Davis andR. B. Hays, eds.,The Art of ReadingScripture(2003), 216-238.
||James and 1 Peter
R. B. Hays, "'Why do you stand looking up toward heaven?' New TestamentEschatology at the turn of the millennium" Modern Theology 16 (1, 2000) 115-135.
||2 Peter, Jude, letters of John
||Worksheet #7: Apocalypse Now
2 Esdras 3-7 (Apocrypha 325-341)
||Final Exam: Paul, General Epistles, Revelation, etc.
||Review Pergamum 99-182 (CLICK HERE FOR STUDY GUIDE)