This 4-unit course is a "survey of the New Testament in the historical and cultural context of the Graeco-Roman world" with "special attention to literary forms and theological contexts" (Undergraduate Catalog). Of the General Education requirements, it meets the Life and Literature of the New Testament component.
Class time will feature lectures, student-led discussions of secondary texts, spontaneous debates and sermons, and edifying tangents. Readings introduce complementary and competing accounts of the background, lessons, and uses of the New Testament of Holy Scripture.
Luther was right that the Church is where the Word is kept. Teaching the New Testament should equip disciples to hear, keep, and proclaim the good news in all they do.
Today's students are tomorrow's (and even already today's) teachers. My students are in the process of entering teaching professions of all kinds: Pastoring, missions, small group leadership, parenthood, and friendship. My theology and Church history classes already aim to make students better readers of Scripture. This goal takes center stage in biblical studies.
The category of Scripture is so profoundly deep that it almost defies description. (This did not stop me from giving it my best shot in my dissertation, Living and Active: Scripture in the Economy of Salvation.) The Bible is a historical artifact whose original home is a distant culture at the epicenter of salvation-history. It is the standard by which Christian faithfulness is measured. It is a text of vast complexity that demands the same interpretive skills as all other texts (only sharpened considerably). It is a normative work of intertextual and intratextual interpretation. It is the Word of the Holy Spirit, whose true appreciation demands faith and calls for theological discernment, not just phenomenology. It runs through every Christian tradition around the world and over two millennia. The worshiping Church is its home and lifeblood. It is an object of centuries of scholarly scrutiny, much of it helpful even when unfriendly. It is the constitutive text of the people of Westmont college and of the college itself, and as such it is bound up with the identities of those who find themselves confronted by it in unfamiliar, exhilarating, troubling ways. To teach New Testament is not merely to teach a text, but to teach this text and its worlds of old and new creation.
Doing justice to all these dimensions of the New Testament demands that students learn both the discipline of original context and the discipline of past and present ecclesial interpretation. They must respect the Bible as literature and respect it as prayer, praise, and (sic) prooftext. They must learn its content while they attend to questions of authorship, dating, and tradition-history. Its good news must be free to confront them, offer God's righteousness, and grow them in holiness. Their teacher must challenge the complacent and support the intimidated.
This course contributes to Westmont's General Education curriculum in serving the school's vision of Christian liberal arts collegiate education. To quote from the LLNT syllabus of my colleague Karen Jobes, "Study of the New Testament is inherently inter-disciplinary. You will recognize points of contact with many of the other disciplines in the liberal arts curriculum. You will become more aware of the issues in reading and interpreting an ancient text (i.e., hermeneutics). Questions of history, philosophy, comparative religions, sociology and anthropology, theology, critical scholarship, literary theory, rhetoric, and linguistics will challenge you to read the New Testament in a new and deeper way."