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Introduction to New Testament

RELG 106
Tuesday/Thursday, 8:30-10:20
Olds-Upton 207

Instructor: Adam Kotsko

Office: Humphrey House 109
Office Hours: Tuesday/Thursday 2:45-4:00 or by appointment

Course Description
This course is an introduction to the early Christian literature collected in the New Testament
and selected related writings, from a literary and historical perspective.

Course Goals
Upon completing this course, students should:
• be familiar with the most important texts and themes in the New Testament and what
they tell us about the origins of Christianity;
• be able to identify the central themes and arguments of pre-modern texts and state them
in a clear and sympathetic way in class discussion;
• be able to assess modern interpretations of those texts in an informed way; and
• be able to formulate criticisms in a way that is attentive to the original author’s intent and

Course Requirements

1. Shared readings: All common readings should be completed before the class session for
which they are listed.
2. Film viewings: During the first half of the class, there will be three film viewings
scheduled outside of class. Students who are unable to attend the scheduled viewing will
be expected to watch the films on their own; copies will be on reserve in the library.
3. Class participation: Class periods will incorporate significant lecture elements, but each
class period will include an in-class discussion. Students are expected to arrive in class
ready to discuss the assigned readings in a way that is attentive and accountable to the
texts, providing specific references to back up their points.
4. Reading responses: For the weeks specified, students will be required to write responses
to one of the assigned biblical readings (marked in italics on the schedule), of
approximately one page (single-spaced) and including supporting quotes from the
reading, addressing the following questions:
• Weeks 2 through 5: If this gospel was the only information you had about Jesus,
who would you say Jesus is? What is his personality? What is his mission in life?
Who opposes his mission? Why does he have to die?
• Weeks 6 through 10: If this letter was the only information you had about the early
Christian community, what type of community would you say it is? What are its
goals? What kinds of disputes tend to arise and how are they to be resolved? What
differing visions of community is the author calling his readers to reject?

5. Papers: In addition to the regular responses, students will be required to submit two
longer papers, of approximately 4-6 pages, responding to the following two prompts:
• Paper #1: Select one of the gospels and one of the films, comparing and contrasting
the image of Jesus that arises in each, based on the questions for the responses from
weeks 2 through 5. Papers should reference particular quotations and stories from the
gospels and particular scenes and dialogue from the films.
• Paper #2: Choose between Elliott and Schüssler-Fiorenza’s books, addressing the
following points: (1) summarize the basic outline of their interpretation of the biblical
texts they discuss; (2) point out the arguments that you found most convincing and
least convincing, citing specific biblical texts to reinforce your claims; (3) explain
whether you found the author’s interpretation helpful and convincing in general, and
why. (As a basic guideline, points 1 and 2 should take up roughly 40% of the paper
each, with point 3 taking up the remaining 20%.) The professor will model this type
of assessment throughout the course in dialogue with the Ehrman textbook.
6. Attendance: Attendance is expected, in light of the fact that this is a discussion-heavy
class. While attendance will not be formally tracked, a clear pattern of absenteeism will
result in a reduction in your grade.
7. Academic integrity: All students are expected to fully abide by the Honor Code of
Kalamazoo College.
8. Grade summary:
• Class participation: 10%
• Reading responses: 30%
• Papers (each): 30%

Course Texts

Required textbooks:

• The Oxford Annotated Bible with Apocrypha (Oxford University Press)

• Bart D. Ehrman, A Brief Introduction to the New Testament (Oxford University Press)
• Neil Elliott, Liberating Paul (Augsburg Fortress)
• Elizabeth Schussler-Fiorenza, Revelation: Vision of a Just World (Fortress)

Other supplemental readings, marked in the course outline with asterisks (**), will be distributed
in the most convenient way.

Outline of Course and Reading

(Note: Texts for the reading responses are listed in italics.)

Week 1: The Context of the New Testament Literature

• Tuesday: Course intro, discussion of syllabus, discussion of Philemon
• Thursday: Ehrman, chs. 1 through 3

Week 2: The Gospel of Mark

• Tuesday: Gospel of Mark; Ehrman, chs. 4 and 5

• Thursday: Sayings Gospel “Q” (**)

Week 3: The Gospel of Matthew

• Film: The Last Temptation of the Christ
• Tuesday: Gospel of Matthew; Ehrman, ch. 6
• Thursday: The Gospel of Thomas (**)

Week 4: The Gospel of Luke and Acts of the Apostles

• Film: Cool Hand Luke
• Tuesday: Gospel of Luke; Ehrman, ch. 7
• Thursday: Acts of the Apostles; Ehrman, ch. 8

Week 5: The Gospel of John and the “Johannine Literature”

• Film: Monty Python’s Life of Brian
• Tuesday: Gospel of John; 1, 2, and 3 John; Ehrman, ch. 9
• Thursday: Ehrman, chs. 10 and 11

Week 6: St. Paul, part 1

• Paper #1 due in class Tuesday
• Tuesday: 1 Thessalonians, 2 Thessalonians; Ehrman, chs. 12 and 13; Elliott, ch. 1
• Thursday: Galatians, Philippians; Ehrman, ch. 15; Elliott, ch. 2

Week 7: St. Paul, part 2

• Tuesday: 1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians; Ehrman, ch. 14; Elliott, ch. 3
• Thursday: Romans; Ehrman, ch. 16; Elliott, ch. 4

Week 8: Imitators of St. Paul

• Tuesday: Colossians, Ephesians; Ehrman, ch. 17; Elliott, ch. 5
• Thursday: 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, Titus; Ehrman, ch. 18; Elliott, ch. 6

Week 9: Other New Testament Writings

• Tuesday: James, Hebrews, 1 Peter, 2 Peter, Jude; Ehrman, chs. 19 and 20
• Thursday: Revelation; Schüssler-Fiorenza, part 1

Week 10: Claiming the Authority of the Apostles: Roots of Early Catholicism
• Tuesday: 1 Clement (**); Schüssler-Fiorenza, part 2
• Thursday: Irenaeus of Lyons, selections from “Against All Heresies” (**); Schüssler-
Fiorenza, part 3

Paper #2 due (via e-mail) on Friday of finals week by noon.

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