THST 110: Introduction to the New Testament
Felix Just, S.J.

Course Description and Syllabus - Spring 2001

Course Description and Objectives:
This introductory course is intended to enliven our understanding and appreciation of the Bible by studying some of the social, historical, cultural, literary and theological dimensions of the New Testament. We will look at the original meaning of the NT in its ancient Judeo-Christian context as well as its modern relevance for our own lives and cultures.

This course has the following more specific goals and objectives:

1) To attain a basic familiarity with the content and the literary genres of the Bible, esp. the New Testament:

- we will read large selections from the various types of books that make up the New Testament,
        including the canonical Gospels, Acts, Letters, Homilies, and one Apocalypse.
- we will learn how these ancient literary genres are different from one other and also differ from the
        corresponding categories of modern literature, despite some obvious similarities.
2) To study the New Testament critically in the light of its social, historical, cultural, and religious contexts:
- we will learn some highlights of Judeo-Christian history (esp. 2nd cent. BCE to 2nd cent. CE),
        in order to see how strongly Judaism affected the development of early Christianity.
- we will become familiar with important aspects of ancient Jewish and Greco-Roman cultures,
        and learn how they are vastly different from our own cultures today.
3) To learn how to read the Gospels carefully, paying attention to several historical levels at once:
- we will distinguish between several stages: the historical Jesus, early Christian oral traditions,
        the written works of the apostles and evangelists, and later translations and interpretations.
- we will apply critical scholarly methods for determining the historicity of individual traditions,
        and try to be attentive to changes and developments in biblical ideas and teachings.
4) To improve our academic skills, including critical reading, research, writing, and discussion skills:
- we will practice raising questions that challenge unspoken assumptions and explore new areas,
        and also learn to look for multiple answers, rather than being satisfied with simple solutions.
- we will share our insights with one another in a variety of written and oral forms, based on our
        advance preparations, including participation in large and small group discussions.
5) To experience the academic study of theology as an essentially inter-disciplinary enterprise:
- we will incorporate some insights from the fields of history, archaeology, literature, language,
        philosophy, sociology, anthropology, art, film, natural sciences, mathematics, etc.
 - we will also regularly ask about the specifically theological meaning and relevance of the texts,
        and explore how they affect the life and practices of religious communities and individuals.

Required Textbooks and Materials, available in the LMU Bookstore:
  1. HCSB:  Meeks, Wayne A., ed. The HarperCollins Study Bible. New York: HarperCollins, 1997.
  2. Perkins, Pheme. Reading the New Testament. Second ed. New York;  Mahwah, NJ: Paulist, 1988.
  3. Materials posted for each day on these webpages  (
  4. Seven "Scantrons" for the quizzes and exams (Form No. 889-E; with 25 questions on each side).
  5. Forty index cards for your daily questions (white, lined, 3x5 inch cards).
Reference Works for Extra Research, available in the LMU Library:
  1. HarperCollins Bible Dictionary. San Francisco: Harper, 1996.  --  LMU Ref.  BS440 H235 1996 (basic info)
  2. Anchor Bible Dictionary. 6 vols. New York: Doubleday, 1992.  --  LMU Ref.  BS440 A54 1992 (more detailed)
  3. Bibloi CD-ROM Program  --  available on the LMU Library reference area computers

Course Work and Expectations:
1) Attendance and Tardiness:  On-time attendance is not only common courtesy but is also important for learning, and therefore is required for this course. Let me know in advance (personally, by phone, or by e-mail) if you absolutely must miss or be late for a certain class. Your final course grade will drop one step for every three unexcused absences, but perfect attendance will be rewarded!  Also, LMU policy allows no eating or drinking in any classrooms. Sorry!

2) Reading Assignments:  All readings (see the attached "Detailed Class Schedule") should be completed before you come to class each day, so that you can understand the lectures and contribute to the class discussions.  Read the biblical texts first, along with the corresponding introductions in the HCSB.  Then also do the assigned secondary readings from our textbook and the webpages.  Make sure you bring your HarperCollins Study Bible to class each day!

3) Class Participation: Always come prepared to take notes, to ask questions, to give answers, to summarize the readings, and to challenge assumptions (your own and those of others - but always do so respectfully!). For each day, prepare a 3x5 index card with at least two questions, one based on the biblical reading and one on the secondary readings (on the top line of the card, write your name, the date, and the section number). These could be simple questions for clarification, more complex issues for discussion, or personal struggles and reactions, but obviously not just the same questions as in the back of each chapter of Perkins! Write down honest and thought-provoking questions.

4) Office Visits: Throughout the semester, please visit or call my office at any time to discuss questions or problems (scheduled office hours are on top of this syllabus).  To help me get to know all the students as soon as possible, please come to my office sometime in January to introduce yourself briefly (a sign-up sheet will be available in class).

5) Written Exercises: You will be asked to write five short papers (only 1½ to 2 pages); detailed instructions about the topics will be given at least one week in advance. All papers must be typed, and are due at the beginning of class on the due dates. Late papers will not be accepted, except in emergencies. Although these papers are short, please still write them well (see my webpage of Writing Tips).

6) Quizzes and Exams:  We will have five short objective quizzes, for which you need to bring your own "Scantrons" (Form 889-E). We will also have one midterm exam and a comprehensive final exam. Anyone who has a "strong A" at the end of the semester (93% or higher without "extra credit") will be exempt from the final exam.

7) Extra Credit:  Various opportunities will be announced during the semester (NT-related films, events, etc.). You can also suggest your own ideas for writing or creative projects.  Any extra work must be turned in on or before April 20. You can earn a maximum of 40 extra points during the semester, from one larger project or several smaller ones.

8) Academic Integrity and Honesty:  You are strongly encouraged to study together with other students, and you may use any books, websites, and other resources to help you learn. However, all written work must be your own, unless you are directly citing from sources that you have properly documented and credited.  Copying from any other person, any book, or anything on the internet without properly documenting your source (even if you change a few words!), is a serious offense (plagiarism) which will result in a failing grade, not just for that assignment but for the entire course!

Course Grades:
Attendance & Participation:  100 points (for 40 class sessions; index card questions; office visits; 17% of the course total)
Short Written Exercises:  100 points (5x20 pts; 17% of the course total)
Brief Quizzes:  100 points (5x20 pts; 17% of the course total)
Midterm Exam:  100 points (17% of the course total)
Final Exam:  200 points (33% of the course total)
Total:  600 points possible (plus max. 40 extra credit)

Legal Disclaimer:
This "syllabus" will probably be modified slightly during this semester; pertinent announcements will be made in class.

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This page was last updated on  09/26/01