Course Description & Goals: In this upper-division course we will study the content of the Four
Gospels of the New Testament, as well as their literary, historical, social,
and theological contexts. We will read each Gospel individually, and then
carefully compare and contrast their portraits of Jesus, their messages
for ancient Christians, and their relevance for modern readers. We will
also consider what can really be known about Jesus of Nazareth, in contrast
to later legends and beliefs. More specifically, the course has the following
goals and objectives:
To become familiar with the basic structure, themes, message, and terminology
of each Gospel:
we will read each of the four canonical Gospels separately, focusing on
the texts themselves
we will investigate the similarities and differences between selected passages
from the Gospels
we will supplement our own understanding through regular reading of the
To understand the nature and purpose of the Gospels -- what they are,
and what they are not:
we will carefully define "Gospel" and related terms and genres of ancient
we will consider some similarities and differences between ancient and
modern literary forms
we will explore the original intentions and the ongoing relevance of the
To study the Gospels critically in light of their social, historical,
literary, and religious contexts:
we will learn some relevant highlights of Judeo-Christian history and Greco-Roman
we will read a variety of other ancient Christian and non-Christian texts
related to the Gospels
To consider what can be known with various degrees and types of certainty
about Jesus of Nazareth:
we will learn about the methods and criteria used by scholars in searching
for the "Historical Jesus"
we will compare the differing roles of scientific inquiry, religious doctrine,
and personal belief
To improve our academic skills, including critical reading, research,
writing, and presentation skills:
we will attempt not only to find answers, but to question presuppositions
and raise new questions
we will share our insights with others in written assignments, oral discussions,
To learn about and to practice doing theology as an essentially inter-disciplinary
we will incorporate some insights from the fields of history, literature,
language, philosophy, sociology, art, natural sciences, mathematics, etc.,
as well as using the methods of theology itself
we will explore the internet for some web-based sources for biblical resources
Required Textbooks & Materials (all available
at the LMU bookstore):
Meeks, Wayne, ed. The HarperCollins Study Bible. New York: HarperCollins,
Aland, Kurt. Synopsis of the Four Gospels: English Edition. New
York: United Bible Societies, 1982; revised printing 1985.
Powell, Mark Allan. Fortress Introduction to the Gospels. Minneapolis:
Cartlidge, David R. & David L. Dungan. Documents for the Study of
the Gospels. Revised edition. Minneapolis: Fortress, 1994.
A set of 6 different "highlighter" pens or colored pencils (red, yellow,
blue, orange, green, purple).
Reference Works for Extra Research (all available
in the LMU Library):
Bibloi CD-ROM Program - available on the LMU Library Reference
Other biblical commentaries on reserve in the LMU Library (upstairs).
Charts, images, glossaries, and lots of other materials available on the
Regular Attendance and Active Participation in Class Lectures and Discussions:
On-time daily attendance is required. Please inform me in writing
of any unavoidable absences (school sports, serious illness, family emergencies).
Your final course grade will be lowered one step (A to A-) for every three
unexcused absences. Preparation and participation by all students
is essential. Always be ready to summarize readings, take notes, ask questions,
give answers, evaluate presentations, challenge your own and others' assumptions
Daily Reading Assignments: All readings should be done before
class, so that you can contribute intelligently to the discussions. Be
prepared daily to summarize the content of all primary (ancient) texts
and the highlights of the secondary (modern) readings. In your own notes,
write a few questions or observations about the readings that you can share
with the rest of the class. Each day, I will call upon some students to
summarize the readings and to share some of your prepared questions and
observations with the rest of us.
Periodic Student Presentations: As of October, small groups
of students will carefully study particular biblical passages, to lead
the class discussions and/or present their interpretations in some creative
way (dramatic skits, film clips, music, art, etc.). Extra research
tools are available in the reference and reserve sections of the LMU library
(listed above), and/or on the course web-pages.
Brief Written Exercises: There will be a few very short papers
(ca. 2 pages), due at the beginning of the class periods listed below.
Late papers will be graded down one full letter grade for each day they
are late (yes, they are that important!). Instructions for each exercise
will be available on the course web-pages well in advance.
Final Project or Paper: Everyone will choose a topic (subject
to the professor's approval) to research in depth and to present in some
academically appropriate form. There is great flexibility here; you
can write an individual research paper (8-10 pages), or work with a small
group on a significant creative project (e.g. web page, teaching aides,
film, etc.). There will be three phases: a one-page proposal, a full rough
draft, and the final project/paper.
Examinations: We will have four quizzes (about 15 minutes
each), and a comprehensive final exam.
Academic Integrity and Honesty: You are strongly encouraged
to study together with other students, and you may always use any books
and other resources to help you learn. However, all written work must be
your own, unless you are directly citing from sources that you properly
credit. Copying from any other person, any book, or anything on the
internet (even if you change a few words), without properly referencing
your sources, is considered plagiarism and will result in a failing grade
for the entire course.
Internet Resources and E-Mail: Use of a web-browser to access this
course's web-pages and other internet resources, and of e-mail to receive
announcements and send messages is essential for this course. These tools
are available to everyone at LMU. If you are not familiar with them, please
contact LMU's Information Services, your College's Technology Office, and/or
the professor, and we will be glad to help you learn how to use them.
A: 90-100%, B: 80-89%,
C: 70-79%, D: 60-69%, F:
(hopefully not necessary!)
Letter +/- within 2%
-- e.g. A- 90-91%, B+ 88-89%, etc.
Class Participation, Reading Preparation, and Presentations:
100 points (or 20% of the 600 point total)
Written Exercises: 100 points (4x25 points; 20% of total)
Final Project / Paper: 100 points (20% of total)
Quizzes: 100 points (4x25; 20% of total)
Final Exam: 100 points (20% of total)
Legal Disclaimer: This "syllabus" is
subject to modifications that might be announced at any time during the
course of the semester.