"Introduction to the New Testament"

Prof. Felix Just, S.J.
Dept. of Theology & Religious Studies
University of San Francisco

Discussion Groups - Fall 2005

Class Date Recommend Questions/Topics for Discussion

1) What is the role of the Bible in Christianity?
1a) What is the role of the Bible for Catholic Christians?

1b) What is the role of the Bible for Protestant Christians?


1) How does Mark's Gospel portray Jesus?
2) What are Mark's theological emphases?

Th-9/15 1) How did Matthew redact (adapt/alter/edit/change) Mark's Gospel?
2a) How does Matthew's Gospel portray Jesus?
2b) What is Matthew's main theological message?
Th-9/22 1) How does Luke's Gospel portray Jesus? What does he emphasize about Jesus?
2) Apply Ehrman's "Comparative Method," but find examples different from the ones
investigated in his ch. 8, to discuss:
2a) How else is Luke's Gospel similar to, and different from, Mark's Gospel ?
2b) How else is Luke's Gospel similar to, and different from, Matthew's Gospel?
Th-9/29 Study together for Exam 2: The Four Gospels
1) What is the distinctive message of each of the four Gospels/Evangelists?
2) What are the major similarities & differences between John and the Synoptics?
Th-10/6 1) What are the main characteristics of Gnosticism? (see Ehrman, ch. 11)
2a) Find examples of three or four typically "Gnostic" sayings in the Gospel of Thomas.
2b) Find examples of three or four "anti-Gnostic" passages in the Gospel or Epistles of John.
Th-10/13 1) What is "Eschatology"? What is "Apocalypticism"?
2) Rereading Mark 13, Matt 23-25, Luke 21, and John 13-17, rank the four Gospels in order from most apocalyptic
to least apocalyptic. Justify your rankings (i.e., what do you see in the texts that is more apocalyptic or less so?)
Th-10/20 Study together for Exam 3: The Historical Jesus, His World, and His Followers
1) Using the criteria for historicity, what are the most historically certain facts about the life of Jesus?
    List and rank 12-15 facts, from most probable to less so, and briefly justify your answers.
2) Who were the most important people (Jews or non-Jews, individuals or groups) to influence the life of Jesus?
    Again, rank list 5-6 people or groups, and briefly justify your answers.
Th-10/27 From a careful reading of 1 Thess (and Ehrman, ch. 19), do the following:
1) Construct a basic outline or timeline of Paul's interactions with the Christian community in Thessalonica;
2) Summarize the major issues that Paul deals with in his first letter to the Thessalonian Christians.
Th-11/3 Creative Writing Exercise: Compose a short letter as if Paul had written to the Christians in Troas;
follow the pattern of the early/undisputed Pauline letters, use proper ancient letter format,
and include the following three points (but not necessarily in the following order):
a) Paul encourages them to keep the Xn faith, b) he thanks them for some gifts they had sent him,
c) he answers their questions about whether and how they should celebrate the Feast of Passover.
Th-11/10 Study together for Exam 4: Paul's Life, Letters, and Legacy
1a) Use the feedback you received to revise your "Letter to the Church in Troas" (see also 1 Cor 10-11);
1b) Expand the central section, connecting the Passover more clearly with Jesus and the Christian Eucharist.

Form two subgroups and debate against each another, marshalling as many arguments as you can for your position:
     Subgroup A: "Early Christianity was not oppressive, but liberating for women."
     Subgroup B: "Early Christianity was not liberating, but oppressive towards women."
(use Ehrman, ch. 24; webpages on Household Codes and Paul's Missionary Associates; & other resources)

Th-12/1 What was the original purpose of the Book of Revelation? How is it usually interpreted today?
What images from the Book of Revelation do you find the most disturbing? ...the most inspiring?
T - 12/6 Study together for the Comprehensive Final Exam

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