Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Advanced Studies in New Testament Literature

My teaching assignment for the winter semester next year includes BLST415 Advanced Studies in New Testament Literature. According to the calendar description, the course is "An advanced study of a selected New Testament book(s), texts, or themes as selected by the instructor."

I'll be working with a theme, but I'm not sure which one. It's easy enough to come up with ideas that fascinate me and that I'd like to learn more about (such as NT ethics). The trick is narrowing the list down to topics of interest to students, and about which I can reasonably claim some teaching competence--in other words, topics that are close enough to my current research interests or that I can fit into my research schedule over the next seven months. I welcome any and all feedback on the following short list:
  1. Prophecy after the Prophets -  Topics could include early Jewish and Christian perceptions about OT prophets and interpretations of OT prophecies; the question of the "cessation" of prophecy; eschatological prophets; NT prophets (Acts, Pauline Epistles); comparison with early Jewish and Greco-Roman prophecy. Biggest challenges: organizing the course into a coherent whole; finding suitable secondary readings.
  2. Twentieth Century Lives of Jesus - I envision this as a (heavy) reading course, focusing on recurring historical, hermeneutical and theological issues. We would begin with Albert Schweitzer and then turn to short books by major twentieth century Jesus scholars such as _____ (insert name of 2nd quester), Vermes, Sanders, Wright, Allison, Fredriksen, and--to balance things out!--something from the Jesus Seminar and/or its descendants (Crossan, Borg, Arnal?). (I'm afraid my own affinities for the so-called "third quest" as opposed to the Jesus Seminar are obvious.) Biggest challenges: The topic appeals to me because it would be a chance to do a lot of reading I haven't done yet, but do I have time? I'm afraid the course will raise more questions than I have answers for. Are there enough pastoral elements to make it worthwhile in my teaching context?
  3. Jewish Roots of Christian Theology - Unlike "Jewish Backgrounds to Early Christianity," which I teach as an introduction to Second Temple Judaism, this course would focus in on theological NT topics--e.g., eschatology, apocalypticism, resurrection, the Messiah, the Synagogue (and church), women, ethnicity and identity--that are rooted in Second Temple Judaism and that require a knowledge of Second Temple Judaism to be understood well. I've considered teaching the whole course on a number of the topics listed above. What I'm proposing here would be more of a grab-bag approach. I suppose the content may still overlap too much with Jewish Backgrounds, but how can you have too much early Judaism?
(Artwork by Gregory Johnson, created during Jewish Backgrounds last semester; used by permission)


RogueMonk said...

My only advise - choose something that gets your students into the text with heart, soul and mind. Leave the heavily-wieghted secondary literature courses to Grad School. Let the text form your students, not a whole bunch of 20th century opinions on the text.



PS - My vote goes to Prophecy after the Prophets.

Isaac Gross said...

I'd go with 1 or 3.

Maybe look at what other courses are on offer for the year, semester. I'm always excited when my classes feed into each other.

Whatever you do, the pic must be used on one of your course packs! Forget classic portrayals of biblical figures from Rembrandt and the like . . . everyone's doing that.

Ken Penner said...

RogueMonk's comments resonate with me, but I'd think Jewish Roots of Christian Theology would provide the most benefit to your students. I love what Steve Westerholm did with Romans in Understanding Paul.

d. miller said...

Thanks for the feedback. I'm leaning fairly strongly toward "Prophecy after the Prophets," and will probably go with that unless I notice a sudden upsurge in student interest in scholarship on the historical Jesus.