Academic Programs 

Fall 2009

This course is an in-depth study of the Jesus of history and the Christ of faith in light of current biblical scholarship with special attention to the theological perspectives of Matthew, Mark and Luke as reflected in their varying presentations of the Good News in the synoptic Gospels.


Meeting Day, Time and Dates:
Wednesdays from 4:30 p.m. to 6:50 p.m., beginning Sept. 9


Dr. Wayne G. Rollins
75 Craigmoor Road ;West Hartford, CT 06107-1212


Course Syllabus

“Rembrandt did many self-portraits; no two of them were exactly alike.”
-An Assumption student on an exam (1985)

“Who do you say that I am?”
- Jesus of Nazareth (Mark 8:29)

“There was a great teacher, and gathered around him was a small group of faithful followers. They listened to his message and were transformed by it. But the message alienated the power structure of his time, which finally put him to death but did not succeed in eradicating his message, which is stronger now than ever. . . . That description would apply equally to Jesus and Socrates. But nobody’s ever built a cathedral in honor of Socrates.”
-Jaroslav Pelikan

"Whoever seems to himself to have understood the divine scriptures in such a way that he does not build up that double love of God and neighbor has not yet understood."
-St. Augustine of Hippo

Books for Purchase (Required reading) :

  • Joseph A. Fitzmyer, S. J., A Christological Catechism (new rev. & expanded edition;
    New York: Paulist, 1991) pb [= Fitz in the syllabus]
  • Pheme Perkins, Introduction to the Synoptic Gospels (Grand Rapids:Eerdmans, 2007)
    [= Perkins]
  • Burton Throckmorton, Jr., ed. Gospel Parallels: A Comparison of the Synoptic Gospels
    (5th ed.; Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1992) [= GP in syllabus]
  • Donald Senior, C.P., Jesus: A Gospel Portrait (2nd rev. ed.; New York: Paulist, 1995) pb
    [= Senior in the syllabus]
  • Walter Wink, The Powers That Be: Theology for a New Millennium (New York:
    Doubleday, 1999) pb [= Wink in the syllabus]


  1. To appreciate the historical, literary, social, cultural, religious, and psycho-spiritual soil out of which the gospels spring.
  2. Chronology: to be able to identify key events and persons relating to the emergence of the Gospels in the Greco-Roman world from 63 B.C. to 150 A.D.
  3. Geography: to be able to locate key biblical sites.
  4. To develop the art of Synoptic criticism (“criticism” = appreciation of the finer details) through use of the Gospel Parallels comparing the accounts of Matthew, Mark, and Luke.
  5. To appreciate the contribution of each of the evangelists to the gospel tradition, developing a sense of their individual literary, theological, thematic, spiritual and editorial input.
  6. To identify recent trends in Synoptic research, with special emphasis on the “third wave” of historical Jesus research in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries, with critical assessment of the “Jesus Seminar.”
  7. To deepen awareness of the meaning of the gospel for ourselves, for those we live with and serve, for the Church, and for the world in an age of post-modern pluralism.

The following requirements apply especially to students taking the course for credit or for CEU’s. Non-credit students may elect to participate in the class reports and special exegetical studies, given consultation with the instructor. Consult with instructor on “make-ups” if absences are unavoidable.

  1. Regular attendance and weekly reading assignments (see “Books for Purchase”). (1/8 of the grade). Students are to read Walter Wink, The Powers That Be: Theology for a New Millennium, in preparation for the session on November 9. Wink’s book relates the message and life of Jesus to social issues today.
  2. *One Book Review presentation (see book suggestions listed for each assignment and in the bibliography). The reviewer is asked (a) to give a clear overview of the key points in the book and (b) to identify up to ten ideas he/she has found most helpful or informative. The reviewer is asked to prepare some "visuals" (hand-outs, chalk-board outlines, or overhead projector transparencies, etc.) to make the review a real communication with the group, and ideally to present at least one issue for discussion.(2/8 of the grade) (maximum 5 pages)
  3. Exegesis of a Gospel Passage, selected by the student. An “exegesis” guideline will be provided. (2/8 of the grade)
  4. *A Final Project on a theme of the student’s choice, due December 16. (3/8 of the grade) (maximum 15 pages).
  5. As background to the “synoptic problem,” try to read Perkins, pp. 1-125 prior to the beginning of the course in preparation of the discussion on September 23.

    *All academic papers are to conform to conventional technical, grammatical and stylistic standards referred to in the General Guidelines for a Research Paper. The Hartford Seminary Grading Guidelines will be the standard of evaluation for work in the course.


Sept. 9 Prospectus: Getting Started on Matthew, Mark, and Luke
•Read: Senior, 1-5; Wink, 1-11.

Sept. 16 The Time and the Place: Historical, Geographical & Religious Setting
•Read: Senior: 26-46, “The World of Jesus” (reflect on end-of-chapter questions). Geographic sites will be assigned for identification. Slide presentation. (continued on next page)
•Consult a Biblical map identifying the following sites. Add as you wish.
Galilee Samaria Judea
Decapolis Tetrarchy of Philip Perea
Joppa Jericho Jerusalem
Bethlehem Nazareth Bethany
Tiberias Capernaum Caesarea Philippi
Mt. Hermon Mt. Tabor Lake Huleh
Dead Sea Masada Qumran
Philadelphia Gadara The Wilderness
Judea Idumea Machaerus
Jamnia Caesarea Pella
Sepphoris Damascus Sea of Galilee
•Consult an atlas or Biblical dictionary for research and a brief class comment on one of these sites that interests you.
•Using the “Chronological Chart” (handout), identify what you would think are the ten most significant facts/ persons/ events that shape early Christian history.
•Contemporary Christianity is generally associated with three broad movements: Roman Catholicism; Orthodox Christianity, and Protestantism. What were the major branches of Judaism in the first century? How do they differ? To which of them was Jesus probably most closely aligned?
Exegesis selection list:
. Mark 12:28-34 (GP Per. 208) "The Great Commandment"
. Matthew 23, (GP, per. 210) "Woes to Scribes and Pharisees"

Sept. 23 The Art of Synoptic Studies

•Read: Senior, 7-25, “Knowing Jesus” (reflect on end-of-chapter questions)
•Read: Fitz #1, 7-10, "Do the Gospel Stories Present an Accurate Factual Account of the Teaching and Deeds of Jesus of Nazareth?" Fitz #2, 11-17, "How Much Can We Claim to Know About the Historical Jesus?" Fitz #3, 18-20, “Do the Apocryphal Gospels Tell Us Anything Important About Jesus of Nazareth?” Fitz #4, 21-28, "Is Not Such an Approach to the Jesus of History and to the Canonical Gospels Tantamount to an Implicit Reduction in Christian Faith and Contrary to a Centuries-Long Tradition of Gospel Interpretation?"
• Scan GP ix-xxvi, “Noncanonical Gospels”
. Read Perkins, Introduction to the Synoptic Gospels, pp. 1-125.
Exegesis Selection list:
. Mark 9:2-8 (GP per. 124) "The Transfiguration Narrative"
. Mark 2:18-22 (GP per. 54) "The Question About Fasting"

Sept. 30 The Birth Narratives in Matthew and Luke
•Read:. Fitz #5, 28-31,“How Historical Are the Infancy Narratives of the Matthean and Lucan Gospels? Fitz #6, 32-36, "Does the Story of the Virgin Birth Record Simple Historical Fact or Are There Other Possible Ways of Understanding It?"
• Read and compare: Mt. 1-2; Luke 1-2
Exegesis Selection List:
. Mt. 1:1-17 and Lk 3:23-38. "The Genealogies"
. Lk 1:39-56. "The Annunciation and Magnificat"
. Mt. 4:1-11, "The Temptation Narrative" (GP per. 8)

Oct. 7 Jesus and the Wilderness: John the Baptist and the Temptation Narrative
• Read: Fitz #8, 38-43, "How are the Gospel Accounts of Jesus' Baptism to be Understood?" Fitz #9, 43-45, “How are the Gospel Accounts of Jesus’ Temptations to be Understood?
• Scan GP, sections 1-11; 64-65; 110-11; 125.
Exegesis Selection list:
. Mt 11.2-19 (GP, per. 64-5) "John's Question to Jesus"
. Mk 6:14-29 (GP, per. 110-11) "The Death of John the Baptist"
. Mk 6:1-6 (GP, per. 108) "The Family of Jesus"

Oct. 14 The Teaching of Jesus: Parables and the Mystery of God’s Reign
•Read: Senior, 74-99, “Jesus Speaks;” Fitz #10, 45-48, “What Themes in the Gospels Are Accepted as Representing the Teachings of Jesus Himself? Fitz #11, 48-51, "What Did Jesus Teach About the Kingdom of God?"
• Scan GP, sections 90-99, 101-3, 135, 144, 169, 171-4, 177, 181, 185-6, 190, 203, 205, 225-9
Exegesis Selection list:
. Mk 4:1-9, 13-20 (GP per. 90,93) "Parable of the Sower"
. Mk 12:1-12 (GP per. 204) "Parable of the Wicked Tenants"

Oct. 21 Signs and Wonders: The "Miracle" Stories and Healing
•Read: Senior 100-116, “Jesus Heals.” Fitz #13, 56-62, "How Are the Gospel Accounts of Jesus’ Miracles to Be Understood?” Fitz #12, 51-55, "How are Jesus' Sayings and Parables to be Understood . . . ?
• Scan GP, sections 17, 45, 79, 105, 106, 112, 113, 116, 118, 182, 193
Exegesis Selection list:
. Lk 5:1-11 (GP per. 17) "The Miraculous Catch of Fish"
. Mk 6:45-52 (GP per. 113) "Walking on Water"

Oct. 28 The Sermon on the Mount and the Sermon on the Plain
•Read: Fitz #12, 55-56, ". . . His Sermon on the Mount?"
• Study GP, sections 18-44 (Mt 5-7 and parallels)
Exegesis Selection list:
. Mt 5:3-12 (GP, per. 19) "The Beatitudes"
. Mt 6:9-15 (GP, per. 30) "The Lord's Prayer"

Nov. 4 “Who do Men Say that I Am?”: The Jesus of History and Christ of Faith
• Read: Senior, 47-73, “Jesus and His Own.” Fitz #7, 36-38., "How are we to Understand the Reference to the Brothers and Sisters of Jesus in the New Testament?" Fitz #14, 62-66, “How Are Jesus’ Words to Simon Peter at Caesarea Philippi to be Understood?” Fitz #20, 101-102, " Did Jesus Clearly Claim To Be God?"
• Read: Mk 8:27-33 (GP, per. 122), "The Confession at Caesarea Philippi"
•Discussion of Wink, The Powers That Be: Theology for a New Millennium.
Exegesis Selection list:
. Mk 12:35-37a (GP, per. 209) "Question of David's Son"
. Mk 14:53-72 (GP, per 241) "Jesus Before the Sanhedrin"

Nov. 11 The Passion Narratives in Historical and Theological Perspective
• Read: Senior, 117-138, “ Death [and Victory].” Fitz #15, 66-76,"How Are Jesus' Words and Actions at the Last Supper To Be Understood?" Fitz #16, 76-81, "Who was Responsible for the Death of Jesus?"
• Read: GP, sections 231-50
Exegesis Selection list:
. Mk 14:22-5 (GP per. 236) "Institution of the Lord's Supper"
. Mk 15:21-41 (GP pers. 248-50) "The Road to Golgotha & the Crucifixion"

Nov. 18 The Resurrection Narratives in Historical and Theological Perspective
• Read: Senior, 139-142, “ [Death ] and Victory.” Fitz #18, 81-86, "How are References to the Resurrection of Jesus in the New Testament To Be Interpreted?”
• Read: GP, section 253 and pages 188-91
Exegesis Selection list:
. Lk 24:13-53, (GP p. 189) "The Road to Emmaus"
. Mt 28:11-20 (GP, pp. 188-9) "Bribing the Soldiers and the Command to Baptize"

Dec. 2 The Genius of Mark
• Read: Fitz #17, 81-86, "Are There Different Interpretations of Jesus as the Christ (or different Christologies) in the NT?" Fitz #22, 102-108, “What is To Be Said of the Titles Messiah or Christ, Son of Man, Son of God, Lord, etc.?” Fitz. #21, 101-102. “Did Jesus of Nazareth know all things, even about the Future?
. Special assignment sheet on Mark
Exegesis Selection list:
. Mk 3:19-35 (GP pers. 85-9), "Jesus' Relatives"
. Mk 11:1-10 (GP per. 196) "Entry into Jerusalem on 'Palm Sunday'"
. Mk 16: 9-20 (GP p. 191) "The Longer Ending of Mark"

Dec. 9 The Genius of Matthew and Luke
•Read: Senior: 143-158. “Jesus and His Church.” Fitz #23, 108-110, "After the Resurrection Was Jesus Proclaimed Unambiguously from the Start as Son of God, Equal to the Father?" Fitz #25, 112-115, “Did Jesus Found the Church?” Fitz #19, 93-96 "How are the New Testament references to the ascension of Jesus to be understood?" Fitz #24, 110-112, "In What Sense Can It Be Said That Jesus Was the Redeemer of the World?was the Redeemer of the World?"
• Special assignment sheet on Matthew and Luke
Exegesis Selection list (Matthew):
. Mt. 13:24-30, 36-43 (GP per. 96 & 100) "Parable of Wheat & Tares"
. Mt. 16:17-20 (GP per 122) and 18:15-20 (GP per 134) "Peter the Rock"
Exegesis Selection list (Luke):
. Lk 17:11-21 (GP pers. 182-3) "The Samaritans and the Kingdom”
. Lk 19:1-10 (GP Per 194) "Zaccheus"

(Most of the titles are in the Hartford Seminary collection. For those that are not, seek inter-library loan assistance from librarian, Marie Rovero. Alternate titles might be considered: contact Prof. Rollins by e-mail or telephone, noted on page 1).

Anderson, Janice and Stephen Moore, Mark and Method: New Approaches in Biblical Studies (Fortress, 1992).

Aron, Robert, Jesus of Nazareth (Wm. Morrow, 1962)

Borg, Marcus. Jesus: Uncovering the Life, Teachings and Relevance of a Religious Revolutionary (San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco 2006)

Borg, Marcus, and John Dominic Crossan. The Last Week: What the Gospels Really Teach About Jesus's Final Days in Jerusalem (San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 2007)

Brown, Raymond E., The Virginal Conception and Bodily Resurrection of Jesus (Paulist, 1993)

Bruce, F. F. The Hard Sayings of Jesus Intervarsity Press, 1983.

Capps, Donald. Jesus the Village Psychiatrist, Nashville: Westminster/ John Knox 2008.

Carter, Wilson Pontius Pilate: Portraits of a Roman Governor (Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press/Michael Glazier, 2003)

Chilton, Bruce. Mary Magdalene (Mahwah, NJ: Paulist, 2005)

Coffey, Kathy. Hidden Women of the Gospels (Crossroads, 1996)

Crosby, Michael, Thy Will Be Done: Praying the Our Father as Subversive Activity (Orbis, 1977)

Crossan, John Dominic, Jesus: A Revolutionary Biography (Harper, 1994)

Crossan, John Dominic. In Parables: The Challenge of the Historical Jesus. New York: Harper & Row, 1973.

Elliott, J. K., ed. The Apocryphal Jesus: Legends of the Early Church. (Oxford University Press, 1996).

Fiorenza, Elisabeth Schüssler, In Memory of Her: A Feminist Theological Reconstruction of Christian Origins (Crossroad, 1984)

Fitzmyer, Joseph, Responses to 101 Questions on the Dead Sea Scrolls (Paulist, 1992)

Flusser, David. The Sage from Galilee. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2007.

Gowler, David. What Are They Saying About the Historical Jesus? (New York. Paulist, 2007)

Horsley, Richard A. Jesus and the Spiral of Violence: Popular Jewish Resistance in Roman Politics. San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1987.

Horsley, Richard A. The Liberation of Christmas: The Infancy Stories in Social Context: Crossroad, 1989.

Horsley, Richard A., and Neil Asher Silberman. The Message and the Kingdom: How Jesus and Paul Ignited a Revolution and Transformed the Ancient World. (Fortress, 2002)

Kee, Howard C., Medicine, Miracle and Magic in New Testament Times (Cambridge UP, 1986)

Leslie, Robert C., Jesus and Logotherapy ( Abingdon, 1965)

Miller, John W., Jesus at Thirty: A Psychological and Historical Portrait (Fortress, 1997)

Murphy-O'Connor, Jerome. Jesus and Paul: Parallel Lives. Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 2007.
Newheart, Michael W. My Name is Legion: The Story and Soul of the Gerasene Demoniac (Collegeville, MN, Liturgical Press, 2004).

Nolan, Albert, O.P. Jesus Before Christianity (Orbis, 1976)

O'Collins SJ, Gerald The Lord's Prayer Mahwah, NJ: Paulist, 2007.

O'Collins SJ, Gerald. What Are They Saying About the Resurrection? New York: Paulist, 1978.

Patterson, Stephen J., the Gospel of Thomas and Jesus (Polebridge, 1993)

Pelikan, Jaroslav, Jesus Through the Centuries ( Yale University Press, 1985)

Perkins, Pheme, Hearing the Parables of Jesus (Paulist, 1981)

Phipps, William E. The Wisdom and Wit of Rabbi Jesus (Westminster/ John Knox, 1993)

Platt, Elizabeth E. Four Portraits of Jesus: Studies in the Gospels and Their Old Testament Background (Mahwah, NJ, Paulist, 2004)

Porter, Stanley E., and Gordon L. Heath. The Lost Gospel of Judas: Separating Fact from Fiction (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2007)

Powell, Mark Allan. Jesus as a Figure in History: How Modern Historians View the Man from Galilee. Louisville: John Knox/ Westminster, 1998.

Robinson, James M., ed. The Sayings of Jesus: The Sayings of Gospel Q in English. (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2004)

Sanford, John, The Kingdom Within (Paulist, 1970)

Spencer, F. Scott What Did Jesus Do? Gospel Portrayals of Jesus' Personal Conduct Trinity Press International, 2003)

Stewart, Robert B., editor, ed. The Resurrection of Jesus: John Dominic Crossan and N. T. Wright in Dialogue (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2006)

Swidler, Leonard and Paul Mojzes, eds., The Uniqueness of Jesus: A Dialogue with Paul F. Knitter (Orbis, 1997)

Valantasis, Richard. The New Q: A Translation with Commentary (New York: Continuum, 2005)

Voorst, Robert E. Van. Jesus Outside the New Testament: An Introduction to the Ancient Evidence Studying the Historical Jesus (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2000)

Watts, Fraser, ed. Jesus and Psychology (London/ West Conshohocken, PA: Darton, Longman, and Todd/ Templeton Foundation Press, 2007)

Wink, Walter The Powers That Be: Theology for a New Millennium (Doubleday, 1999)

Young, Brad H. Meet the Rabbis: Rabbinic Thought and the Teachings of Jesus (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2007)


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