Academic Programs 

Biblical Models of Leadership for Ministry Today: Jesus and Paul*   (SC-610)
Fall 2009

This course mines the gospel stories and the letters of Paul to explore issues of leadership theory and practice in earliest Christianity with a view toward understanding the role of religious leadership in the exercise of ministry today.  Jesus and Paul, as the major figures of the early years of the Christian movement, pronounced words, proclaimed teachings and took actions that formed communities of faith.  Implicitly and explicitly they exemplified the type of leadership that they considered necessary for ministry in their day.  We will pay particular attention to the picture of leadership presented in the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke) and leaders and practices which Paul discusses in various ways in his letters.  What such historical, literary and theological study yields in terms of leadership and ministry today will occupy a major portion of this course. 


Meeting Day, Time and Dates:
ONLINE, beginning Sept. 8


Efrain Agosto
Professor of New Testament

Contact Information:

(860) 509-9515


Course Syllabus

Required Reading for this course will include major portions of the following:

The New Testament in a Modern Translation (e.g., NRSV, RSV, NIV).

Efrain Agosto, Servant Leadership: Jesus and Paul (Chalice Press, 2005).

David Bartlett, Ministry in the New Testament (Fortress Press, 1993; Reprint, Wipf and Stock).

Harold Recinos, Who Comes in the Name of the Lord: Jesus at the Margins (Abingdon, 1997).

Anthony Saldarini, Pharisees, Scribes & Sadducees in Palestinian Society (Michael Glazier, 1988).

Elsa Tamez, Struggles for Power in Early Christianity (Orbis, 2007).

  • These books are available for purchase online through the Seminary bookstore. See seminary website for portal to bookstore (
  • Additional readings for weekly sessions (short articles and book chapters will be posted online at the course site).

Required Writing for this course will include:

  • Weekly postings of student comment on professor presentation and readings for that week. Professor will provide guiding questions for discussion based on presentation and readings.
  • Weekly postings in reaction to other student postings (at least two) on the presentation and readings for that week.
  • A mid-term writing assignment on leadership in a particular New Testament document or section of a document in which you explore the questions of leadership: theology, practices, and personnel. Choose from among these documents explored in the course: Matthew, Mark, Luke, 1 Thessalonians, 2 Corinthians, Philemon, Romans or Galatians. You will post the paper, more a reflection than a research paper and five to seven pages in length, on the course site. It will be read and graded by the professor, with written, evaluative comments sent to you. You will also read and comment on at least one other student paper, besides what you write and post yourself. Paper to be posted: Nov. 5. Responses to one paper: Nov. 9.
  • A Final Research paper, 12 to 15 pages, on a major topic of interest to the student, related to the themes of the course, to be determined in private conversations with the professor. Topics will be posted for student interest. However, final paper will be sent and read by the professor alone. Students interested in the topic may request copies of the paper from the author, but students are not obligated to send copies of their final paper to other students. Paper is due one week after end of course, i.e., December 22, 2009
  • I may add some group work as part of a particular week’s assignment, in which postings will come from small group interaction over a particular aspect of the themes and readings for that week.

Themes for this course will include:

  • Understanding the nature of leadership and ministry in the biblical tradition.
  • The Roman imperial context of the New Testament, in light of the themes of leadership.
  • Understanding issues of leadership in Jesus and the Synoptic Gospels, including – Jesus’ call to ministry, the nature of his ministry, his disciples, his opponents, and the meaning of his death and the resurrection event.
  • Windows into understanding leadership in Pauline Christianity, the status and role of leaders in Paul’s congregations, and specific case studies of conflict and attempted resolutions by Paul in matters of ministry and leadership.
  • A brief look at Post-Pauline Christianity and what happened to his various congregations and those of other early Christian movements with regard to issues of leadership and ministry. This will include the community represented by the Pastoral Epistles.
  • Throughout the course, and especially at the end, we will explore the meaning of leadership and ministry in the New Testament traditions for the practice of ministry today, with special emphasis on the work of religious leaders at all levels, both recognized and not.

Preliminary Schedule & Pattern of Postings

The first presentation by the professor will be posted on September 10, which will be a preliminary statement about the course, an explanation of the final syllabus, and an invitation by the students to introduce themselves to the class, which should be completed by September 14.

By September 15 and every Tuesday thereafter, the professor will have posted his presentations, comments on the readings for that week and discussion questions for student reaction and postings thereafter. By Friday of each week, student should have posted their initial reactions to professor presentations and the readings. By Monday, all second postings – to other student postings - should be completed. And then Tuesday the cycle begins anew with a new professor presentation.

Dates for mid-term essay will be Nov. 5 for posting and Nov. 9 for responses to other student paper. The final paper will be due to the professor by Tuesday, December 22 via email. The final class presentation posted by the professor will be on December 15, but only one posting by each student will be necessary at that point, so that students can take the time to complete their research projects.

Schedule of Themes, Readings and Classes

Sept. 10-14: Introduction to the course & to each other

Read: Agosto, Servant Leadership, 1-12.
Bartlett, Ministry in the New Testament, 1-22.

Questions for Posting:

  1. Tell us a little bit about yourself, where you live, your program in Hartford Seminary or elsewhere, your ministry, work or leadership involvement, and why you want to take this class.
  2. Upon reading two introductions to the topic of leadership and ministry in the New Testament (Agosto and Bartlett), what new ideas and thoughts do you have about why this topic is important and how it might relate to your own interests in religious leadership? What questions did the articles raise for you that you hope the course will somehow engage?

Sept. 15-21: The World of Jesus and Paul: Leadership and Social Structure in the Roman Imperial Context

Read: Agosto, 13-24; Saldarini, Pharisees, Scribes and Sadducees, 3-75.

Questions for Posting: How did the descriptions of the ancient world at the time of Jesus and Paul in these two readings enhance your understanding of leadership and social structure in that world? How does the interplay between politics and religion in the Roman imperial context compare to role of religion in the political sphere of the United States today?

Sept. 22-28: The Leadership of Jesus & His Disciples: The Teachings of Mark and Matthew.

Read: Agosto, 25-51; Bartlett, 58-88; Saldarini, 144-173.
In the New Testament: Mark 1-4; Matthew 5-8.

Questions for Posting: According to Mark, what were the shortcomings of Jesus’ disciples? According to Matthew, what did Jesus expect of his disciples and followers? How does this help us understand the nature of leadership and ministry in the Jesus tradition?

Sept. 29-Oct. 5: Leadership for Social Justice: The Gospel of Luke

Read: Agosto, 51-61; Bartlett, 115-149; Saldarini, 174-187.
In the New Testament: Luke 1-4; 7:1-8:3; 10; 16; 18-21.

Questions for Posting: How does the Gospel of Luke signal early that Jesus and his earliest followers were concerned about the social and economic well-being of the poor in their communities? How is this vision sustained in various instances throughout the Gospel of Luke? What does this teach us about Luke’s picture of what religious leadership should be about?

October 6-12: Dealing with Opposition in Leadership: The Synoptic Picture

Read: Agosto, 62-96; Saldarini, 277-308; Recinos, 37-80.

Questions for Posting: How do Agosto and Saldarini engage the question of who were Jesus’ opponents? What leadership qualities did these opponents have or lack, according to these authors? How does Recinos help us see how the notion of a “failed leadership” impacts of our view of religious leadership today?

October 13-19: The Story of Paul: Leadership Theology and Practice

Read: Agosto, 97-120; Bartlett, 23-57; Saldarini, 134-143.

Questions for Posting: Discuss the question of organization in the Pauline communities – what seemed most important to Paul, offices, titles, positions, or something else? How do the letters of Paul to his communities function as instruments of leadership?

October 20-26: Who are Paul’s leaders?

Read: Agosto, 121-164; In the New Testament: 1 Thess. 5:12-13; 1 Cor. 16:15-18; 2 Cor. 8:16-24; Phil. 2:1-30; 4:2-3; Philemon; Rom. 16:1-2.

Questions for Posting: How does it seem that leaders emerge in the Pauline communities? How and why does Paul endorse them? What do we learn about the emergence and endorsement of Pauline leaders for the practice of religious leadership today?

October 27-Nov. 2: Problems in Leadership: A Case Study in the Corinthian Correspondence

Read: Agosto, 165-196; In the New Testament: 1-2 Corinthians

Small Group Work and Postings: We will divide the class into two groups; each will explore one of two case studies on Corinthians which will the professor will post, with questions for each group. The results of group discussions will be posted by group representatives, with feedback from all class members to the group postings.

November 3-9: The Joys of Leadership: A Case Study in Philippians

Read: Agosto, “A Postcolonial Reading of Philippians” (to be posted on course site); In the New Testament: Paul’s Letter to Philippians.

Post: Writing Assignment on Leadership in a particular New Testament document or section of a document in which you explore the questions of leadership: theology, practices, and personnel. Choose from among these documents explored in course: Matthew, Mark, Luke, 1 Thessalonians, 2 Corinthians, Philemon, Romans or Galatians. Read and respond to one other student’s paper. Paper to be posted: Nov. 5. Responses due to one paper: Nov. 9.

November 10-16: Leadership in the Aftermath of Jesus and Paul

Read: Elsa Tamez, Struggles for Power, 1-56; Bartlett, 150-184.
In the New Testament: 1 Timothy

Questions for Posting: To be determined.

November 17-23: Toward a Theology of Leadership in the Early Church

Read: Tamez, 57-113.

Questions for Posting:
To be determined

November 24-30: No class this week – Reading Week and Thanksgiving

Work on your final paper.

December 1-7: Biblical Leadership for Today: The Call for Justice

Read: Recinos, 81-137

Questions for Posting: To be determined

December 8-15: Toward a New Testament Theology of Leadership for Today

Read: Agosto, 197-212; Bartlett, 185-200.

Question for Posting: Reflect briefly on your emerging theology of leadership based on what you have learned in this course. Feel free to incorporate this posting into your final paper and to use what you are learning in your final paper to include in this final posting.

December 22: Final research paper emailed to professor.



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