Academic Programs 

New Testament Survey I*   (SC-531)
Winter/Spring 2010

This course introduces the student to the study of the origins of Christianity by means of its canonical literature, the New Testament. We will undertake a historical study of the New Testament documents, seeking to understand their plan, origin, purpose and content within their broader historical and cultural context. Appropriate interpretive method for each genre of the New Testament will be discussed. We will also seek to clarify the theological message of each document in light of its historical circumstances, with a view toward understanding their meaning for today.

Meeting Day, Time and Dates:
Tuesdays from 7 p.m. to 9:20 p.m., beginning January 26

Efrain Agusto
Professor of New Testament

Contact Information:




Course Syllabus

Course Objectives

At the conclusion of this course, the student will:

  1. Have greater understanding of the world from which the New Testament literature emerges.
  2. Read and study each of the New Testament books in its historical context.
  3. Better understand genres in the New Testament: gospels, epistles, apocalyptic literature.
  4. Explore ways to bridge the past of ancient Christian texts to the present-day concerns of faith.

Course Requirements

1. Attendance & informed participation in all classes. (Absences without adequate excuse will affect final grade.)

2. Reading:

A. Required Reading (Available for Purchase):

  • A Modern Translation of the New Testament. The professor uses the New Revised Standard Version for class presentations, but the New International Version, The Revised Standard Version or the New American Bible are also acceptable. In addition, I also recommend any one or more of the following editions of the New Revised Standard Version: Bart Ehrman, The New Testament and Other Early Christian Writings: A Reader, 2nd edition (Oxford University Press, 1998, 2004), which includes the NRSV translation of the New Testament plus other non-canonical writings of the early church; The New Oxford Annotated Bible (Oxford University Press) or the Harper Collins Study Bible (Harper-Collins Press) are also good resources to use for this course and to own in your personal libraries.

  • Pheme Perkins, Reading the New Testament, 3rd Edition (Paulist Press). A basic introduction to the New Testament, including historical backgrounds, theological issues, and overview of the various books.

  • Mitchell G. Reddish, An Introduction to the Gospels (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1997). A guide to understanding the four gospels.

  • Calvin J. Roetzel, The Letters of Paul: Conversations in Context, Fifth Edition (Westminster/John Knox Press, 2008). Good introduction to Paul, his world, his letters and theological issues in them.
  • Wes Howard-Brook & Sharon Ringe, The New Testament – Introducing the Way of Discipleship (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2002). Feminist and liberationist readings of the various New Testament writings, from which we will be reading some selective essays, especially on the latter third of the New Testament.

B. Recommended Reading (On Reserve in Library)

  • Efrain Agosto, Servant Leadership: Jesus and Paul (St. Louis: Chalice Press, 2005). The professor’s readings of the gospels and the Pauline letters from the perspective of leadership and ministry.

  • C.K. Barrett, ed., The New Testament Background, Revised Edition (San Francisco: Harper Collins, 1989). Source material from the Greco-Roman world of the New Testament.
  • Lewis Donelson, From Hebrews to Revelation: A Theological Introduction (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2001). More readings on the “last third” of the New Testament, with focus on theological issues.

  • Fred O. Francis & J. Paul Sampley, eds., Pauline Parallels, 2nd Edition (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1984). An easy reference for comparing parallel Pauline passages.

  • Mark Allan Powell, ed., The New Testament Today (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 1999). End of 20th century bibliographic essays on New Testament writings.
  • Russell Pregeant, Engaging the New Testament: An Interdisciplinary Introduction (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1995). Another introductory textbook, with an excellent opening chapter on reading strategies for the New Testament.

  • Fernando Segovia and Mary Ann Tolbert, Reading from This Place, Volume 1: Biblical Interpretation and Social Location (Fortress Press, 1995). The opening essay in this volume on biblical interpretation by Fernando Segovia is a good overview of issues in postmodern biblical hermeneutics, including for the New Testament.

  • Burton Hamilton Throckmorton, ed., Gospel Parallels: A Synopsis of the First Three Gospels, 5th Edition, New Revised Standard Version (Nashville: T. Nelson, 1992). Important tool for reading and comparing the Synoptic Gospels.

3. Speaking & Writing:

  • Each student will make a presentation in class in one of the following ways:

    a. Select a miracle story, parable or narrative incident in the life of Jesus that appears in more than one of the Synoptic Gospels. Study the passages in a Synoptic Parallel, note changes and differences from one Gospel to the other, read what commentators say about the pericope, and make a 10-minute oral presentation briefly describing the details of the story, explaining its purpose and function in the overall narrative of each gospel, and discussing its theological message. One week after your presentation submit a 5-page summary, typed and double-spaced (12-point font). Dates for presentations: To be determined

    b. Select one of the following “uncontested” Pauline letters – Galatians, Philippians, or 1 Thessalonians, and one of the following “Deutero-Paulines” – Colossians, Ephesians, or 1 Timothy. In a 10-minute presentation discuss what makes the first letter definitely “Paul’s” and what make the second “doubtful.” What makes both of them, including the second, “Pauline”? Use the discussion in Roetzel, 133-160, and Howard-Brook/Ringe, 148-167, as backdrop for your research and write a 5-page summary of your findings to be submitted one week after your presentation. Dates for presentation: To be determined

  • Each student will write a 15-page final, research paper on a theological or ministerial issue or set of related issues that crosses several of the New Testament letters, whether the Pauline or Deutero-Pauline letters, or several of the Catholic Epistles, or the Johannine literature (both Gospel and Epistles). Sample topics include issues of leadership in Paul; how Paul handles conflict in a variety of his congregations; the role of women in the Pauline mission (you may want to add, “as compared to the Jesus movement”); the theme of justification in Paul; the theme of reconciliation in Paul; Paul and the law; the impact of the delay of the parousia on the churches represented by the Catholic epistles; the confrontation of the early church (Paul, the Catholic Epistles, or John’s Revelation) with the Roman Empire; Jews and “Christians” in Paul, the Early Church, or the Johannine community, etc. Your paper should reflect both the analysis of several relevant passages in the New Testament texts you are studying and what scholars are saying about these topics. Nonetheless, your own voice should be loud and clear in the presentation of the material and your conclusions about it. Please discuss your topic with the professor (via email, phone call, or office appointment) and submit a one-paragraph description of your topic by a date to be determined. Final paper should be typed, double-spaced, 12-point font and submitted on a date to be determined (most likely one week after course concludes).

Schedule of Classes and Topics: To Be Determined


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