New Testament and Early Christian Writings (640:142:01): Spring 2010

Instructor: Dr. Kenneth Atkinson

Dates: MWF

Office: Baker 154

Time: 9:00-10:00 p.m.

Office Phone: 273-6990

Location: Lang Hall 211

Office Hours: I maintain an open door policy for your convenience. Feel free to drop by my office whenever my door is open. I am always happy to talk with students.

E-mail:Kenneth.Atkinson@uni.edu

My policy is to answer your message once I have received it. I try to check my e-mail throughout the day, so if you have not heard back from me please be patient.

Mailbox: Baker 135.I check my mailbox each day in case you want to drop something off for me to read.

Course Web Site: http://www.uni.edu/atkinson

Visit my web site frequently for class updates and links to sites of interest.

Required Text:

1.

The New Oxford Annotated Bible with Apocrypha, Third Edition, New Revised Standard Version. Michael D. Coogan, General Editor (Oxford University Press, 2001). Note: You must use this Bible.

2.

Ehrman, Bart D. The New Testament: A Historical Introduction to the Early Christian Writings. Fourth Edition (Oxford University Press, 2008).

Course Description:

Each day people as varied as lawmakers, journalists, teachers, and members of religious communities invoke the New Testament to sway public opinion or to regulate contemporary life. The problem for those who consider the New Testament a binding authority for today’s world is how to interpret it. Because the New Testament reflects an ancient culture that no longer exists, and was written in a language that few know today, it is often a difficult book to understand. This course seeks to help you overcome these problems by introducing you to the history and ideas of the New Testament and other early Christian writings and the methods biblical scholars use to understand them. My goal is to provide you with the skills necessary to interpret the New Testament, and to help you evaluate the ways that people use this text. The methods that you will learn in this class are not only appropriate to religious studies, but are also necessary in order to become a critical thinker and lifelong learner.

In this class you will examine how the books of the New Testament came into being, who produced them, what they mean, and how they came to be collected into a canon of Scripture. You will not only examine the New Testament, but you will also read a variety of other early Christian writings that shed light on the development of Christianity. Classes will also include presentations of recent archaeological and textual discoveries from the instructor’s archaeological excavations and research on the Dead Sea Scrolls that help us to understand the world of the New Testament and early Christianity.

Course Objectives:

This course is not only an introduction to the New Testament and early Christian writings, but it is also an examination of academic approaches to these works. The lectures will expose you to the New Testament documents within the historical context of the first two centuries C.E., highlighting their distinctive literary and religious features. Some of the questions we will examine include:

•Does the Book of Revelation predict the end of the world?

•Have archaeologists uncovered the tomb of Jesus?

•Is there ancient historical testimony that Jesus existed?

•Do the Dead Sea Scrolls undermine Christianity?

•Do we have the original text of the New Testament?

•Who decided which books should be included in the New Testament?

•What was the relationship between Jesus and Mary Magdalene?

In this class you will also read lost gospels hidden in the Egyptian desert (the Nag Hammadi texts); learn about archaeological evidence of crucifixion; discover what happens during an archaeological excavation; and learn about women bishops in the first century C.E. By examining the New Testament in light of its historical and cultural background, you will not only learn how Christianity developed, but you will also gain an understanding of why people disagree, and have fought for centuries, over how the New Testament should be interpreted. My goals in this class are:

•To provide you with a basic understanding of the foundational beliefs, practices, and diversity of ancient Christianity.

•To help you understand how the text of the New Testament has been transmitted and reconstructed.

•To introduce you to the world in which the New Testament’s authors lived.

• To introduce you to the tools scholars use to understand the New Testament. This course is not only an introduction to the New Testament and early Christian writings, but it is also an examination of academic approaches to these works. The lectures will expose you to the New Testament documents within the historical context of the first two centuries C.E., highlighting their distinctive literary and religious features. Some of the questions we will examine include:

•Does the Book of Revelation predict the end of the world?

•Have archaeologists uncovered the tomb of Jesus?

•Is there ancient historical testimony that Jesus existed?

•Do the Dead Sea Scrolls undermine Christianity?

•Do we have the original text of the New Testament?

•Who decided which books should be included in the New Testament?

•What was the relationship between Jesus and Mary Magdalene?

In this class you will also read lost gospels hidden in the Egyptian desert (the Nag Hammadi texts); learn about archaeological evidence of crucifixion; discover what happens during an archaeological excavation; and learn about women bishops in the first century C.E. By examining the New Testament in light of its historical and cultural background, you will not only learn how Christianity developed, but you will also gain an understanding of why people disagree, and have fought for centuries, over how the New Testament should be interpreted. My goals in this class are:

•To provide you with a basic understanding of the foundational beliefs, practices, and diversity of ancient Christianity.

•To help you understand how the text of the New Testament has been transmitted and reconstructed.

•To introduce you to the world in which the New Testament’s authors lived.

• To introduce you to the tools scholars use to understand the New Testament.

Course Requirements:

1. Attendance/Class Participation (approximately 20% of grade). This course requires your active participation. Because you have chosen to take this class, I assume that you want to learn as much as possible about the New Testament and the academic study of religion. If so, then please be certain to arrive on time ready to share your ideas and thoughts on the assigned readings. Please be respectful of other students regardless of whether or not you agree with their opinions. I expect you to remain open to new ideas throughout this course, which is the first requirement of the academic study of religion. Because attendance is critical to understand the material and texts that we will study, I will deduct a few points for more than three unexcused absences when I determine your final grade. I assume that you will miss a few classes due to illnesses, university activities, or other life issues. Only unexcused absences will be penalized, so if you have a good reason for missing class I will not count your absence. If you are sick you do not need to obtain a note from a doctor or nurse to prove your illness. I will trust you, so just let me know that you were ill, and I will not count your absence. Whether your absence is excused or not, you are required to keep up with the readings and lectures. If you miss a class, I suggest that you obtain copies of the notes from a fellow student. I am always happy to sit down with you and go over any material at any time. I am pleased to have you in my class if you are involved in any university program (sports, ROTC, student government, etc.) that may occasionally prevent you from attending this course. Please provide me with a letter by January 22 about your activity or program, the name and phone number of a contact person, and the projected number of absences

2.Quizzes(4 total; approximately 40% of grade). There are four quizzes. Each quiz covers the assigned readings and the lectures. All quizzes are worth 50 points. There are no make-up quizzes. The quizzes will cover major events, people, places, and vocabulary from the assigned readings and material presented in class. Because we have much material to cover in this class, I may not discuss each reading in depth. I like to include a few questions on material that I did not explain in class in order to reward you for reading the assigned texts

4. Exams (4 exams; approximately 40% of grade). There are four (4) exams in this class. Each exam includes identifications of events, terms, names, quotations, multiple-choice, and sentences for you to complete with the appropriate word. You must be present for the exams: no make-up exams will be given unless you have an excused absence in advance or some legitimate emergency! The exams are not cumulative

General Comments: I am required by the university to provide you with the following information.

Grading: When I calculate your final grade I will look at how you have improved during the class. I like to see evidence of intellectual development over the course of the semester. I will reward you for your contributions to the class discussions and your regular attendance. If you simply show up for each class, do the readings, and participate in class discussions, as well as study the assigned materials, you should have no trouble receiving a passing grade for this course.

•Reading: In addition to the readings listed on this syllabus, I will periodically send you short readings about current events by e-mail. These will be sent to your university e-mail account. You must have access to your assigned UNI e-mail address for this class. If you need help with your university e-mail account, please consult the ITS home page for assistance (http://www.uni.edu/its/us/faqs/email/email14.htm). Make certain that you periodically delete old messages since these accounts are rather small.

Final Exam: Note the Final Examination Schedule in your Spring 2010 Schedule of Classes (page 17) on the UNI website (http://www.uni.edu/registrar/reginfo/index.shtml). Please read this information and keep this chart handy since some exams are scheduled for different dates and times. I am required to adhere to this schedule unless you follow the procedures described in this book.

•Policy on Late Work: All assignments must be completed for class on the day listed on the syllabus. Late submissions will not be accepted. No exceptions! If you do not show up for an exam, presentation, or quiz, you will receive zero points for that exam, presentation, or quiz.

•Disabilities and Assistive Testing Services: Assistive Testing Services are provided to enrolled students approved by the University of Northern Iowa Office of Disabilities Services for accommodations. Alternative testing formats, as well as auxiliary aids such as readers, scribes, or assistive technology, are available. Tests are to be scheduled in advance with the Department of Academic Services -- Examination Services Office. The test service is provided for University course tests and final examinations (not quizzes) to students enrolled in classes that are unable to provide the approved accommodations (i.e. extended time, large print options, reader/recorder, or computer testing). Course testing accommodations are based on disability documentation as determined by the University of Northern Iowa Disabilities Services. I will make every effort to accommodate disabilities. Please contact me if I can be of assistance in this area. All qualified students with disabilities are protected under the provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), 42 U.S.C.A., Section 12101. The ADA states, “no qualified individual with a disability shall, by reason of such disability, be excluded from participation in or be denied the benefits of the services, programs or activities of a public entity, or be subjected to discrimination by any such entity.” Students requesting instructional accommodations due to disabilities must arrange for such accommodations through Student Disability Services. The Office of Disability Services is located in 103 Student Health Center (319-273-2676 [Voice] or 319-273-3011 [TTY]). E-mail: disabilityservices@uni.edu. See pages 10-11 of your Spring 2010 Schedule of Classes for more information or consult the Office of Disability Services website (http://www.uni.edu/disability/).

•Discrimination: It is the policy of the University of Northern Iowa (UNI) not to discriminate on the basis of race, color, sex, age, disability, veteran status, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, or any other basis protected by federal and/or state law. Further details concerning UNI’s policies may be found in your Spring 2010 Schedule of Classes (pages 12-13). For additional information, visit: http://www.uni.edu/equity.

•Plagiarism: Any attempt to present someone else’s work as your own is plagiarism, and may result in an “F” for the course. The University of Northern Iowa has a very specific policy statement related to the issue of plagiarism. This policy statement can be found in several places on the UNI website, but it is most prominent in the UNI Student Handbook in Section 3.01 “Academic Ethics/Discipline” (http://www.uni.edu/pres/policies/301.shtml). You should become familiar with the Academic Ethics Policies found at this website or in the University Catalog. I am happy to answer any questions you may have about this topic.

•Weather Policy: My policy is to conduct class as long as the university is open. In case of bad weather please check the UNI homepage for information. I do not expect you to risk your life to attend this class. If you feel that it is not safe for you to attend class, then please stay home. I will trust your judgment and allow you to make up any assignments you have missed without penalty. Just let me know that you could not attend class due to the weather and I will not count your absence. For UNI’s weather policy, see: http://www.uni.edu/pres/policies/407.shtml.

CLASS SCHEDULE AND READING ASSIGNMENTS

DATE

CLASS TOPIC

ASSIGNMENT

Week 1—Introduction to the Course/New Testament Background

January 11

Class Introduction

January 13

The World of the New Testament: Geography

January 15

The World of the New Testament: Religions

Ehrman, Chapters 1-3, 30

Week 2—The Gospel of Mark: Part One

January 18

No Class: Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday

January 20

Jesus’ Early Ministry 

Ehrman Chapters 4-5, 14

Bible: Mark 1-5 (including the introduction on pages 56-57)

Bible: Leviticus 13-14 on pages 158-163 in the Old Testament and the notes on these pages. This material from the Old Testament is to be read as background to Mark 1:40-45.

January 22

Jesus and Messianism

Bible: Mark 6-10

Week 3—The Gospel of Mark: Part Two

January 25

Jesus and Messianism

Bible: Mark 11-16 (including the notes to chapter 16 on pages 90-91)

January 27

Jesus and Messianism, continued

January 29

TJesus' Teachings

Ehrman, Chapter 7

Quiz # 1

Week 4—The Gospel of Mark: Part Three

February 1

Jesus’ Teachings, continued

January 3

Jesus’ Trial

February 5

Jesus' Death

Week 5—The Gospel of Matthew

February 8

Matthew’s Interpretation of Mark

Ehrman, Chapters 7 & 8 Bible: Matthew 1-7

February 10

Jesus’ Teachings

Matthew 8-20

February 12

Jesus in Jerusalem

Matthew 21-28

Week 6—The Gospel of Luke

February 15

Jesus’ Birth and Ministry

Ehrman, Chapter 9 Bible: Luke 1-12

February 17

Jesus’ Last Days

Bible: Luke 13-24

February 19

Exam One

B

Week 7—The Gospel of John

February 22

John’s Cosmic Jesus

Ehrman, Chapter 11 Bible: John 1-6

February 24

Jesus’ Ministry

Bible: John 7-17 (including the notes to chapters 7-8 on pages159-64)

February 26

Jesus’ Crucifixion

Bible: John 18-21 Quiz # 2

Week 8—The Quest for the Historical Jesus

March 1

The Historical Jesus

Ehrman, Chapters, 13-14

March 3

The Development of Jesus Traditions

Ehrman, Chapters 15-18

March 5

Women in the Early Church: Junia the Apostle

Bible: Romans 16 (read all the notes to this chapter)

Week 9—The Book of Acts

March 8

The Development of the Early Church in Jerusalem

Ehrman, Chapter 10

Bible: Acts 1-8

March 10

The Spread of the Christian Faith: Paul and Peter

Bible: Acts 9-15

March 12

Exam Two

Week 10—Spring Break

March 15-19

No Class

Read your Bible over break.

Week 11—The Book of Acts and Other Histories of the Early Church

March 22

Paul’s Journeys: Part I

Bible: Acts 16-27

March 24

Paul’s Journeys: Part II

March 26

Paul’s Teachings

Ehrman, Chapter 19

Bible: Galatians

Week 12—Doctrinal Disputes

March 29

Problems in the Churches

Ehrman, Chapter 21

Bible: Philemon; Philippians

March 31

The Corinthian Church: Part I

Bible: 1 Corinthians

April 2

The Corinthian Church: Part II

Bible: 2 Corinthians

Quiz # 3

Week 13—Paul’s Teachings and His Legacy

April 5

Paul’s Apostolic Mission

Ehrman, Chapter 19

Bible: 1 Thessalonians; 2 Thessalonians

April 7

The Pastoral Epistles

Ehrman, Chapter 24

Bible: 1 Timothy; 2 Timothy; Titus

April 9

Exam Three

Week 14—Christians, Jews, and the Debate over Order in Early Christianity

April 14

Church Order

Bible: Ephesians

April 16

Christians and Jews

Ehrman, Chapter 26

Bible: Hebrews

April 18

Romans 

Ehrman, Chapter 25 Bible: Romans

Week 15—Early Views of Jesus and the Christian Church

April 19

Johannine Traditions

Ehrman, Chapter 12

Bible: 1 John; 2 John; 3 John

April 21

The Church of James: Part I1

Ehrman, Chapters 23 & 28

Bible: James

April 23

The Church of James: Part II

Quiz # 4

Week 16—John’s Apocalypse

April 26

Revelation: The Letters to the Seven Churches

Ehrman, Chapter 29

Bible: Revelation 1-3

April 38

Revelation and Apocalyptic Literature

Bible: Revelation 4-22

April 30 

Revelation and the Dead Sea Scrolls

Week 17—Final Exam Week

Monday

May 5

Exam Four (Wednesday)

10-11:50 p.m.