Academic Programs 
      

Reading the New Testament through the Eyes of the Oppressed (SC-632)
Fall 2008

This course in New Testament hermeneutics - the art of interpretation - will focus on recent developments in African American, Latino and feminist readings of the Bible. In particular, we will explore how Black and Latin American liberation theology movements have read the New Testament as well as womanist and mujerista perspectives. Recent applications of postcolonial theory to New Testament interpretation will also be explored, especially as they relate to issues of the poor and the marginalized. Fundamental to the course will be close readings of relevant texts in the New Testament, including selections from the Gospels, Paul, and the Book of Revelation, around issues of poverty, status and power, both in the ancient world among the earliest Christians and in our own contexts today.

 

Meeting Day, Time and Dates:
Thursdays from 4:30 to 6:50 p.m., beginning Sept. 11



Efrain Agosto
Professor of New Testament


Contact Information:

phone: 
(860) 509-9515
email: eagosto@hartsem.edu

 

Course Syllabus
Course Website

*Please note: the following syllabus is posted as a DRAFT and is subject to change

Course Description: This course in New Testament hermeneutics - the art of interpretation - will focus on recent developments in African American, Latino/a and feminist readings of the Bible. In particular, we will explore how Black and Latin American liberation theology movements have read the New Testament as well as womanist and mujerista perspectives. Recent applications of postcolonial theory to New Testament interpretation will also be explored, especially as they relate to issues of the poor and the marginalized. Fundamental to the course will be close readings of relevant texts in the New Testament, including selections from the Gospels, Paul, and the Book of Revelation, around issues of poverty, status and power, both in the ancient world among the earliest Christians and in our own contexts today.

Course Objectives: By the end of this course, the student will have:
1. Studied some classic and newer statements of African American, Latino/a, feminist and postcolonial perspectives on New Testament interpretation.
2. Explored issues of race, poverty and class and their relation to the task of New Testament interpretation.
3. Analyzed examples of gospel, epistle and apocalyptic texts from the New Testament that have been interpreted from the “margins.”
4. Discussed how New Testament interpretation from the margins can impact Christian theology, ministry and practice today.

Course Requirements:
A. Attendance and informed participation (two or more absences will affect final grade).

B. Required Textbooks (available for purchase):

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

Miguel De La Torre, Reading the Bible from the Margins (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2002).

David Rhoads, ed., From Every People and Nation: The Book of Revelation in Intercultural Perspective (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2005).

B. Selected Readings (Essays assigned weekly:

Cain Hope Felder, Stony the Road We Trod: African American Biblical Interpretation (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1991).

Justo Gonzalez, Santa Biblia: Reading the Bible through Hispanic Eyes (Nashville: Abingdon, 1996).

Ada Maria Isasi-Diaz, Mujerista Theology: A Theology for the Twenty-first Century (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1996).

Letty M. Russell, ed., Feminist Interpretation of the Bible (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1985).

Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza, In Memory of Her: A Feminist Theological Reconstruction of Christian Origins (New York: Crossroad, 1983).

Fernando Segovia, Decolonizing Biblical Studies: A View from the Margins (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2000).

Fernando Segovia & Mary Ann Tolbert, eds., Reading from This Place, Volume One: Social Location and Biblical Interpretation in the United States (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1995).

A. Written & Oral Assignments:

1. Short essay (5-7 pages) – analyzing a passage of scripture in a Gospel, Epistle or Book of Revelation from the perspective of two of the groups studied in the course. Due Nov. 20.

2. Research paper (15-20 pages) – addressing a major topic of interest in New Testament hermeneutics, theology or modern historical/political life that is impacted by New Testament interpretation from the perspective of the poor and marginalized. Due December 19.

3. Class Presentation: Each student will be asked to make one brief (10-minute) presentation on his or her short essay on a particular passage of a New Testament Gospel, Pauline Epistle or Book of Revelation. Alternatively students might want to present on a particular reading or set of readings assigned in class. Various dates, or November 20/December 4.

Course Schedule:
September 11 – Introduction to course, readings and expectations; a brief overview of the history of New Testament interpretation, including more recent “modes of discourse.”
Read: De La Torre, pp. 1-54; Segovia, “’And They Began to Speak in Other Tongues’: Competing Modes of Discourse in Contemporary Biblical Criticism,” from Reading from This Place, 1-32.

Sept. 18Theoretical Perspectives: African American biblical interpretation – A Historical Overview.
Read: De La Torre, 55-81; Stony the Road We Trod, pp. 17-77.

Sept. 25 – African American Biblical Interpretation: Some examples.
Read: Stony the Road We Trod, pp. 81-97 (chapter by Wimbush); 206-246 (chapters by Martin and Lewis).

Oct. 2 – Feminist Biblical Interpretation
Read: De la Torre, 82-103; Schüssler Fiorenza, 3-67; Russell, 11-18.

Oct. 9: Womanist & Mujerista Biblical Interpretation
Read: Russell, Feminist Interpretation of the Bible, 30-40 (chapter 2 by Katie Cannon); Isasi Diaz, Mujerista Theology, 35-85; 148-169.

Oct. 16 - Latin American & Latino/a biblical interpretation
Read: Justo Gonzalez, La Santa Biblia, 11-30; Segovia, Reading from This Place, 57-73.

Oct. 23 - Postcolonial biblical studies
Read: Segovia, Decolonizing Biblical Studies, pp. 119-142; Agosto, “Postcolonial Commentary on Philippians” essay on reserve.

October 30 - Reading New Testament Texts from the Margins: the Gospels
Read: Agosto, Servant Leadership, 13-96; De La Torre, 104-150; Russell, 65-72 (essay by Sharon Ringe); Schussler-Fiorenza, 105-154.

November 6 – Reading New Testament Texts from the Margins: Paul
Read: Agosto, Servant Leadership, 97-120, 165-196; Schussler-Fiorenza, 205-250.

November 13 – Reading New Testament Texts from the Margins: Revelation
Read: David Rhoads, editor, From Every People and Nation: The Book of Revelation in Intercultural Perspective: Chapters 1, 2, 4, 6.

November 20 – Student presentations on short essays

November 27 – Thanksgiving – no classes

December 4 – Student presentations (continued)

December 11 – What’s next in biblical interpretation from the margins?
Professor will lecture from new book: Still at the Margins: Biblical Scholarship Fifteen Years After the Voices from the Margins, edited by R.S. Sugirtharajah (T&T Clark, 2008), with essays by Schussler-Fiorenza and Vincent Wimbush; and They Were All Together in One Place? Toward Minority Biblical Criticism, forthcoming book edited by Fernando Segovia, et.al.

December 19 – Final Paper due (via email, regular mail, or in person at professor’s office).

 

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