Academic Programs 

Paul and His Urban Churches:  Issues in Ministry   (SC-555)
Fall 2003

Through critical readings of the Pauline epistles, this course examines ministry issues in Paul’s urban churches. Each of the letters will be read and discussed with a view toward ascertaining Paul’s thought and action on such aspects of ministry as the nature of the church, evangelism, preaching, teaching, leadership, authority, conflict, pastoral care, and social justice. The role and impact of the ancient urban environment upon the Pauline churches will be fundamental to our study. Issues in modern ministry, including ministry in the city, will also inform classroom discussion of and student assignments with the Pauline texts.

Meeting Day, Time and Dates: 
Wednesdays, 7:00-9:20 p.m.

Efrain Agosto
Professor of New Testament


Contact Information:
(860)  509-9500


Course Syllabus

Course Description

The Apostle Paul wrote letters to faith communities that he had founded, and to some that he had not.  All of these communities existed in various major urban centers of the Roman Empire in the first century of the Common Era.  This course examines Paul’s letters in order to ascertain Paul’s thought and action on aspects of his ministry, and that of his colleagues, such as the nature of the church, the Pauline mission, preaching, teaching, leadership and authority, and issues of conflict, pastoral care, and social justice. The focus of this course lies in the impact of the ancient, urban and Roman imperial setting upon Paul’s congregations, and the nature of his letters as instruments of ministry.  Issues in modern ministry, including ministry in the city, will also inform classroom discussion of and student assignments with the Pauline texts.  

Course Objectives

By the end of this course, students will have:

  1. Learned about the ancient, urban world of Paul, and its correspondence to our own.

  2. Studied Paul’s letters through the lens of ministry, asking about both his thought (theology) and action (ethics).

  3. Understood more about other leaders in the Pauline communities, both women and men, and the kinds of ministry in which they engaged, especially in comparison to Paul.

  4. Begin the building blocks toward a theology of ministry in Paul, which could be used for our own theologies and approaches to ministry today.

Course Requirements

  1. Attendance and informed participation in class.

  2. Reading:

    1. The New Testament Letters of Paul in a Modern Translation (the professor will use the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)).  Highly recommended but out of print: Fred Francis and J. Paul Sampley, eds., Pauline Parallels, Second Edition (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1984).

    1. Foundational essays in Pauline ministry (on reserve in library):

  • David Bartlett, “Ministry in the Letters of Paul” in Bartlett, Ministry in the New Testament (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1993), 23-57.
  • E. Earle Ellis, “Paul and His Co-Workers,” New Testament Studies 17 (1971): 437-452.

  • Victor Furnish, “Theology and Ministry in the Pauline Letters,” in Earl Shelp & Ronald Sunderland, A Biblical Basis for Ministry (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1981), 101-144.  
    1. Textbooks for Purchase:

      • Wayne Meeks, The First Urban Christians: The Social World of the Apostle Paul (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1983).

      • Calvin Roetzel, Paul: The Man and the Myth (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1999).

      • M. Luther Stirewalt, Paul the Letter Writer (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 2003).
      • Virginia Wiles, Making Sense of Paul: A Basic Introduction to Pauline Theology (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2000).  

    2. Recommended for an Overview of Paul, his letters, and his religious experience:  

  • John Ashton, The Religion of the Apostle Paul (New Haven & London: Yale University Press, 2000).
  • Charles Cousar, The Letters of Paul (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1996).
  • Calvin Roetzel, The Letters of Paul:  Conversations in Context (Louisville, KY: Westminster Press, 1998).
  1. Writing:

a.  For each week of class for which we have readings, bring a one-page reading report reflecting on what you read, both from Paul’s letters and from the secondary literature.  Summarize two or three of the most important things you learned, suggest some unanswered questions that the reading raised for you, and propose some connections to your own present-day circumstances and ministry setting.  Use these as reference for class discussions that day and feel free to add notes & questions that arise from the discussion.  Hand in to professor at the end of class.  Professor expects twelve of these from each student.

b.  Virginia Wiles studies a variety of Pauline theological terms (e.g., righteousness, law, sin, death, Christ) from Paul’s Jewish, Hellenistic and personal experiences.  At the end of each chapter in her study, she offers a “reading check.” On the basis of the questions in one of these chapters, construct a five-page essay in which you respond to the questions in narrative form and reflect on the implications of the theme in question for Paul’s ministry.  How does Paul’s thought about righteousness, law, sin, Christ, or etc., as discussed by Wiles and understood by you, become reflected in his or his community’s practice of ministry, be it leadership, mission, pastoral care, or any other practice? Cite examples from two or three of Paul’s letters.  Due October 30.

c.  In Wayne Meeks’ seminal study of Paul, he studies, sociologically, three areas of ministry – community formation, governance and ritual.  Select one of these and on the basis of Meeks’ discussion, your own reading of Paul’s letters, other course readings and other books and articles that you find on the ministry theme in question, write a 12-page essay in which you analyze Paul’s mission strategy and congregational development, apostleship and leadership, or ritual practices, both major and minor.  How do Paul’s practices correspond to what we do today in congregational life and ministry? How influential are Paul’s practices in your setting? Why or why not? Due December 10.

Course Schedule

September 10         Introduction to Course and the Study of Paul’s Letters

September 17         The Urban World of Paul

Read: Meeks, 9-50; Roetzel, Paul, 8-43.

Paul:  Gal 1:13-24; 2 Cor 11:21-29; Phil 3:2-11 (Pauline Parallels #195 [p.222]).

Recommended:  Roetzel, Letters, 6-50.

Video Presentation:  “From Jesus to Christ: Part II”

September 24          The Study of Ministry in Paul:  Overview of Issues

Read:  Bartlett; Furnish.

Paul:  2 Cor 4:1-12; Rom 1:1-7, 15:14-29; 1 Thess 2:1-8 (Pauline Parallels, #158-159 (pp.176-179).

October 1               The Letters of Paul: Form, Structure & Purpose

Read:  Stirewalt, 1-55; Roetzel, Paul, 69-92.

Paul: 1 Thessalonians – as a model of a Pauline letter, the earliest letter; Philippians, as a model of  Paul’s epistolary rhetoric.

Recommended:  Cousar, 23-45; Roetzel, Letters, 51-65.

October 8                The Letters of Paul: Overview & Function as Ministry

Read:  Stirewalt, 57-125.

Paul:  1 Corinthians as a model of Pauline ministry by letter

Recommended:  Roetzel, Letters, 79-118.

October 15               Constructing a Pauline Theology: From Thought to Action

Read:  Wiles, 1-81; Roetzel, Paul, 93-134.

Paul: Romans – theology for ministry

Recommended:  Nils Dahl, “The Missionary Theology in the Epistle to the Romans,” in Dahl, Studies in Paul: Theology for Early Christian Mission (Minneapolis: Augsburg Press, 1977), 70-88. On reserve in library.

October 22                Case Study in Theology as Ministry:  Reconciliation

Read:  Wiles, 83-142.

Paul: 2 Corinthians 1-9

October 30                Paul’s Apostleship: A Study in Early Christian Leadership

Read:  Roetzel, Paul, 44-68; Meeks, 111-139.

Paul: Galatians, 2 Cor 10-13 – the defense of Paul’s apostleship.

Recommended: Ashton, 152-170; Efrain Agosto, “Windows into Paul’s Leadership,” from book manuscript, Leadership in the New Testament, copy on reserve in library.

Due:  Theology essay

November 1              Paul’s Churches & Paul’s Leaders: Formation & Commendation

Read: Meeks, 51-110; Elliot, “Paul & His Co-Workers;” Agosto, “Windows into Pauline Leadership: His Leaders,” manuscript on reserve in library.

Paul: Philippians, Philemon; Rom 16:1-2; 1 Cor 16:15-18; 2 Cor 8:16-24 (Pauline Parallels, #65, p.73).

Recommended: Cousar, 63-74

November 8               Case Study in Pauline Ministry: Paul and Women

Read: Ross Shepard Kraemer & Mary Rose D’Angelo, Women & Christian Origins (New York, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999), 199-253. On reserve in library.

Paul: Rom 16:1-16; 1 Cor 11:2-16, 14: 33-36; Gal 3:28; Phil 4:2-3; Eph 5:21-33; Col 3:18-4:1; 1 Tim 2:8-15, 5:1-16.

Recommended: Elizabeth Schüssler Fiorenza, “`No Male and Female’ Galatians 3:28 – Alternative Vision and Pauline Modification,” in In Memory of Her: A Feminist Theological Reconstruction of Christian Origins (New York: Crossroad, 1983).  On reserve in library.

November 15           Case Study in Pauline Ministry: Resolving Conflicts through Ritual and Example

Read: Meeks, 140-163; Roetzel, Paul, 135-151.

Paul: 1 Corinthians 1:1-14:40; 1 Thess 1:2-3:13; Phil 2:1-4:3

Recommended: Gerd Theissen, Social Setting of Pauline Christianity: Essays on Corinth (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1982), 121-163.  On reserve in library.

November 22              The Interpreters of Paul: Ministry through Theology

Read:  Roetzel, Paul, 152-177.

Paul:  Colossians and Ephesians

Recommended:  Roetzel, The Letters, 133-152; Cousar, 163-175.

November 29               No class – Reading Week

December  3                The Interpreters of Paul: The Pastorals

Read: Barrett, “Ministry in the Pastoral Letters,” on reserve.

Paul: 1-2 Timothy; Titus

Recommended: Roetzel, Letters, 153-160; Cousar, 175-180.

December 10               Conclusion:  Toward a Pauline Theology of Ministry

Read:  Meeks, 164-192; Cousar, 75-86.

Due:  Essay on Pauline Practices



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