Academic Programs 

New Testament Survey (SC-531) 
Winter/Spring 2004

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.


Meeting Day, Time and Dates: 
Tuesdays from 7:00-9:20 p.m.
Dr. Efrain AgostoEfrain Agosto
Professor of the New Testament


Contact Information:
(860) 509-9515
Dr. Agosto's web page


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, the apocalyptic, as well as parallel documents from among the non-canonical literature of earliest Christianity.
4. Explore tools to help 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)

Lewis Donelson, From Hebrews to Revelation: A Theological Introduction (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2001).

Bart D. Ehrman, The New Testament: A Historical Introduction to the Early Christian Writings, 3rd edition (Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press, 2000, 2004).

                           , The New Testament and Other Early Christian Writings: A Reader, 2nd edition (Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press, 1998, 2004).

Mitchell G. Reddish, An Introduction to the Gospels (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1997).

Calvin J. Roetzel, The Letters of Paul: Conversations in Context, Fourth Edition (Westminster/John Knox Press, 1998).

B. Recommended Reading (On Reserve in Library)

C.K. Barrett, ed., The New Testament Background, Revised Edition (San Francisco: Harper Collins, 1989).

Fred O. Francis & J. Paul Sampley, eds., Pauline Parallels, 2nd Edition (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1984).

Mark Allan Powell, ed., The New Testament Today (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 1999). 

Russell Pregeant, Engaging the New Testament: An Interdisciplinary Introduction (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1995).

Burton Hamilton Throckmorton, ed., Gospel Parallels: A Synopsis of the First Three Gospels, 5th Edition, New Revised Standard Version (Nashville: T. Nelson, 1992).


3. Written Assignments:

  1. An in-class, one-hour objective exam on the Synoptic Gospels and John (March 9).
  2. A 5-page essay comparing the non-canonical Gospel of Thomas to the canonical gospels (cf. Ehrman, Introduction, Chapter 12, pp.195-209 and Reader, 116-126), or the non-canonical Acts of Paul and Thecla to canonical Acts and the Pauline Epistles (cf. Ehrman, Introduction, 362-371 and Reader, 177-182.  Due April 13.
  3. A 15-page final, research paper on one of the following topics (Due May 11, one week after final class):


(1).   Comparing and Contrasting the “historical Jesus” and the Jesus of the Gospels. Using material from Ehrman, Introduction, pp.210-284, as a starting point, plus his bibliographic suggestions (and others that the professor may provide), discuss the issues and problems from your own perspective in determining how and what we can know about who Jesus really was and what the gospels say about him.  Especially with regard to the latter you will have to be selective in showing examples of stories or topics in the Gospels that relate back to the historical Jesus and/or respond to the theological needs of the Gospel communities.

(2). Select a ministerial or theological issue or related set of issues in the Pauline epistles and see how it works itself out in a variety of the letters (at least three).  Examples of issues include – Paul and women; Paul and justification; Paul and reconciliation; the ministry of Paul’s co-workers, etc.

(3). Expanding on your essay on non-canonical writings, take a few (two or three depending on size) of the non-canonical writings described by Erhman, Introduction, 408-478 and reproduced in his Reader, and describe how these relate to the late first century/early second century canonical writings (Hebrews, General Epistles and/or Revelation, any relevant combination thereof).  Reserve a final section of this exploration for a discussion of how these writings might be studied, viewed or even preached on in local communities of faith today, especially communities that lend significant authority to the canonical New Testament.

(4).  Discuss the development of the role of women in earliest Christianity across the various eras represented by the canonical New Testament and, if interested, some of the later non-canonical materials.  For example, you may choose to compare and contrast selected texts from the canonical gospels, several of Paul’s letters, and later Christian literature.  How did the role of women in earliest Christianity change over time and context, and how does that help us understand their role today? Start with Erhman, Introduction, Chapter 24, pp. 395-407, and the bibliographic suggestions he makes there.

(5) Select a topic of your own interest, but discuss early and thoroughly with the professor.  For example, you may want to do an exegetical study of one passage of the New Testament, or there may be other topics or themes that will require your exploration across several documents and/or genres of the New Testament.

Course Schedule

January 27      Introduction to the Course and to the Study of the New Testament

Read: Ehrman, Introduction, 1-17; Donelson, 1-6.
Recommended: Powell, 1-9; Pregeant, 1-40.

February 3      The World of the New Testament

Read: Ehrman, Introduction, 23-88; Reddish, 44-72.
Recommended:  Barrett, 1-22, 135-176.
PBS Video Presentation:  "From Jesus to Christ: Part One"

February 10     Understanding Jesus and the Gospels 

Read: Ehrman, Introduction, 48-66; Reddish, 13-43.
Recommended:  Powell, 10-30. 

February 17     Matthew & Mark

Read: Gospels of Matthew & Mark in Ehrmann, Reader, 9-59;
Ehrman, Introduction, 67-111; Reddish, 73-143.  
Recommended:  Powell, 31-57.

February 24      Luke-Acts

Read: Gospel of Luke and Book of Acts in Ehrmann, 60-91, 145-176;  
Ehrman,  Introduction, 112-153; Reddish, 144-179.  
Recommended:  Powell, 58-69. 

March 2           The Gospel & Epistles of John

Read: Gospel  & Epistles of John in Ehrman, Reader, 92-115; 294-299;
Ehrman, Introduction, 154-194; Reddish, 180-213; Donelson, 107-131.
Recommended:  Powell, 70-81. 

March 9           Objective Exam on the Gospels and Video Introduction to Paul

One-hour Exam on the Synoptic Gospels and John
PBS Video Presentation:  "From Jesus to Christ, Part II"

March 16          No class (Professor in Cuba)

March 23          The Apostle Paul: Life, Mission & Letters

Read: Ehrman, Introduction, 285-315; Roetzel, 1-83;  
1-2 Thessalonians in Ehrman, Reader, 246-252.  
Recommended:  Powell, 86-99.

March 30          Paul & Ministry: 1-2 Corinthians; Philippians & Philemon

Read:  1-2 Corinthians, Philippians, & Philemon in Ehrman, Reader, 205-226; 238-241; 264-265; Ehrman, Introduction, 316-331; 340-347; Roetzel, 83-96; 113-118.

April 6              No class (Reading Week)

April 13            Paul & Theology:  Romans & Galatians

Read: Romans and Galatians in Ehrmann, Reader, 191-204; 227-232;
Ehrman, Introduction, 331-340; 348-361; Roetzel, 96-113.

Due: Essay on Non-canonical Literature

April 20             Interpreters of Paul: Disputed Pauline Letters

Read: Colossians, Ephesians, 1-2 Timothy and Titus in Ehrman, Reader, 233-237; 242- 245; 253-263; Ehrman, Introduction, 372-394; Roetzel, 133-160.
Recommended: Powell, 110-120.

April 27           Hebrews & the General Epistles

Read: Hebrews, James, 1-2 Peter, Jude in Ehrmann, Reader, 271-293; 300-301; Ehrman, Introduction, 408-460; Donelson, 7-105.
Recommended: Powell, 121-131.

May 4            The Book of Revelation and Conclusion of the Course

Read: Revelation in Ehrman, Reader, 375-391;  
Ehrman, Introduction, 461-478; Donelson, 133-158.  
Recommended:  Powell, 134-142; Barrett, 316-349.

May 11          Final Paper Due in Professor's Office (5PM - in person, regular mail or e-mail)


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