Academic Programs 

New Testament Survey   (SC-531)
Winter/Spring 2005

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:
Wednesdays 4:30-6:50 p.m. beginning January 26

Efrain Agosto
Professor of New Testament


Contact Information:
(860) 509-9500


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, preferably the New Revised Standard Version, the New International Version, or the Jerusalem Bible New Testament.  The bookstore will have copies of 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.

Luke T. Johnson, The Writings of the New Testament, Revised Edition (Fortress Press, 1999).  Basic introduction to the New Testament.

Mark A. Powell, Fortress Introduction to the Gospels (Fortress Press, 1998).  Helpful summaries of the four Gospels, as well as the Gospels as a whole in relation to Jesus.

James Dunn, Cambridge Companion to Paul (Cambridge University Press, 2003). Introduction to the life and letters of Paul from the perspective of various scholars.

Philip Harner, What Are They Saying About the Catholic Epistles? (Paulist Press, 2004). A brief overview of the “General” or “Catholic” Epistles including James, 1 Peter, 2 Peter, 1, 2, 3 John and Jude.

Three chapters on the Book of Acts, the Book of Hebrews and the Book of Revelation, respectively, from Howard-Brook & Ringe, The New Testament – Introducing the Way of Discipleship (see below under recommended reading), on reserve in library.

B. Recommended Reading (On Reserve in Library)

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.

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

Wes Howard-Brook & Sharon Ringe, The New Testament – Introducing the Way of Discipleship (Maryknoll, NY:  Orbis Books, 2002).  Liberationist readings of the New Testament.

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.

Mitchell G. Reddish, An Introduction to the Gospels (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1997). More extensive introductions to the Four Gospels.  Good discussion of “Synoptic Problem.”

Calvin J. Roetzel, The Letters of Paul: Conversations in Context, Fourth Edition (Westminster/John Knox Press, 1998).  Good introduction to Paul the man, his letters and theological issues in them.

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. Written Assignments:

  1. A 5-page analysis of a miracle story, parable or narrative incident in the life of Jesus that appears in more than one of the Synoptic Gospels.  The student will 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 briefly describe the details of the story, determine its purpose and function in the overall narrative, and discuss its theological message.  Make sure the final analysis is your own and not just rehashing the ideas of others. (Rather, integrate the commentaries with your own informed opinions and conclusions.) Typed, double-spaced,12-point font. Due March 9.
  1. A 15-page final, research paper on a ministerial or theological issue or set of related issues that crosses several of the epistolary literature, 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 writings you are studying and what scholars are saying about these topics.  Again, 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 March 30.  Final paper should be typed, double-spaced, 12-point font.  Due May 4, one week after final class.


Course Schedule

January 26            Introduction to the Course and to the Study of the New Testament

Read: Johnson, 1-19.
Recommended: Pregeant, 1-40.

February 2            The World of the New Testament

Read: Johnson, 21-91.
Recommended:  Barrett, 1-22, 135-176.
PBS Video Presentation:  "From Jesus to Christ: Part One"

February 9            Understanding Jesus and the Gospels 

Read: Johnson, 93-158; Powell, Gospels, 1-37.
Recommended:  Reddish, 13-43; Powell, NT Today,10-30. 

February 16            The Gospels of Matthew & Mark

Read: Matthew & Mark; Johnson, 159-211; Powell, Gospels, 38-84.
Recommended:  Reddish, 73-143; Powell, NT Today, 31-57.

February 23            Studies in Luke-Acts

Read: Gospel of Luke and Book of Acts; Johnson, 213-257; Powell, Gospels, 85-11; Howard-Brook, 103-121.
Recommended:  Reddish, 144-179. 

March 2           The Apostle Paul: Life, Mission & Letters

Read:  1-2 Thessalonians; Johnson, 259-293; Dunn, 1-63.
Recommended: Roetzel, 1-83.
PBS Video Presentation:  "From Jesus to Christ, Part II"

March 9             The Corinthian Correspondence

Read: 1-2 Corinthians; Johnson, 295-324; Dunn, 74-90.
Recommended: Roetzel, 83-96.

Due:  Gospel passage essay

March 16            Romans & Galatians                  

Read: Romans & Galatians; Johnson, 327-366; Dunn,  64-73; 91-104.
Recommended:  Roetzel, 96-113 .

March 23            No class (Reading Week) 

March 30            Philippians & Philemon; Colossians & Ephesians

Read:  Philippians & Philemon; Colossians & Ephesians; Johnson, 369-421; Dunn, 105-140.
Recommended: Roetzel, 113-148.

Due: Final Paper Topic

April 6              The Pastoral Epistles

Read: 1-2 Timothy; Titus; Johnson, 423-452; Dunn, 141-155.
Recommended: Roetzel, 153-160.                       

April 13            The General Epistles: Hebrews & James

Read: Hebrews & James; Johnson, 455-476; 507-518; Harner, 5-28; Brook-Howard, 168-179.
Recommended: Donelson, 1-60.

April 20             The General Epistles: 1 Peter, 2 Peter-Jude; 1-3 John

Read: 1-2 Peter, Jude; 1-3 John; Johnson, 479-518; Harner, 29-106.
Recommended: Donelson, 61-131.

April 27            The Gospel of John and the Book of Revelation; Conclusion of Course

Read: Gospel of John and Book of Revelation; Johnson, 521-592; Powell, Gospels, 112-138; Howard-Brook, 188-206.
Recommended:  Reddish, 180-213; Donelson, 133-158; Barrett, 316-349.

May 4              Final Paper Due in Professor's Office (by 5PM - in person, regular mail or e-mail).

Hartford Seminary  77 Sherman Street  Hartford, CT  06105   860-509-9500