Academic Programs 

Pastoral Reading of Paul’s Letters   (SC-648) 
Winter/Spring 2008

Through critical readings of the Apostle Paul’s epistles, this course examines pastoral 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, preaching, evangelism, teaching, leadership, authority, conflict, pastoral care, and social justice. The role and impact of the ancient urban and imperial 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 on the Pauline texts.

Meeting Day, Time and Dates:
Tuesdays from 7 PM to 9:20 PM starting January 29, 2007

Efrain Agosto
Professor of New Testament

Contact Information:



Office hours
: Mondays, 4-5 PM; Tuesdays, 5 PM-6 PM
Or by appointment
(860) 509-9553

Course Syllabus

Course Objectives
By the end of this course, students will have:
1. Understood the character and composition of Pauline letters as instruments of ministry.
2. Explored specific ministry issues throughout the Pauline corpus.
3. Learned about the ministry practices of other leaders in Paul’s letters beside himself.
4. Begun the construction of a Pauline theology of ministry, both as a lens for reading Paul’s letters and for practicing ministry, broadly construed, today.

Course Requirements

1. Attendance and informed participation in class. More than two absences without adequate excuse will adversely impact final grade.

2. Reading:

  • The New Testament Letters of Paul in a Modern Translation (the professor will use the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)). A useful reader has been ordered for purchase: Wayne Meeks and John T. Fitzgerald, eds. The Writings of St. Paul, Norton Critical Edition, Second Edition (New York, London: W.W. Norton & Co., 2007). Also highly recommended but out of print: Fred Francis and J. Paul Sampley, eds., Pauline Parallels, Second Edition (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1984.
  • Efrain Agosto, Servant Leadership: Jesus and Paul (St. Louis: Chalice Press, 2005).
  • David Bartlett, Ministry in the New Testament (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1993).
  • Beverly Roberts Gaventa, Our Mother Saint Paul (Louisville, London: Westminster John Knox Press, 2007).
  • Wayne Meeks, The First Urban Christians: The Social World of the Apostle Paul (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1983).
  • Sandra Hack Polaski, A Feminist Introduction to Paul (St. Louis: Chalice Press, 2005).
  • Calvin J. Roetzel, The Letters of Paul: Conversations in Context, Fourth Edition (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 1998).
  • James W. Thompson, Pastoral Ministry according to Paul: A Biblical Vision (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2006).

Others on Reserve Shelf for recommended reading, listed in schedule below.

3. Writing & Presentations:

  • Each student will do a brief oral presentation on a “minor’ leader (or leaders) in the Pauline communities, describing the text (s) in which this leader is mentioned, the duties or expectations of that leader, and what we learn about Pauline ministry and theology from the description or activity of that leader as described by Paul. See the schedule for names of such individuals, as well as the article on reserve in the library by E. Earle Ellis, “Paul and His Coworkers,” and E. Agosto, Servant Leadership, pp. 121-164. Please make two choices by the third class so professor makes sure there are no two students studying the same leader. Presentations should be between 10 and 15 minutes. Alternative assignment: Summarize and analyze one of the recommended readings in the schedule below.
  • Write a five-page paper based on your research and presentation for the assignment on a “minor” Pauline leader. In addition to the items of your oral presentation, include some discussion of the history of interpretation about this leader and the text describing him or her in your written version. Due one week after your oral presentation.Alternative assignment: Essay summarizing and critiquing one of the recommended readings listed on the schedule below.  Either assignment is due one week after your oral presentation.
  • Write a 15-page research paper on a topic of your choice in the study of pastoral and ministry issues in Paul. The topic should be broad enough that you can study a cross section of Paul’s letters, keeping in mind that there might be a distinctive take on your topic between Paul’s contested and uncontested letters. You may want to explore further a topic of interest tweaked by one of the secondary readings (e.g., feminist readings of Paul and ministry [Polaski, Gaventa]; community formation, governance or ritual [Meeks]; leadership in Paul [Agosto]; the formation of a pastoral theology [Thompson], etc.). Or there may be another topic in ministry today that you want to explore through the lens of the Pauline letters. Discuss the topic with the professor and give him your decision by the middle of the course. Paper is due one week after the class concludes. May 13.

Course Schedule:

January 29 Introduction to course and the study of Paul & his letters

Read: Meeks & Fitzgerald, xiii-xxviii; Gaventa, 3-15; Polaski, 1-11; Roetzel, 1-5; 51-66.

February 5 The World of Paul & his ministry

Read: Meeks, 1-50; Polaski, 12-46; Roetzel, 6-50;
Bartlett, 23-57; Thompson, 7-29.

Recommended: 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.

Video Presentation (tentative): “From Jesus to Christ: Part II”

February 12 An Overview of Paul’s Letters as Instruments of Ministry

Read: Agosto, 97-120; Roetzel, 67-118.

Submit: Two choices for study of Paul’s leaders

February 19 1 Thessalonians & the Formation of Paul’s Churches

Read: Meeks & Fitzgerald, 3-10 (1 Thessalonians), 643-651; Gaventa, 17-28; Meeks, 51-110; Thompson, 31-34, 53-60.

Recommended: Abraham Malherbe, “‘Gentle as a Nurse’: The Cynic Background to 1 Thess ii,” Novum Testamentum 12 (1970): 203-17.

February 26 Leadership in Paul’s Churches: An Overview

Read: Agosto, 121-164; Meeks, 111-139

Student Presentation: Timothy

March 4 No class – Professor Away

March 11 Problems in Leadership: 1 Corinthians

Read: Meeks & Fitzgerald, 21-44 (1 Cor.), 610-623; Agosto, 165-196; Gaventa, 41-50; Meeks, 140-163; Polaski, 47-60, Thompson, 119-135.

Recommended: Nils Dahl, “Paul and the Church at Corinth According to 1 Corinthians 1:10-4:21,” in idem, Studies in Paul: Theology for the Early Christian Mission (Minneapolis: Augsburg Publishing House, 1977), 40-61.

Student Presentation: Apollos

March 18 2 Corinthians (1-9) and the Nature of Pauline Ministry

Read: Meeks & Fitzgerald, 46-61 (2 Cor.); Polaski, 60-63; Thompson, 135-148.

Recommended: Dieter Georgi, Remembering the Poor: The History of Paul’s Collection for Jerusalem (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1965, 1992), 68-109.

Student Presentation: Titus

March 25 No class – Spring break/Christian Holy Week

April 1 Confronting Opposition: 2 Cor. 10-13 & Galatians

Read: Meeks & Fitzgerald, 10-20 (Galatians), 235-241; Gaventa, 29-39, 85-11; Thompson, 61-83; Polaski, 64-75.

Recommended: Meeks & Fitzgerald, 458-470 (“Was Paul an ‘Anti-Semite’” by Daniel Boyarin); Elisabeth Schüssler-Fiorenza, “No Male and Female: Galatians 3:28 – Alternative Vision and Pauline Modification” in idem, In Memory of Her: A Feminist Theological Reconstruction of Christian Origins (New York: Crossroad, 1983), 205-241.

Student Presentation: Barnabas

April 8 Paul & the Romans: Expanding the Mission

Read: Meeks & Fitzgerald, 61-87 (Romans), 659-669; Gaventa, 51-62, 113-160; Meeks, 140-163; Thompson, 85-118.

Recommended: Nils Dahl, “The Missionary Theology in the Epistle to the Romans,” in idem, Studies in Paul, 70-94; Robert Jewett, “Paul, Phoebe and the Spanish Mission” in Jacob Neusner,, The Social World of Formative Christianity and Judaism (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1988), 142-155.

Student Presentation: Phoebe

April 15 Philippians & Philemon: Friendship, Finances & Slavery

Read: Meeks & Fitzgerald, 87-97 (Phil. & Phlm); Thompson, 31-53; Cynthia Briggs Kittredge, Community and Authority: The Rhetoric of Obedience in the Pauline Tradition (Trinity Press, 1998), 53-110 [on reserve]; Sandra Hack Polaski, Paul and the Discourse of Power (Sheffield Press, 1999), pages on Philemon [on reserve].

Recommended: Alan Callahan, The Embassy of Onesimus: Paul’s Letter to Philemon (Trinity Press, 1996); Ben Witherington III, Friendship and Finances in Philippi (Trinity Press, 1994).

Student Presentations: Euodia & Syntyche; Philemon & Onesimus

April 22 Interpreters of Paul: Ministry in Colossians & Ephesians

Read: Meeks & Fitzgerald, 101-122 (2 Thess; Col; Eph.), 623-634; Polaski, 95-101; Roetzel, 133-152

Student Presentation: Epaphroditus; Epaphras

April 29 Pastoral Epistles: Ministry in Post-Pauline Churches

Read: Meeks & Fitzgerald, 122-137 (1-2 Tim; Titus), 291-318, 634-643; Bartlett, 150-184; Polaski, 101-116; Roetzel, 153-160.

May 5 Conclusion: Toward a Pauline Theology of Ministry

Read: Agosto, 197-212; Gaventa, 63-84; Meeks & Fitzgerald, 678-694; Meeks, 164-192; Polaski, 117-122; Roetzel, 161-190; Thompson, 149-163.

May 12 Final Paper Due (by email, regular mail, or personal delivery)

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