Academic Programs 

New Testament Survey I*   (SC-531)
January Interession and Winter/Spring 2009

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: 
Thursdays from 7 p.m. to 9:20 p.m., beginning January 29

Efrain Agusto
Professor of New Testament

Contact Information:




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):

  • 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. Study bibles, such as the Oxford Annotated Study Bible or the Harper Collins Study Bible are also good resources to own.
  • Luke T. Johnson, The Writings of the New Testament, Revised Edition (Fortress Press, 1999). Basic introduction to the New Testament, with a focus on social and historical context, and theological meaning.
  • Mitchell G. Reddish, An Introduction to the Gospels (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1997). A guide to understanding the four gospels.
  • Calvin J. Roetzel, The Letters of Paul: Conversations in Context, Fourth Edition (Westminster/John Knox Press, 1998). Good introduction to Paul, his world, his letters and theological issues in them.
  • Wes Howard-Brook & Sharon Ringe, The New Testament – Introducing the Way of Discipleship (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2002). Feminist and liberationist readings of the various New Testament writings.

B. Recommended Reading (On Reserve in Library)

  • Efrain Agosto, Servant Leadership: Jesus and Paul (St. Louis: Chalice Press, 2005). The professor’s readings of the gospels and the Pauline letters from the perspective of leadership and ministry.
  • 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, with focus on theological issues.
  • Fred O. Francis & J. Paul Sampley, eds., Pauline Parallels, 2nd Edition (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1984). An easy reference for comparing parallel Pauline passages.
  • 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.
  • 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. Speaking & Writing:


• Each student will make a presentation in class in one of the following ways:

a. Select a miracle story, parable or narrative incident in the life of Jesus that appears in more than one of the Synoptic Gospels. 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 make a 10-minute oral presentation briefly describing the details of the story, explaining its purpose and function in the overall narrative of each gospel, and discussing its theological message. One week after your presentation submit a 5-page summary, typed and double-spaced (12-point font). Dates for presentations: Feb. 26 and March 5

b. Select one of the following “uncontested” Pauline letters – Galatians, Philippians, or 1 Thessalonians, and one of the following “Deutero-Paulines” – Colossians, Ephesians, or 1 Timothy. In a 10-minute presentation discuss what makes the first letter definitely “Paul’s” and what make the second “doubtful.” What makes both of them, including the second, “Pauline”? Use the discussion in Roetzel, 133-160, and Howard-Brook/Ringe, 148-167, as backdrop for your research and write a 5-page summary of your findings to be submitted one week after your presentation. Dates for presentation: April 16, 23.

• Each student will write a 15-page final, research paper on a theological or ministerial issue or set of related issues that crosses several of the New Testament letters, 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 New Testament texts you are studying and what scholars are saying about these topics. Nonetheless, 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 April 2. Final paper should be typed, double-spaced, 12-point font and submitted on May 14, one week after the last class.

Course Schedule

February 5 Introduction to the Course and to Reading Strategies for the Study of the New Testament.

Read: Johnson, 1-16
Recommended: Pregeant, 1-40.

February 12 The World of the New Testament

Read: Johnson, 23-87; Reddish, 44-72.
PBS Video Presentation: "From Jesus to Christ: Part One"

February 19 Understanding Jesus and the Gospels

Read: Johnson, 93-158; Reddish, 13-43;
Recommended: Agosto, 25-61.

February 26 The Gospels of Mark & Matthew

Read: Mark & Matthew; Johnson, 159-207; Reddish, 73-143.
Recommended: Agosto, 62-96.
Student Presentations: Gospel pericopes

March 5 Studies in Luke-Acts

Read: Gospel of Luke and Book of Acts; Johnson, 213-252; Reddish, 144-179; Howard-Brook/Ringe, 103-121

Student Presentations: Gospel Pericopes
Due: Previous week presentations

March 12 The Apostle Paul: Life, Mission & Letters

Read: 1-2 Thessalonians; Johnson, 259-293; Roetzel, 1-67; Howard-Brook/Ringe, 122-145.
Recommended: Agosto, 97-120.
PBS Video Presentation: "From Jesus to Christ, Part II"
Due: Previous week presentations

March 19 Paul’s Corinthian Correspondence

Read: 1-2 Corinthians; Johnson, 295-320; Roetzel, 79-96.
Recommended: Agosto, 165-196

March 26 Romans & Galatians

Read: Romans & Galatians; Johnson, 327-363; Roetzel, 96-113.
Recommended: Agosto, 121-164.

April 2: Special Presentation: Movie on Paul, with Special Guest, Dr. Wayne Meeks.

Note special class time: 6:30 PM to view movie and discuss with Prof. Meeks
Due: Topics for Final Paper

April 9: No class – Spring break

April 16: Philippians & Philemon; Deutero-Paul: Colossians & Ephesians

Read: Philippians, Philemon, Colossians, Ephesians; Johnson, 369-419; Roetzel, 113-152; Howard-Brook/Ringe, 148-167.
Student Presentations: On Paul and the Deutero-Paulines

April 23 The Pastoral and the General Epistles

Read: 1-2 Timothy; Titus; Hebrews, James, 1-2 Peter and Jude; Johnson, 423-518; Howard-Brook/Ringe, 168-186.
Student Presentations: On Paul and the Deutero-Paulines
Due: Paul/Deutero-Pauline Papers from previous week.

April 30 Johannine Literature: Gospel and Epistles

Read: The Gospel and Letters of John; Johnson, 521-569; Reddish, 180-213; Howard-Brook/Ringe, 80-102.
Due: Paul/Deutero-Pauline presentations from last week.

May 7 The Book of Revelation; Conclusion of Course

Read: Book of Revelation; Johnson, 573-589; Howard-Brook/Ringe, 188-206.
Recommended: Barrett, 316-349.

May 14: 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