Sheila E. McGinn, Ph.D.
Professor of Biblical Studies & Early Christianity
DEPARTMENT OF RELIGIOUS STUDIES
The Historical Jesus (RL 506.1)
24 January 2010
An introduction to the historical person, Jesus of Nazareth, especially
through material from the recent "quest" for the historical Jesus. The course
will focus on the words and deeds of Jesus as they would have been understood
by his own contemporaries, and at new attempts to write a biography of Jesus
of Nazareth. We will further ask whether such attempts are truly valid,
given the factual knowledge at hand. Finally, we will investigate the relevance
of such work for the Christian of the late twentieth century. Comparisons
will be made to how Jesus was later understood and portrayed by his followers
and in popular media (e.g., art, literature, cinema).
COURSE OBJECTIVES: Through the successful
completion of this course, a student will be able to:
- Define the key terms relating to biblical study
- Identify & give dates for significant personages in the four canonical
- Outline the key themes & characteristics of each of the four NT gospel
portrayals of Jesus
- Discuss the significance of each of these four views of Jesus as the messiah
- Discuss the cultural appropriation of these canonical portraits in popular
films of different eras
- Evaluate the gaps and spaces in that appropriation as well as the positive
use of the canonical images
- Explain the meaning and significance of the key christological doctrine:
"fully human, fully divine"
- the Bible---a study edition with cross-references and annotations, not
a paraphrase. The NIV study edition was ordered for this class (), but it
is not essential to buy a new Bible if you already own a study edition of
the NAB, RSV, or NRSV.
- Aland, Kurt, ed. Synopsis of the Four Gospels. Revised English Edition.
New York: United Bible Societies, 1985. ISBN #0826705006. If you already own
another Gospel parallels text (i.e., Funk or Throckmorton), there is no need
to buy this one. If you are on a tight budget, this text could be shared with
a classmate; there also are on-line synopses, including ones with the Gospel
of Thomas. See the Bible index page for links.
If you have or would like to develop facility with the original Greek texts,
either of the following are the alternatives of choice:
- Aland, Kurt, ed. Synopsis Quattuor Evangeliorum. [Greek texts
with Latin forematter] Stuttgart: German Bible Society, 1997. ISBN #3438051309.
[$69.99. Available on-line at the ABS site.]
- Aland, Kurt, ed., Greek-English Edition of the Synopsis Quattuor Evangeliorum
Synopsis of the Four Gospels, Tenth Edition.[Greek and English on facing
pages, with Latin forematter] New York: United Bible Societies. ISBN #3438054051.
REQUIRED FILMS & SECONDARY SOURCE MATERIALS (in addition to class handouts
and web page information):
- Books or other print resources:
- Crossan, John Dominic. Jesus: A Revolutionary Biography. San Francisco:
Harper, 1994, 1995. ISBN #0060616628.
- Crossan, John Dominic, and Jonathan L. Reed. Excavating Jesus: Beneath
the Stones, Behind the Texts. Revised and Updated. San Francisco: Harper,
2002. ISBN #0060616342.
- Stern, Richard C., et al. Savior on the Silver Screen. Mahwah, N.J.:
Paulist, 1999. ISBN #0809138557.
- Tatum, W. Barnes. Jesus at the Movies: A Guide to the First Hundred Years.
Polebridge Press; 1998. ISBN #0944344674.
- Van Beeck, Franz Josef. "Professing the Uniqueness of Christ," Chicago
Studies 24 (April 1985): 17–35. (on electronic reserve
at Grasselli Library)
- Arcand, Denys. "Jesus of Montréal." Orion Classics, 1989 (French),
1990 (with English subtitles).
- Bronston, Samuel. "The King of Kings." Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1961. (Cf.
Cecil B. DeMille's 1927 version)
- Greene, David. "Godspell." Columbia Pictures, 1973.
- Jewison, Norman. "Jesus Christ Superstar." Universal Studios, 1973.
- Monty Python, "Monty Python's Life of Brian." Handmade Films, 1979.
- Pasolini, Pier Paolo. "The Gospel According to Matthew." 1964 (Italian),
1966 (with English subtitles).
- Scorsese, Martin. "The Last Temptation of Christ." 1988.
- Stevens, George. "The Greatest Story Ever Told." Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1965.
- Zeffirelli, Franco. "Jesus of Nazareth." RAI/ICT Entertainment, 1977.
- Baugh, L. Imaging the Divine: Jesus and Christ-Figures in Film. Sheed
& Ward, 1997.
- Borg, Marcus. Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time: The Historical Jesus
& the Heart of Contemporary Faith. San Francisco: Harper, 1994.
- Burridge, Richard A. Four Gospels, One Jesus? A Symbolic Reading. Grand
Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1994. ISBN #080280876X.
of the Catholic Church, tr. United States Catholic Conference. Città
del Vaticano: Libreria Editrice Vaticana; Mahwah, N.J.: Paulist, 1994. ISBN #0809134349.
- Charlesworth, James H. Jesus Within Judaism: New Light from Exciting Archaeological
Discoveries. Anchor Bible Reference Library. New York/London/etc.: Doubleday,
- Charlesworth, James H. and Walter P. Weaver, eds. Jesus Two Thousand Years
Later. Faith and Scholarship Colloquies 6. Harrisburg, Penn.: Trinity
Press International, 2000.
- Crossan, John Dominic. The Historical Jesus: The Life of a Mediterranean
Jewish Peasant. San Francisco: Harper, 1991, 1993. ISBN #0060616296.
- Ehrman, Bart D. Jesus: Apocalyptic Prophet of the New Millenium. New
York: Oxford University Press, 1999. ISBN #0195124731. Strongly recommended.
- Fredriksen, Paula. From Jesus to Christ: The Origins of the New Testament
Images of Jesus. Second ed. New Haven & London: Yale University Press,
2000. ISBN #0300084579.
- Funk, Robert W. The Five Gospels: The Search for the Authentic Words of Jesus.
New York: Macmillan, 1993.
- Harrington, Daniel and James Keenan. Jesus and Virtue Ethics: Building Bridges
Between New Testament Studies & Moral Theology. Lanham, Md. & Chicago:
Rowman & Littlefield/University Press of America, 2003. ISBN #1580511252.
- Meier, John P. A Marginal Jew: Rethinking the Historical Jesus. 3 Vols.
New York, etc: Doubleday, 1991 (Vol. 1); 1994 (Vol. 2).
- Miner, C. E. The 'Filmlical' Jesus: A Critically Evaluative Review of the
Jesus Film Genre (Dissertation, School of Theology at Claremont, 1995; Dissertation
Abstracts International, vol. 56, no. 12, June 1996)
- Moxnes, Halvor. Putting Jesus in His Place: A Radical View of Household
and Kingdom. Louisville & London: Westminster John Knox, 2003.
- Neuner, Josef & Jacques Dupuis, eds. The Christian Faith in the Doctrinal
Documents of the Catholic Church, Rev. Ed. New York: Alba House, 1982.
ISBN #0818904534. Seventh revised and enlarged edition, 2001. ISBN #0818908939.
Chpt. 6: "Jesus Christ the Savior," 143–198 (on
electronic reserve at Grasselli Library).
- O'Grady, John F. The Four Gospels and the Jesus Tradition. New York/Mahwah:
- Oursler, Fulton. The Greatest Story Ever Told. 1949.
- Sanders, E. P. The Historical Figure of Jesus. New York/London: Penguin,
- Schweitzer, Albert. The Quest of the Historical Jesus: A Critical Study
of Its Progress from Reimarus to Wrede. Albert Schweitzer Library; Baltimore:
Johns Hopkins University Press, 1998. ISBN 0801859344. [On-line text: Albert
Quest of the Historical Jesus: A Critical Study of its Progress from Reimarus
to Wrede. Translated by W. Montgomery. From the First German Edition Von
Reimarus zu Wrede, 1906. With a Preface by F. C. Burkitt, D.D. First English
Edition, 1910. Published in Great Britain by A. & C. Black, Ltd.]
- Vermes, Geza. The Dead Sea Scrolls in English. Rev. & Ext. Fourth
Ed. New York/London: Penguin. 1995.
- _______. Jesus the Jew: A Historian's Reading of the Gospels. Philadelphia:
Fortress, 1973, 1981.
FORMAT: The course will be conducted in seminar style. Formal lectures
and student presentations will be complemented by active, critical student discussions
on the basis of the primary texts, films, and secondary literature.
regarding prior coursework. Students with limited NT background are encouraged to
consult one or both of the following texts: Helmut Koester, Introduction to the
New Testament (Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 1980); two volumes. Elisabeth Schüssler
Fiorenza, In Memory of Her (New York: Crossroad, 1984, 1994). In particular,
these books may be helpful to those students who are uncertain about the background
information mentioned here. In addition, I have a packet of handouts which may be
of use and is available at cost.
Students will write one CRITICAL
REVIEW (due session 7)of a crucial book-length
study of the Jesus of history (preferably one of the recommended texts or one of
the "classics" of the early quest) OR a foreign-language article/essay/chapter
OR two English-language articles/essays/chapters. (To ensure variety, choices will
be made in consultation with the instructor and other members of the seminar.) Each
review should follow the basic structure outlined in the "How
to" page. In sum, this means it will include three sections: (1) a concise
statement of the author's thesis; (2) a summary of the supporting evidence; (3)
an evaluation of how well the author succeeds in persuading you that the thesis
is correct, and two or three questions suitable for class discussion of this book.
Students will also write FILM
CRITIQUES (due sessions 4 & 9) on two of
the feature-length films used in the course, including at least one of the "exploratory"
type. Each critique should follow the basic structure outlined in the "How
to" page. In sum, this means it will include three sections: (1) how this
presentation compares with your prior understanding of Jesus; (2) what questions
it raises that can be answered by historical research; (3) what questions or challenges
it raises for current theology. As always, you are welcome to add other points of
interest and/or questions you would like to discuss in the seminar.
Students may substitute a CREATIVE HISTORY PAPER for
one of the film critiques or critical article/essay/chapter reviews. (Follow
this link for the description of this kind of assignment.) Due dates for the
assignments remain the same.
The FINAL PROJECT (due last session). I envision four alternatives for this, which we can discuss at the first class meeting:
- One option would be a collaborative endeavor
involving the entire seminar.the object of this project would be to develop an outline of our own life-of-Jesus film (based
on the canonical gospels, the secondary literature, and the Jesus films used in
this course) and expand on a few segments by creating "Storyboards" ofthe action, set, etc— everything necessary to indicate how that segment would be produced. These storyboards for the project would be developed by
2- or 3-person teams (a pair of graduate students, or one undergraduate and 1–2
grad students). Group labor should be divided equitably, butit is up to the team to decide how that would be done. (E.g., a team might decide that the undergraduate would have primary responsibility
for the visual aspects of the storyboard, while the graduate student(s) would have
primary responsibility for the content.) Regardless, all the team members will be assumed
to be working together on the complete project, and would receive one group grade.
- The second option would be a collaborative endeavor similar to the above option, but more focused. Instead of doing an entire filmscript outline, teams would choose one scene or event in the life of Jesus and develop a set of three or more different scenarios for how that might have developed; the way it is presented in one or more of the existing Gospels could represent one of the options, but at least one of these scenarios should present a novel way of viewing
that scene or event in Jesus' life. As with the preceding option, "Storyboards" would be generated to detail how those scenes/scenarios would be staged.
- The third option would be to do a traditional synoptic analysis of a gospel passage and compare it to how that text or scene was used in 2–3 life-of-Jesus films.The essay would culminate in a discussion of the theological significance of the changes as they relate to the socio-cultural develops of that same period.
- The fourth option would be to write an essay that surveys an image or character in the life-of-Jesus genre as it develops over a period of time, preferably the 20th century, with an exposition of why you think those changes were made and what is their theological significance.
The CLASS SCHEDULE gives due dates
for all readings, writing assignments, and examinations.
you have any questions about any of the items on this Syllabus, feel free to ask.