I’ve been having a great time with my undergraduate course this semester, “Introduction to the New Testament.” It has 240 students in it. I lecture twice a week, for 50 minutes at a shot; then for their third class period each student has to meet in a recitation group of 20 students, each one led in discussion by one of my graduate teachings assistants (four TA’s altogether; each one has three recitations). I meet with TA’s for an hour each week to talk about what we want to have happen in the recitations that Friday. The students taking the class, as I’ve pointed out before, have to do a two-page “position paper” each time in preparation for recitation.
So far I think *most* (not all!) students are enjoying the course. A lot of them are finding it challenging – not so much because of its inherent difficulty as because of the perspectives being put forth in the readings and the lectures. We have spent a *lot* of time on the differences among the Gospels, and at this stage, they all are pretty much getting the point.
The point is not simply that there are differences/discrepancies/contradictions in the New Testament (so that they can tell their roommate or parents: “Hey, the Bible is just *full* of contradictions!”). The point is that the discrepancies can show us what the Gospels really are and how they can be interpreted. More on that later. The first step to getting students to see the significance of the discrepancies is to get them to realize that there *are* discrepancies. I have found that I can tell them that there are, and point them out to them, until I’m blue in the face, and they may never buy it. So the best way to get them to see them is for them to discover the discrepancies for themselves.
A couple of our assignments are geared toward that end. A couple of weeks ago, for their position papers, they had to do a detailed comparison of Matthew, Mark, and Luke in their accounts of Jesus’ resurrection. We didn’t tell the students what, exactly, to look for. They were told simply to observe carefully what Matthew said, what Mark said, and what Luke said, and make lists of the similarities and differences.
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