Classes have started again and we are bursting into the term with vim and vigor!   For my graduate course this term I am teaching my “Problems and Methods in New Testament Studies” seminar (I offer this ever two or three years).  This is a kind of “Introduction” to the field of New Testament studies geared not for undergraduates but for graduates, all of whom have undergraduate degrees already and who (at least this semester) have already done some work in New Testament..   Well, the course is self-explanatory from the syllabus, which I attach here for your amusement.  It can give you an idea of how one might *start* on this kind of thing at the graduate level.


Religion 707: Problems and Methods in the Study of the New Testament \

University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

Fall 2017


Instructor: Bart D. Ehrman

This course will explore some of the classical problems addressed by the discipline of “New Testament Introduction.”  Some of these problems are as old as the discipline, many are hold-overs from the 19th century.  They all continue to intrigue scholars who are interested in asking new questions of old data.  We won’t be able to cover all the critical problems of the field, not even all the really interesting ones.  And in no case will we be able, at least in class, to engage in deep exploration.  Each topic deserves a seminar of its own.  But we will devote an entire week to some of the major issues about which one should be able to speak intelligently after having studied the New Testament on the advanced level.

To help make sense of the way I’ve structured the class, I need to say a few words about the kinds of writing assignments you will be expected to do.  These relate to the overall objectives of the course: (a) to help you become conversant with the broad range of issues in NT studies and the wide-ranging scholarship in the field, and (b) to help prepare you for your own career in both research and teaching (whether in NT studies or some other field).

One of the ways of becoming broadly acquainted with a field is by reading lots of books in it.   And one of the best ways to break into publishing is by writing a book review for a scholarly journal.   And so, we will be reading lots of books in this class, and you will be writing several book reviews.  This will be the principal writing objective: to help you learn to write clear, crisp, and compelling book reviews.

In terms of teaching: it is important to come to grips with how to set up and structure an introductory course, in whatever field you choose to pursue.  It is also important to have some experience in presenting scholarship in clear and compelling ways.  And so, one other writing assignment in this class will be to devise your own syllabus for a college-level course in New Testament, in which you choose the textbooks, establish the objectives, lay out the requirements, structure the classroom activities, and make the assignments.  You will also be expected to make two class presentations, set at the beginning graduate student level.

Specifically, the expectations and assignments for the class may be broken down as follows:


Course Expectations and Assignments

(1) Participation: You will be expected, of course, to do the entire reading assignment for each class, and to be prepared to engage in intelligent, informed, and (even) scintillating, conversation about it.  Most of the reading assignments are designed to give you a sense of the history of the question and the classical answers given to it, on the assumption that any future work needs to be built on what has already been done.


(2) Class Presentation and First Book Review: Over the course of the term, you will be expected to inaugurate two of our weekly discussions by making a class presentation, which will involve the following:


(a) Distributing to each member of the class a full bibliography of work recently done in the area (including, of course, appropriate works in German and/or French), with the more important works briefly annotated;

(b) Saying a few words about some of the critical items on this list, with which, therefore, you have some level of intimacy (5 minutes, max);


(c) Distributing to all members of the class a 1500-word book review of a major, recent work in the field that strikes you as particularly important — either because it is representative of a mainline view or because it breaks new ground.  (Please consult with me concerning your options, and I’ll be happy to make suggestions among them; I also will reserve the right of veto).  There are various ways to approach the book review:  you should read a ton of them in the Review of Biblical Literature to get a sense of what they tend to look like and how to differentiate the quality reviews from the mediocre.  In general, you should devote approximately 3/4 of the review to an impartial summary of the book and 1/4 to evaluation, comparison, and critique.  Members of the class will store the review away in their files (i.e., we will not read it in class); I will mark it up and allow you to resubmit it for a final grade.  Give me a hard copy; the copies to your classmates can come electronically – but before class.  Please note: reviews more than 10% over the word limit will be returned for editing, before I mark them.  I’m looking for clear, accurate summaries, informed critiques, and crisp writing that packs a punch.

(d) Discussing the book you have reviewed for 35-40 minutes, covering the following areas:

(i) 10-15 minutes on background issues (i.e., what the traditional issues have been and how they have been handled by scholars throughout the history of the discipline)

(ii) 10-15 minutes providing a summary of the book, possibly (but not necessarily) chapter-by-chapter, but certainly emphasizing the overarching thesis and the kinds of evidence adduced to support it

(iii) 10-15 minutes of critique, in light of your other reading (in which, among other things, you point out the counter-evidence).

Hand-outs are welcome but not required.  Altogether, you will be allowed 50 minutes for your presentation — and no more!  (Pretend you’re in a classroom and the bell has rung.)


(3) Book Notes: During the course of the term you will be expected to turn in two 150-200 word book notes of the kind that might appear in Religious Studies Review (read through a few issues to get the idea).  These may be on books of any topic in the field of NT Studies, again chosen in consultation with me.  The notes are to be informative and as tight as you can make them.  Not many words here!  Don’t waste any.  You may turn these in at any point during the term, but only one at a time.  I will mark up the first offering and allow you to resubmit it for a grade; the second is to be submitted after the re-submission of the first.


(4) Translation: Students who have Greek already will be required to do the weekly translation assignment.  We will spend 50 minutes each week going over the assignment in class.   Be able to translate the passage (do not bring to class translations written out in advance), parse all forms, and explain all syntax.  Students who do not know Greek will be given an additional writing assignment in lieu of the weekly translation session.


(5) Final Writing Assignments: On the day set for the final (December 9), you will be expected to turn in two final writing assignments:

(a) A syllabus for a first-year college level class in New Testament, which lays out the course objectives, textbooks, requirements/assignments, grading procedures, office hours, and class schedule (i.e, what is covered in each class period)

(b) A 2000-word comparative book review, in which you summarize and evaluate (possibly in relationship to each other) any two of the major college-level textbooks in the field of New Testament, except mine.   You should hunt around for the ones that seem worth looking at, and bounce your potential selections off me in advance.

That night, we party.  Pizza and beer, my treat.


Texts for the class:

Brown, Raymond.  Introduction to the New Testament.  New York: Doubleday, 1997.

Ehrman, Bart.  The New Testament: A Historical Introduction to the Early Christian Writings.  6th ed.  New York: Oxford, 2016.

Meeks, Wayne.  The First Urban Christians.  2nd ed. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2003.

Meier, John.  A Marginal Jew: Rethinking the Historical Jesus.  Vol. 1: The Roots of the Problem and Person.  New York: Doubleday, 1991.

Neill, Stephen and Wright, N.T.  The Interpretation of The New Testament: 1861-1986.  New York: Oxford, 1988.

Smith, D. Moody.  John Among the Gospels.  Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press, 2001.

Wenham, David.  Paul: Follower of Jesus or Founder of Christianity.  Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1995.

A number of readings, as indicated in the class schedule below, on SAKAI.


Grading for the course:

Class Presentations and Bibliographies 20% (i.e., 10% each);  Participation 10%;  Book Notes 20% (i.e., 10% each); Syllabus 10%; Book Reviews 30% (i.e., 15% each); Translation 10%.


Office Hours:

As always, I’ll be happy to talk with anyone about the course or about most anything else.  Best way to go: zap me an email or see me after class to find a time.




Class Schedule

Aug.    28       Introduction to the Course:  The Historical Study of the New Testament.

Sept.   4        NO CLASS.  Labor Day.  Start work on your book reviews and presentations.

11       The Canon of the New Testament (Translation: Mark 16:1-20, including the “shorter reading”); Reading: Brown, ch. 1; Neill/Wright chs. 1-2; Ehrman, New Testament: A Historical Introduction.

18      The Text of the New Testament (Translation: John 7:37-8:20) Brown, ch. 3; Neill/Wright, ch. 3; Eldon Epp “Textual Criticism (NT),” in the Anchor Bible Dictionary, vol. 6 (On SAKAI); Preface to both the UBS4 and NA27 editions.

25      Q and Synoptic Problem (Translation: Matt. 19:16-30; Mark 10:17-31; Luke 18:18-30); Brown ch. 6; Neil/Wright, ch. 4; Article TBA (on SAKAI)

Oct.      2       John and the Synoptics  (Translation: Mark 15:1-15; John 18:28-19:16); Kümmel, Introduction, ch. 10; Brown, ch. 11; Epp and MacRae, chap. 10.

9       The Historical Jesus:  Sources and Character of His Message and Mission (Translation: Mark 8:22-9:13; 13:1-36) .  Meier, Part One; Neill/Wright, pp. 205-15; Brown, Appendix 1; Articles by Allison and Borg (on SAKAI)

16   Acts and Paul (Translation: Acts 17:22-34; Rom. 1:18-32); Brown, chs. 10, 16; P. Vielhauer “The Paulinisms of Acts” (on SAKAI).

23      Paul and the Law (Translation: Rom. 3:1-31); Kümmel, Introduction, ch. 19; Brown, ch. 24.  Articles by Barclay, Das, and Dunn (on SAKAI)

30      Social History of the Pauline Community (Translation 1 Thessalonians 1-3).  Meeks, First Urban Christians.

 Nov.      6       Jesus and Paul (Translation: Matt. 19:16-26; Gal. 2:15-21; 3:6-14).  Brown,         ch. 19; David Wenham, Paul: Follower of Jesus or Founder of Christianity?

13      The Appropriation of Paul (Deutero-Pauline and Pastoral Epistles)  (Translation: 1 Tim. 2:1-3:5); Brown, chs. 25-31; Bart Ehrman, Forgery and Counterforgery, pp. 156-88; 192-217 (on SAKAI)

20      NO CLASS.  (SBL/AAR)

27      The Apocalypse of John (Translation: Rev. 1:1-20; 4:1-22); Brown, ch. 37; Adela Yarbro Collins, “Revelation, Book of” in Anchor Bible Dictionary, vol. 5 (on Sakai)

Dec.     4       Discussion: Comparative Book Reviews, Course Syllabi, and Pedagogy.