Introduction to the Literature and World of the New Testament

(REL 102)

Dr. Mark Given

Missouri State University

Course Calendar


Part One: Bible 101

Jan 11 Introduction to the Course
This course uses Blackboard for announcements, assignments, grades, etc.  You are already enrolled in the course's Blackboard site.


HB/OT: Hebrew Bible/Old Testament
HSB: HarperCollins Study Bible
NOAB: New Oxford Annotated Bible (4th ed.)
NT: New Testament


Jan 13 Bible 101: Canon Formation

Reading: Sumney, 3-18

Supplemental Reading: "The Editors' Preface" (NOAB, xiii–xiv); "To the Reader" (NOAB, xv-xviii); "The Canons of the Bible" (NOAB, 2185-91); The Non-canonical Homepage

Supplemental readings are not required.  They are resources to go further into subjects that interest you.


Jan 15

Bible 101: Texts and Translations

Reading: Sumney, 19-31

Supplemental Reading: "Textual Criticism" (NOAB, 2192-97); "Translation of the Bible into English" (NOAB, 2197-2201); Given, "Discussion of Bible Translations"; Experience Codex Sinaiticus; A Mummy Mask May Reveal Oldest Known Gospel!; for more, click here.


Jan 18 Martin Luther King Holiday
Jan 20

Bible 101: Interpretive Contexts

Reading: Sumney, 33-46; Given, "The Interpretive Spectrum" (See Course Documents)

The Sumney chapter provides a concise overview of the history of the concept of biblical inspiration.

Supplemental Reading:

"Strategies for Reading Scripture" (HSB, xxxix-xliii)

"The Interpretation of the Bible from the Nineteenth to the Mid-Twentieth Centuries" (NOAB, 2221-24)

Evangelical Faith and the Challenge of Historical Criticism (a new book on a recurring problem)

Evangelical Christianity has had a long debate about historical criticism of the Bible.  At the fundamentalist end of the interpretive spectrum, the method is usually rejected and even vilified.  More moderate evangelicals--often referred to as "conservatives" as opposed to fundamentalists--have long used historical criticism with caution.  Indeed, some of the finest historical-critical commentaries available are written by theologically moderate to conservative biblical scholars.  This online article is an interview with the authors of a recent book about the use of historical criticism by Evangelical biblical scholars.  The authors are themselves Evangelicals writing to convince fellow Evangelicals that historical criticism of the Bible is necessary and beneficial.

The Interpretation of the Bible in the [Catholic] Church (Pontifical Biblical Commission, Presented on March 18, 1994)

This long but quite readable official document explains why the Catholic Church considers historical criticism to be indispensable for understanding the Bible.

"Applied Peshat: Historical-Critical Method and Religious Meaning"

Some of the finest historical-critical biblical scholars in the world today are Jewish but, as in Christianity, there are Jews who object to it.  This is an article by Stephen Garfinkel, a professor at Jewish Theological Seminary of America, defending the importance of historical criticism.

More Historical Criticism Links

Jan 22 Bible 101: Interpretive Contexts (Continued)

Reading: Sumney, 33-46; Given, "The Interpretive Spectrum" (See Course Documents)


Part Two: The Stories of Israel

Jan 25

Email Intro
The Stories and Traditions of Israel I: The Ancestors, the Exodus and the Law

Reading: Sumney, 67-75; 79-95

Email Intro Assignment: See Assignments.

Supplemental Reading: Sumney, 95-99; "The Ancient Near East and Ancient Israel to the Mid-First Millennium BCE" (NOAB, 2234-42); click here for more.

Jan 27 The Stories and Traditions of Israel II: The Conquest and Kingdoms according to the Deuteronomistic Perspective

Reading: Sumney, 99-102; 105-129

Supplemental Reading: "Israelite Religion" (HSB, xliv-xlviii)

Jan 29

The Stories and Traditions of Israel III: The Exile, Post-Exile and the Greco-Roman Period

Reading: Sumney, 129-139; 195-203

Supplemental Reading: Sumney, 156 (Map 7:1); "The Persian and Hellenistic Periods" (NOAB, 2242-47); click here for more.

Feb 1

Paper 1
The Message of the Prophets and the Greco-Roman Period Continued

Reading: Sumney, 141-42; 204-210

Discussion Paper One: Suffering and Meaning (See Assignments)

Supplemental Reading: Sumney, 142-71; 151 (Box 7.5, "The Servant Songs"); 158 (Map 7:2); 174-78 ("Wisdom Literature" and "Job")

Feb 3 The Greco-Roman Period Continued

Reading: Sumney, 210-21

Supplemental Reading: Sumney, 173-94; 180-83 ("Esther"); "The Roman Period" (NOAB, 2247-53)


Part Three: The Stories of Jesus and the Early Church

Feb 5

The Nature of the Gospels and the Problem of the Historical Jesus

Reading: Sumney, 225-37; Three Gospel Synopsis

The link takes you to an online synopsis of the gospels.  Don't read the whole thing, just test drive it. For example, find "The Temptation" in chapter 1 of Mark and click on the little color-coded Bibles at the beginning of the account.

Supplemental Reading: "A Table of Parallel Passages in the Gospels" (HSB, 1653-63); "Introduction to the Gospels" (NOAB, 1743-45); The Two Source Hypothesis; The Synoptic Problem; More Supplemental Synoptic Problem Reading; Supplemental Synoptic Problem Exercises; Harris, "The Continuing Quest for the Historical Jesus" (See Course Content, Supplemental Reading); Search for the Historical Jesus

The first two links take you to lots of info supplementing the basics you get in the textbook and presenting alternative theories.

Feb 8
Mark's Story of Jesus, the Danielic Son of Man

Reading: Sumney, 239-48; HSB, 1722-24; Mark 1:1-10:52; Daniel 7 (w/footnotes); Isaiah 40:1-11; review Isa 42:1-9; 49:1-7;

Supplemental Reading: Sumney, 166-69 ("Daniel"); click here for more.

Feb 10
Mark's Story of Jesus, the Danielic Son of Man

Reading: Mark 11:1-16:8; review Isaiah 50:4-11; 52:13-53:12; Jeremiah 31:31-34 (w/footnotes)

Supplemental Reading: Sumney, 152-54 ("Jeremiah")

Feb 12
The Sayings Source "Q"

Reading: Q according to Luke's Wording (Also in Course Documents)

Most NT scholars believe that the writers of the Gospels we call Matthew and Luke used a lost written source made up mostly of sayings of Jesus.  This source is referred to as "Q," an abbreviation for the German word "quelle" which means source.  Plausible dates for composition of this source range from the 40s to the 60s C.E., making these materials common to Matthew and Luke among the earliest surviving traditions about Jesus.  Though written in Greek when incorporated into Matthew and Luke, it may have been composed originally in Aramaic, the language of Jesus and his disciples.  Even if the Q source theory were ever proven wrong, the inclusion of these similar materials in two Gospels would seem to confirm their importance for understanding the message of Jesus.

Supplemental Reading: Papias; Q Resources Online

The Papias link takes you to the earliest surviving traditions concerning Papias (ca. 135 C.E.), including his comments about the writing activities of Mark and Matthew.  Since what he ascribes to Matthew here does not sound like the book of Matthew we know but rather a collection of Aramaic "sayings" later "translated" (or "interpreted"), some scholars think that the disciple Matthew could have been the author of the earliest edition of Q.

Feb 15 Presidents Day Holiday
Feb 17

First Exam

See Assignments for Study Guide.

Feb 19 Matthew's Story of Jesus the Mosaic Messiah

Reading: Sumney, 248-56; HSB, 1665-66

Supplemental Reading: Sumney, 148-49 ("Christian Interpretation"); HSB, 1666-67

Feb 22

Matthew's Story of Jesus the Mosaic Messiah

Reading: Matthew 1:1–2:23; 5:17–24, 27–48; 6:1–8, 16–18; 7:6,12–20, 28; 8:16–17; 10:5–8, 23–25, 40–41; 11:28–30; 12:5–7, 17–21, 34, 36–37; 13:14–15, 24–30, 36–52; 14:28–33; 16:11–12, 17–19; 17:24–27; 18:15–35; 19:10–12; 20:1–16; 21:4–5, 10–17, 28–32, 43; 22:1–14; 23:1–36; 25:1–13, 31–46; 26:52–54; 27:3–10, 24–25, 51–53, 62–66; 28:1–20

Since almost all of Mark is repeated in Matthew, and you have already read the materials found in both Matthew and Luke designated Q, the reading assignment only includes material unique to Matthew. Of course Matthew's form of the material in Mark and Q is often significantly different. I will include a few examples in class.

Supplemental Reading: Bar Mitzvah (from Judaism 101)

Feb 24

Luke's Story of Jesus the Social-Justice Prophet

Reading: Sumney, 256–61; HSB, 1759-61; Luke 1:1-3:38; 4:14-30

Supplemental Reading: Sumney, 146-48 ("Micah"); Goldberg, "The Josephus-Luke Connection"

Feb 26

Paper 2
Luke's Story of Jesus the Social-Justice Prophet

Reading: Sumney, 261–66; Luke 5:1–11; 6:24–26, 43; 7:1–5, 11–17, 36–50; 8:1–3; 9:44–45, 51–56; 10:1, 17–20, 25–42; 11:5–8, 27–28; 12:13–21, 33–53; 13:1–17, 31–33; 14:1–14, 25–33; 15:1–17:21; 18:1–14, 31–34; 19:1–11, 41–44; 21:20–24, 37–38; 22:15–16, 31, 35–38; 23:2–49; 24:1–53

Since a large percentage of Mark is repeated in Luke, and you have already read the materials found in both Matthew and Luke designated Q, the reading assignments only include material unique to Luke.  Of course Luke's form of the material in Mark is often significantly different.  I will include a few examples in class.

Discussion Paper Two: Luke's Diversions from Mark's Passion Narrative (See Assignments)

Feb 29

John's Story of Jesus the Incarnate Word

Reading: Sumney, 266-69; HSB, 1814-16; John 1-11

Supplemental Reading: Origen on the Differences Between the Gospels; The Gospel of John Film; The Five Gospels Parallels

Mar 2 John's Story of Jesus the Incarnate Word

Reading: Sumney, 269-76; John 12-21

Supplemental Reading: The Johannine Literature Web; The Gospel of John: Conflicts and Controversies

Mar 4
Luke's Story of the Founding of the Church (Acts 1-7)

Reading: Sumney, 277-83;  Acts 1-7

Supplemental Reading: NOAB, 1919-21; Click here for more.

Mar 7–13 Spring Break
Mar 14
Luke's Story of the Rise of Saul/Paul (Acts 8-15)

Reading: Sumney, 283-92; Acts 8-15; Galatians 2:1-14

Part Four: To What End? Rhetorical and Theological Goals in Early Church Literature

Mar 16
Introduction to Paul and his Letters -and- The "End" of Hope I (1 Thessalonians)

Reading: Sumney, 293-302

Supplemental Reading: Dr. Mark's Annotated Chronology of Paul

Mar 18

The "End" of Hope II (1 Thessalonians)

Reading: Acts 16:1-18:1; 1 Thessalonians

Supplemental Reading:

Mar 21 The "End" of Spirit I: Spiritual Wisdom and Ethics (1 Corinthians 1–10)

Reading: Sumney, 302-306; Acts 18:1-19:20; 1 Corinthians 1-10

Supplemental Reading:

Mar 23
Second Exam

See Assignments for Study Guide

Mar 25-27 Spring Holiday
Mar 28
The "End" of Spirit II: Spiritual Worship and Doctrine (1 Corinthians 11-16)

Reading: Sumney, 306-308; 1 Corinthians 11-16

Supplemental Reading: Sumney, 187-94; 308-311; 2 Corinthians; Sumney, "Who are those 'Servants of Satan'?"

Mar 30

The "End" of Flesh (Galatians)

Reading: Sumney, 311-15; Galatians; cf. Gal 2:15-3:18 with James 2:14-26

Supplemental Links

Apr 1

Paper 3
The "End" of Faith I (Romans 1-3)

Reading: Sumney, 319-21; Romans 1:1-3:20

Discussion Paper Three: Paul and Homosexuality (See Assignments)

Supplemental Reading: Acts 19:21-20:3; Sumney, 60-62 ("The Fall"); Homosexuality and the Bible

Apr 4

The "End" of Faith II (Romans 4–8)

Reading: Sumney, 322-23; Romans 3:21-8:39

Supplemental Reading:

Apr 6
The "End" of Faith III (Romans 9–16)
Reading: Sumney, 323-28; Romans 9-16

Supplemental Reading:

Apr 8

The "End" of Service (Philippians)
Reading: Sumney, 315-317; Philippians

Supplemental Reading: Acts 20:3-23:11; Roman Prisons; Mamertine Prison

Apr 11
The "End" of Love (Philemon)
Reading: Sumney, 317–319; Philemon

Supplemental Reading: Acts 23:12-28:31; Slavery in the Roman World

Apr 13

The Disputed Paulines I:  The "End" of Eschatology (2 Thessalonians)

Reading: Sumney, 329-33; 2 Thessalonians

Supplemental Reading:


Apr 15
The Disputed Paulines II:  The "End" of the Church (Colossians and Ephesians)
Reading: Sumney, 333-37; Ephesians

Supplemental Reading: Colossians; Click here.


Apr 18

Paper 4
The Disputed Paulines III: The "End" of Ministry (The Pastoral Epistles)
Reading: Sumney, 338-43; 1 Timothy

Discussion Paper Four: Paul and Women (See Assignments)

Supplemental Reading: 2 Timothy; Titus; Sumney, 60-62 ("The Fall")

Apr 20 The "End" of "Judaism"? (Hebrews) [The "End" of Sacrifice, FA16]

Reading: Sumney, 345-49; Hebrews 1:1-10:39

Supplemental Reading:

Hebrews 11:1-13:25

Jewish-Christian Relations

"These pages are dedicated to a special relationship. They are not about Christianity or Judaism per se, but about the development of a new understanding between the two communities after a long history of animosity."


Apr 22
The "End" of Wisdom (James)

Reading: Sumney, 349-51; James

Supplemental Reading:

"Lutheran-Catholic Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification."

This is a historic document produced by Lutherans and Roman Catholics, officially burying the hatchet on the subject of justification by faith, proclaiming that they are substantially in agreement on the issue.

Evangelicals and Catholics Together: A New Initiative

Christianity Today was the first to publish "The Gift of Salvation," an unofficial document with an aim similar to the "Lutheran-Catholic Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification" (see above).  The link is to a copy on the First Things website since CT not makes you pay to see their copy.


Apr 25 The "End" of Truth (The Johannine Epistles)

Reading: Sumney, 356-61; 1, 2, 3 John

Supplemental Reading: The Gnostic Archive; Heracleon: Fragments from his commentary on the Gospel of John; The Gospel of Thomas; Click here.


Apr 27 The "End" of Suffering (1 Peter)

Reading: Sumney, 351-53; 1 Peter


Part Five: The End of the Story?

Apr 29

The "End" of Apocalypse I: The Genre and Purpose of Apocalyptic Literature

Reading: Sumney, 363-70

Supplemental Reading: Click here.


May 2
The "End" of Apocalypse II: Reading Revelation in Context

Reading: Sumney, 370-83; Revelation 1-7; 12-22

Supplemental Reading: Revelation 8-11; Sumney, 143 (Box 7:1); Koester, "Interpreting the Mystery" (See Course Content, Supplemental Reading)  Click here for more.


May 4 The End of "the End"? (Jude and 2 Peter)

Reading: Sumney, 353-56; Jude, 2 Peter

May 6 Study Day

Final Exam

REL 102-1 Final Exam (Wednesday, May 11, 8:45 am to 10:45 am)

REL 102-999 Final Exam (Wednesday, May 11, 11:00 am to 1:00 pm)

For final exam description and preparation instructions, see Assignments.