Dr. Mark Given

"The earliest books in the New Testament are the seven undisputed letters of Paul, and no letters have more profoundly influenced human history."

— Calvin Roetzel

Welcome to the online home of REL 321, Paul.  Click here for Requirements and here for Calendar.

The Goals

The purpose of this course is to deepen your knowledge of Paul and the Pauline trajectory in the early Church through primary and secondary sources. You will become acquainted with many of the historical, literary, hermeneutical, and ideological issues currently under investigation in Pauline scholarship. It’s a great time to be alive and to be a Paul scholar!  But why should this particular figure receive so much attention?  For better or worse, Paul is often identified as the true founder of Christianity.  Paul is the church's first great theologian--many would say the greatest.  And yet, just as passages in Paul's letters pertaining to morality and ethics have become more controversial within the church and society in recent decades, even passages in his most "theological" of writings have come under scrutiny.  At the same time, however, aspects of his thought have continued to inspire even readers outside Christianity, including several leading contemporary secular intellectuals. 

The purpose of this course is not to convert you to any particular confessional or non-confessional position. In a 1963 decision, the supreme court encouraged the study of religion in an academic environment. This is consistent with a goal common to most universities of studying all significant aspects of human experience in a sympathetic and responsible, yet thoughtful and critical, manner. Religion is a very significant aspect of human experience and Paul’s influence on Christianity and western culture more generally, both past and present, may overshadow that of Jesus himself.  One can easily see that Paul is a highly appropriate subject for study in a state university.

Methods and Style

This course emphasizes literary-historical and socio-rhetorical methods. The former method concentrates on interpreting the literature of the early church in its original historical context.  It includes investigation of the very complex literary problems encountered in biblical texts.  The latter method focuses on the social structures and conflicts of the early churches. It includes investigation of the types of arguments employed by early believers and their opponents.

A literary-historical religion course is an excellent place to begin to develop the sort of critical thinking skills that will serve you well in your university career and beyond. It takes acquired skills and diligent efforts to reconstruct the past and understand how and what people were thinking and feeling two millennia ago in a world more different than like our own. I encourage you to think critically about current issues of interpretation and learn to support your ideas with reasoned and evidence-based arguments.

A socio-rhetorical religion course is an excellent place to contemplate an important issue addressed by the Public Affairs mission of Missouri State. The early church, like the Judaism from which it sprung, was a religious movement of great diversity. Already within the pages of the New Testament we see religious and political rhetoric in action as competing ideologically and ethnically defined groups assert their particular visions/versions of "the good news" and struggle with the problem of maintaining unity in diversity. Examining their experience with such issues may encourage reflection upon our own situation.

Office Hours

My office is Strong Hall 266 and my office hours are posted on the Blackboard site.  Appointments are also possible. My email addresses are available on the campus web and on the Blackboard site. I encourage you to email me with questions, comments, etc., if you cannot come by during office hours.

Additional Course Policies

Dropping the Class

It is your responsibility to understand the University’s procedure for dropping a class. If you stop attending this class but do not follow proper procedure for dropping the class, you will receive a failing grade and will also be financially obligated to pay for the class. For information about dropping a class or withdrawing from the university, contact the Office of the Registrar at 836-5520.

Academic Dishonesty

Missouri State University is a community of scholars committed to developing educated persons who accept the responsibility to practice personal and academic integrity.  You are responsible for knowing and following the university’s student honor code, Student Academic Integrity Policies and Procedures and also available at the Reserves Desk in Meyer Library.  Any student participating in any form of academic dishonesty will be subject to sanctions as described in this policy.  In this course, cheating on any assignment besides the final exam will result in an F for that assignment and usually cannot be made up. Cheating on the final exam will result in an XF.


Missouri State University is an equal opportunity/affirmative action institution, and maintains a grievance procedure available to any person who believes he or she has been discriminated against. At all times, it is your right to address inquiries or concerns about possible discrimination to the Office for Institutional Equity and Compliance, Park Central Office Building, 117 Park Central Square, Suite 111, 417-836-4252. Other types of concerns (i.e., concerns of an academic nature) should be discussed directly with your instructor and can also be brought to the attention of your instructor’s Department Head.   Please visit the OED website at

Disability Accommodation

If you are a student with a disability and anticipate barriers related to this course, it is important to request accommodations and establish an accommodation plan with the University. Please contact the Disability Resource Center (DRC) (, Meyer Library, Suite 111, 417-836-4192, to initiate the process to establish your accommodation plan. The DRC will work with you to establish your accommodation plan, or it may refer you to other appropriate resources based on the nature of your disability. In order to prepare an accommodation plan, the University usually requires that students provide documentation relating to their disability.  Please be prepared to provide such documentation if requested. Once a University accommodation plan is established, you may notify the class instructor of approved accommodations.  If you wish to utilize your accommodation plan, it is suggested that you do so in a timely manner, preferably within the first two weeks of class. Early notification to the instructor allows for full benefit of the accommodations identified in the plan. Instructors will not receive the accommodation plan until you provide that plan, and are not required to apply accommodations retroactively.

Cell phone policy

As a member of the learning community, each student has a responsibility to other students who are members of the community.  When cell phones or pagers ring and students respond in class or leave class to respond, it disrupts the class. Therefore, the Office of the Provost prohibits the use by students of cell phones, pagers, PDAs, or similar communication devices during scheduled classes. All such devices must be turned off or put in a silent (vibrate) mode and ordinarily should not be taken out during class. Given the fact that these same communication devices are an integral part of the University’s emergency notification system, an exception to this policy would occur when numerous devices activate simultaneously. When this occurs, students may consult their devices to determine if a university emergency exists. If that is not the case, the devices should be immediately returned to silent mode and put away. Other exceptions to this policy may be granted at the discretion of the instructor.

Emergency Storm Shelter and Evacuation Information

In the event of an emergency or incident in the classroom, the faculty member is often the first university representative or authority figure recognized to be in charge until emergency first responders arrive. At the first class meeting, students should become familiar with a basic emergency response plan through a dialogue with the instructor that includes a review and awareness of exits specific to the classroom and the emergency relocation areas for the building. For your convenience, this information has been provided by the Office of the Provost and Safety and Transportation and appears below. Students with disabilities impacting mobility should discuss with their instructor the approved accommodations for emergency situations and additional options. Faculty must include information related to emergency response in their syllabi (see For more information contact Safety and Transportation (417-836-5509) or consult the Emergency Quick Reference Guide and Campus Emergency Response Plan.

Tornado Shelter Area Information (in case of severe weather):


Tornado Shelter Area

Glass Hall

1st Floor: Shelter in interior lecture Halls
2nd Floor: Shelter in interior lecture Halls
3rd Floor: Shelter in interior lecture Halls and interior office suites.
4th Floor: Evacuate to 3rd Floor Lecture Halls and Interior Office Suites using northeast, northwest southeast and southwest stairs.

Strong Hall

Evacuate the fourth floor using north and south stairs.
Faculty office wing occupants may shelter in interior halls of their area.
All other occupants move to basement level using north and south stairwells.

Emergency Assembly Point Instructions (in case the building needs to be evacuated for events such as fire, gas leak, etc.)


Emergency Assembly Point

Glass Hall

Southwest to Strong Hall Rooms 1, 2, 3 and 4

Strong Hall

Northeast to Glass Hall Room 101; Overflow to rooms 102 and 108

Areas of Rescue (in case you are unable to evacuate to the ground floor, these are areas of temporary safety until rescuers arrive)


Area of Rescue

Glass Hall

Northeast stairwell
Southeast stairwell

Strong Hall

None in this facility