Life of Christ

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Jesus of Nazareth has influenced the course of human history more than any other human being. Some would say that this is because he is God incarnate; others would cite his inspiring teachings; still others would propose that he believed himself to be an end-times prophet or Messiah and that his followers refused to let history prove him wrong. Yet despite the many perspectives adopted and the bewildering number of portraits painted, one thing remains constant: Jesus of Nazareth matters. He is enigmatic, but not for this reason any less significant.

This course will produce a biographical sketch of Jesus that draws predominantly from the canonical Gospels, since these constitute the most important evidence that we possess. It will then fill in several aspects of this sketch with more detail and also situate the words and acts of Jesus against the backdrop of his socio-cultural context. In some cases, the course will explain seemingly-strange aspects of his character as perfectly normal (for a first-century Galilean Jew); in other cases, it will render still more awe-inspiring those qualities of Jesus that have persuaded millions of people to follow him and even to worship him.


  • Know the key elements of Jesus’s teaching and how they relate to important aspects of his social, historical, and cultural contexts (e.g. socio-economic realities in Galilee, circumstances preceding the Jewish War, the Jewish scriptures, etc.)
  • Know the key relationships into which Jesus entered and which constituted his social context (including both individuals and social groups)
  • Know the key acts of Jesus and the consequences these actions had both for him and for others
  • Know the general tenor of historical Jesus research and the major debates that characterize it
  • Know the evidence that is available to modern historians and the methodological issues involvedin drawing firm conclusions from it


  • Appreciate Jesus as a real, historically-situated human being
  • Appreciate that Jesus’s beliefs and social interactions are meaningful first-and-foremost within the first-century matrix of Early Judaism
  • Be amazed by the character and behaviour of Jesus
  • Recognize the great honour and respect that is due to Jesus, both as a remarkable human being and as a revelation of God


  • Have basic historical research skills, including the ability to locate useful resources and the ability to cautiously assess competing historiographical methodologies and to weigh historical evidence
  • Have the ability to knowledgeably discuss the various perspectives on Jesus of Nazareth that have been articulated by historians and others
  • Have the ability to situate Jesus within his first-century environment and to discuss intelligibly the ways in which this environment sheds light on his words and actions
  • Have the ability to “bring Jesus to life” by some form of effective communication (e.g. written, spoken, artistic, etc.)