Nowadays, most people take it for granted that Jesus of Nazareth was a Galilean Jew who lived in the first century and was executed by Pontius Pilate. Yet Jesus was also much more than this, as can be seen from the fact that an estimated two billion people claim to follow him still today, two thousand years after his crucifixion. In this course we will take both a historical and a literary approach to Jesus’s astonishing impact. We will examine what Jesus did and said, seeking to understand how and why his earliest followers came to regard him as much more than a mere teacher. We will also examine the different voices within the New Testament in order to see what they have to say about Jesus. 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 general tenor of historical Jesus research and the major debates that characterize it;
- Know Jesus’s words and deeds 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, Torah observance, etc.);
- Become familiar with the various ways in which the New Testament authors interpret the significance of Jesus as well as the key New Testament passages where christological ideas are expressed;
- Critically evaluate different contemporary positions with regard to the development of early Christologies;
- 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;
- Be sensitive to the experiential nature of the early church’s interactions with Jesus (both pre- and post-Easter) and the effect these experiences had on the formation of early Christologies;
- Recognize the great honour and respect that is due to Jesus, both as a remarkable human being and as a revelation of God;
- Become open to fresh (and potentially surprising) encounters with the person of Jesus;
- Have basic historical research skills, including the ability to locate useful resources, the ability to assess competing historiographical methodologies, and the ability to weigh historical evidence;
- Have the ability to knowledgeably discuss the various perspectives on Jesus of Nazareth that have been articulated by biblical authors, historians, theologians, film makers, 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.);
- Have the ability to carry out doctoral-level research in relation to the historical Jesus or early Christian understandings of him (NT 5XL5/6XL6).