THBS100 Introduction to the Bible
Teaching organisationThis unit involves 150 hours of focused learning, or the equivalent of 10 hours per week for 15 weeks. The total includes formally structured learning activities such as lectures, tutorials and online learning. The remaining hours typically involve reading, research, and the preparation of tasks for assessment.
Unit rationale, description and aim
From ancient times people have written letters when face-to-face communication was impossible, or when a situation demanded that a message should be recorded in writing. Almost 400 years ago, Mesopotamian rulers were writing diplomatic and administrative letters on clay tablets. In the first-century CE Roman context of the New Testament, letter-writing was a necessary role of imperial administrators. Thousands of private and business letters from the ancient Roman world have survived in various forms in the archaeological record. This unit attempts to bring relevant epistolary correspondence from the ancient world to bear on the interpretation of New Testament letters, including writing materials and procedures, ancient postal systems, genre classification, and rhetorical theory within the broader context of Greek and Latin authors.
Building on the skills and knowledge learned in THBS100, this unit will further students understanding of the interpretation and significance of the letters of the New Testament in their literary, historical, and especially epistolographic contexts. Students will use a range of literary, archaeological, and historical evidence to critically examine current theories about the origin, purpose, and significance of these texts. The aim of the unit is to introduce students to the social and historical contexts which left their mark on the narratives and the theologies they contain, and to provide opportunities for students to continue to develop their skills in methods of biblical interpretation.
On successful completion of this unit, students should be able to:
LO1 - Situate two of the writers of the canonical letters in their social and historical contexts (GA8)
LO2 - Describe and evaluate the role of letter writing in early Christian history (GA4)
LO3 - Apply the skills of historical criticism, social-scientific criticism and rhetorical criticism in a study of selected texts from the New Testament letters (GA4, GA5).
GA4 - think critically and reflectively
GA5 - demonstrate values, knowledge, skills and attitudes appropriate to the discipline and/or profession
GA8 - locate, organise, analyse, synthesise and evaluate information
Topics will include:
- The letters as occasional or general documents, their literary structure and purpose;
- Critical analysis of selected texts from two of the letter writers of the New Testament canon;
- Socio-historical circumstances of Christian communities in the first century;
- The messages and theology contained in the letters of two New Testament letter writers;
- Critical methods applied to these texts.
Learning and teaching strategy and rationale
This unit involves 150 hours of focused learning, or the equivalent of 10 hours per week for 15 weeks. The total includes formally structured learning activities such as lectures, tutorials and online learning. The remaining hours typically involve reading, research, and the preparation and submission of tasks for assessment.
The unit is normally offered in attendance mode and multi-mode. Students learn through formally structured and sequenced learning activities that support the achievement of the learning outcomes. Students are asked to critically reflect, analyse, and integrate new information with existing knowledge, draw meaningful new connections, and then apply what they have learned. Collaborative and peer learning is also emphasised.
The learning activities enable students to acquire and assimilate knowledge of the Bible, particularly through modern interpretative approaches, and identify the importance of the text to the life of believers, supported by the presence and articulation of the lecturer and tutors. Building on the foundations laid in THBS100, students will be guided to develop the academic skills needed for biblical study.
THBS209 emphasises students as active, adult learners. Students are recognised as adult learners who engage best when what they are learning is relevant to them and gives them the opportunity to be responsible for their own learning. In many ways, the student is the one who drives the learning forward. Active participation in this unit is essential. Learning is designed to be an engaging and supportive experience, which helps students to develop critical thinking and reflection skills.
Assessment strategy and rationale
In order to pass this unit, students are required to attempt all assessment tasks and achieve an overall mark of 50% or higher.
The assessment tasks for this unit are designed for students to progressively demonstrate their achievement of each learning outcome.
Task 1 asks students to consider ancient epistolary practice within the ancient world as appropriate contextualisation for New Testament letters, including aspects such as the form and function of the relevant categories and types of Greco-Roman letters, the roles and importance of the various people involved in the letter industry in the ancient world, and the various ways in which New Testament letters functioned for early Jesus followers. This task is designed to allow students to display achievement of Learning Outcome 1. The task allows them a relatively low-risk piece of assessment to test their interpretative skills, as well as academic writing techniques. Feedback provided from Task 1 will help them with the other two assessment tasks.
Task 2 invites students to demonstrate fundamental skills and knowledge by identifying appropriate exegetical methods and using these to critically analyse the meaning and significance of a designated passage from the New Testament, exhibiting awareness of the main methods of analysis specified by the unit. The principal focus of this task is to allow students to display achievement of Learning Outcome 2.
Task 3 asks students to research a selected topic or passage in order to consider the implications of the epistolary genre as a whole on New Testament studies. Topics such as attitudes to slavery and the interpretation of Philemon and Colossians, the extent to which the use of secretaries bears on the assessment authorship identification, and the role of the letter carrier or named recipient to the interpretation of the letter, would be relevant to this assessment task. The principal focus of this task is to allow students to display achievement of Learning Outcome 3.
Overview of assessments
|Brief Description of Kind and Purpose of Assessment Tasks||Weighting||Learning Outcomes||Graduate Attributes|
Introductory Written Task: Require students to consider ancient epistolary practice within the ancient world as appropriate contextualisation for New Testament letters.
Critical analysis: invites students to demonstrate fundamental skills and knowledge by identifying appropriate exegetical methods and using these to critically analyse the meaning and significance of a designated passage from the New Testament.
Extended Written Task: research a selected topic or passage in order to consider the implications of the epistolary genre as a whole on New Testament studies.
1, 2, 3
Representative texts and references
Adams, S. A. and Porter, S. E. Paul and the Ancient Letter Form. Leiden: Brill, 2010.
Bray, G. James, 1-2 Peter, 1-3 John, Jude. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2000.
Jobes, K. H. Letters to the Church: A Survey of Hebrews and the General Epistles. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2011.
Klauck, H.-J. Ancient Letters and the New Testament. A Guide to Context and Exegesis. Waco: Baylor University Press, 2007.
Marchal, J. A. ed. Studying Paul’s Letters: Contemporary Perspectives and Methods. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2012.
Murphy-O’Connor, J. Paul the Letter-Writer: His World, His Options, His Skills. GNS 41. Collegeville 1995.
Niebuhr, K-W. and R. W. Wall, eds. The Catholic Epistles and Apostolic Tradition. Waco: Baylor University Press, 2009.
Painter, J. 1, 2, and 3 John. Collegeville: Liturgical Press, 2002.
Richards, E. R. Paul and First Century Letter Writing: Secretaries, Composition and Collection. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2004.
Roetzel, C. J. The letters of Paul: Conversations in Context. 5th ed. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2009.
Senior, D. and D. J. Harrington. 1 Peter, Jude and 2 Peter. Collegeville: Liturgical Press, 2008.