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 and submission of tasks for assessment.
Unit rationale, description and aim
The New Testament gospels are arguably the most influential literature to have ever been written. Their effect is felt in almost every part of modern life, including language, culture, literature, law, ethics, philosophy, social reform, education movements, and many other forms of societal impact. This unit focuses on the synoptic tradition of Jesus in the canonical gospels through a critical analysis of selected texts comparing two gospels. Emphasis will be given to two of the cultural, literary, and material context of the gospels as windows into its formation, transmission and interpretation.
Building on the skills and knowledge developed in THBS100, this unit will further students understanding of the interpretation and significance of the canonical gospels in their historical context. Students will use a range of literary and historical evidence to critically examine current theories about the origin, purpose, and significance of these texts. The aim of the unit is to develop students' engagement with the original contexts which left their mark on the narratives, and to provide opportunities for further refinement of methods in biblical interpretation.
On successful completion of this unit, students should be able to:
LO1 - Explore the key features that shaped the cultural environment of the Gospels (GA8)
LO2 - Analyse and assess how the literature or material culture of the period can be critically employed to inform the interpretation of the gospels within their ancient context (GA4)
LO3 - Apply the skills of biblical criticism (historical, source, narrative, redaction) in a study of selected gospel texts (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:
- Cultural dimensions of the first century, including concepts of honour and shame, systems of patronage and reciprocity, purity and pollution;
- Literature of the first century era, including relevant Jewish, Roman, and Greek sources, and proposals for the literary genre of the texts;
- The material culture of the first century and how this contributes to the interpretation of the gospels, including numismatic, epigraphic and papyrological sources;
- The major theories in compositional history proposed by biblical scholars to account for the similarities and dissimilarities in the gospel texts;
- Issues in textual criticism and transmission;
- The historical background, distinctive literary traits, special interests, and theologies of two of the canonical gospels;
- Methods used in biblical studies including historical, source, narrative, and redaction criticism.
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.
THBS210 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
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 the cultural environment of the Roman world in order to contextualise a specific passage from the gospels, including social aspects (clothing, food, education, entertainment, music), linguistic diversity (Greek, Latin, Hebrew, Aramaic, other), or societal mores (gender, sexuality, public interactions). 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 analyse and assess how literature (Jewish, Roman, Greek) or material culture (numismatics, papyrology, epigraphy, artefacts, visual culture) of the period can be critically employed to inform the interpretation of the gospels within their ancient context. This is to be demonstrated by applying a historical critical method and combining the literary or material lens to analyse the meaning and significance of a designated passage from the gospels, while exhibiting awareness of the main aim and rationale 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 biblical critical methods. In addition to a select pericope from Matthew or Luke as per the divisions in SQE §1-367, other topics relevant to this assessment task include the synoptic problem and its distinctive contribution to understanding a gospel text, a specific text critical issue, or a critique of a methodological approach. 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: Asks students to consider the cultural environment of the Roman world in order to contextualise a specific passage from the gospels
Critical Analysis: Invites students to analyse and assess how literature or material culture of the period can be critically employed to inform the interpretation of the gospels within their ancient context.
Extended Written Task: Asks students to research a selected topic or passage in order to consider the implications of biblical critical methods. Topics could include analysis of a specific pericope from Matthew or Luke, or a related topic such as the synoptic problem, an issue in textual criticism, or a methodological critique.
1, 2, 3
Representative texts and references
Adams, E. Parallel Lives of Jesus: A Guide to the Four Gospels. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2011.
Burridge, Richard A. What are the Gospels? A Comparison with Graeco-Roman Biography. Society for New Testament Studies - Monograph series. 70. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1992.
Green, J. B. ed. Hearing the New Testament: Strategies for Interpretation. 2nd ed. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2010.
Hagner, D. The New Testament: A Historical and Theological Introduction. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2012.
Horsley, G. H. R., and S. R. Llewelyn. New documents illustrating early Christianity. North Ryde: Ancient History Documentary Research Centre, Macquarie University, 1981-.
Knight, J. Luke's Gospel. Hoboken: Taylor and Francis, 2013.
Koester, H. From Jesus to the Gospels: Interpreting the New Testament in its Context. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2007.
McLean, Bradley H. An Introduction to Greek Epigraphy of the Late Hellenistic and Roman Periods from Alexander the Great down to the Reign of Constantine (323 B.C. – A.D. 337). Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2002.
Scholz, D. Jesus in the Gospels and Acts: Introducing the New Testament. Winona Lake: Anselm Academic, 2009.
Theophilos, M. P. Numismatics, Greek Lexicography, and the New Testament. London: Bloomsbury, 2019.