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Campus offering

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THBS501 Biblical Studies or THBS562 Introducing the Scriptures

Teaching organisation

THBS603 is a fully online unit that involves 150 hours of focused learning, or the equivalent of 10 hours per week for 15 weeks. 

Unit rationale, description and aim

The canon of the New Testament includes thirteen letters attributed to Paul, as well as the Acts of the Apostles, which focuses much of its material on Paul’s life and mission. For the most part, Paul’s letters predate the Gospels and are considered the earliest surviving written texts of the Christian era. While scholarship debates the degree to which this domination of the New Testament by Paul accurately reflects his role in the Jesus Movement, Paul of Tarsus was clearly one of the key personalities in the development of the some of the earliest communities of faith and in the formation of New Testament.

 This unit builds on the knowledge and skills developed in the prerequisite Biblical Studies unit. It examines the historical context, literary forms and theological content of the New Testament literature associated with Paul. Students will be encouraged to apply multiple, methodological lens to a reading of Paul’s Letters and the Acts of the Apostles to develop a critical understanding of Paul’s contributions to the literary and the theological legacy of the early Church. In addition, the unit will focus on contemporary readings of Paul and the application of those readings to one’s personal and professional faith practice.

Learning outcomes

To successfully complete this unit you will be able to demonstrate you have achieved the learning outcomes (LO) detailed in the below table.

Each outcome is informed by a number of graduate capabilities (GC) to ensure your work in this, and every unit, is part of a larger goal of graduating from ACU with the attributes of insight, empathy, imagination and impact.

Explore the graduate capabilities.

On successful completion of this unit, students should be able to:

LO1 - describe the various social, cultural and pastoral contexts of at least two of Paul‘s letters (GA4; GA8);

LO2 - demonstrate well-developed hermeneutical and exegetical skills in critical analyses of selected passages from the Pauline letters (GA5; GA8);

LO3 - apply knowledge and skills gained through critical examination of the Pauline literature to situations relevant to one’s professional and/or personal faith practice (GA4; GA5).

Graduate attributes

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:

  • an introduction to the literary, historical and canonical contexts of Paul’s letters and Acts of the Apostles;
  • an examination of the issues concerning the reconstruction of Paul’s life, chronology and order of his letters;
  • an analysis of the issues concerning the reading and teaching of Paul in modern, contemporary contexts;
  • the application of at least two different critical methods to a reading of selected passages from Paul’s letters;
  • the application of selected passages of Paul’s letters to contemporary theological, academic, pastoral and spiritual concerns within the modern Church.

Learning and teaching strategy and rationale

Paul’s Letters and the Acts of the Apostles are ancient texts that require interpretation via the application of specific historical knowledge and interpretive skills. For modern Christians, and especially for teachers, ministers and pastoral associates in faith-based organisations, Paul and his Letters remain central to their spiritual and professional lives. For this reason, the curriculum for THBS603 has been designed to build students’ capacity and competency in reading, interpreting, teaching and preaching the Pauline texts as leaders, teachers, pastoral assistants and/or ministers in faith-based organisations.

THBS603 is a fully online unit that involves 150 hours of focused learning, or the equivalent of 10 hours per week for 15 weeks. THBS603 is shaped by the Gradual Release of Responsibility (GRR) model of pedagogy – sometimes called “Scaffolded instruction” – and, hence, uses a mix of direct instruction and synchronous engagement, as well as asynchronous collaborative and cooperative learning opportunities. Formally structured learning activities, such as lectures, tutorials and workshops, will be presented in an online environment using video-conferencing or supervision. The remaining hours typically involve reading, research, and the preparation of tasks for assessment, including contributions to cooperative learning in the form of online facilities, such as forums, reflective journals, wikis, blogs and interactive chat. The GRR model, as used in THBS603, is designed to encourage students’ autonomy and facilitate students’ capacity in the development and application of the necessary knowledge and skills within the context of their personal and/or professional lives.

Assessment strategy and rationale

In this unit, all activities, direct teaching, structured learning, assigned readings and collaborative tasks build towards the assessment of students’ ability to apply the necessary knowledge and skills required to interpret Paul effectively. The three assessment tasks are designed to provide progressive engagement with key Pauline texts focussing on different contextual situations. Each of the three assessment tasks has been designed to test the students’ developed and developing capacity to understand and interpret Paul and his letters in a meaningful and relevant way; which aligns with the achievement of each of unit’s learning outcomes.

 The first task requires students to describe the state of current research on the socio-cultural, historical and/or literary contexts of one, or at most two, of Paul’s letters (LO1) and communicate their results via an oral or written review of selected scholarly literature. Students will have the opportunity in subsequent weeks to develop, refine and improve their skills in interpreting key texts from those letters within different contexts (LO2), founded upon their knowledge of relevant scholarship (LO1) and utilising one critical approach (LO2), which will culminate in Assessment Task 2 – an exegetical analysis of selected passages of Pauline literature. This final task will provide students with the scope to demonstrate their attainment of all three learning outcomes via a written, oral or multimedia presentation demonstrating the application of critical approaches to Pauline texts within a contemporary pastoral, theological, academic, liturgical or pedagogical situation.

Overview of assessments

Brief Description of Kind and Purpose of Assessment TasksWeightingLearning OutcomesGraduate Attributes

Literature Review

Oral or written presentation of the current scholarship on the socio-cultural, historical and/or pastoral circumstances of one of the Pauline Letters or an issue/theological theme from one of Paul’s letters – e.g., a literature review, op-ed article, or multimedia presentation.

The purpose of this assessment task is to provide students with the opportunity to develop a foundation for subsequent exegesis of selected passages in Paul.



GA4; GA8


Exegetical examination of one or more key passages from Paul’s letters -e.g., exegetical essay, commentary, or journal article.

Building on the foundational work done in assessment one, this assessment provides students with the opportunity to demonstrate their skill in interpreting Pauline texts within a specific critical framework.


LO1, LO2

GA4, GA5, GA8

Proposal for Teaching, Preaching or Praying Paul

Written or multimedia proposal on the application of one or more key Pauline texts to a pastoral, pedagogical, or personal situation – e.g, lesson plan, outline for a retreat, homily plan, design of an educational wiki or blog.

The purpose of this assessment task is to bring the knowledge and skills acquired throughout the semester to bear on a practical application for the interpretation of the Letter/s and or passage/s examined in assessment tasks one and two.


LO1, LO2, LO3

GA4, GA5, GA8

Representative texts and references

Bird, M. F. An Anomalous Jew: Paul among Jews, Greeks, and Romans. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2016.

Dunn, J.D.G., ed. The Cambridge Companion to St Paul. Cambridge University Press, 2003.

Elliott, N. & M. Reasoner, eds. Documents and Images for the Study of Paul. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2011.

Hawthorne, G.F. and R.P. Martin, eds. Dictionary of Paul and His Letters. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1993.

Horrell, D.G. An Introduction to the Study of Paul. 2nd ed. New York/London: Continuum, 2006.

Levine, A.-J., and M. Blickenstaff. A Feminist Companion to Paul. London: T & T Clark International, 2004.

Longenecker, B.W. & T.D. Still. Thinking through Paul : A Survey of His Life, Letters, and Theology. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2014.

Marchal, J.A., ed. Studying Paul’s Letters: Contemporary Perspectives and Methods. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2012.

Murphy-O’Connor, J. Paul: A Critical Life. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996.

Zetterholm, M. Approaches to Paul: A Student’s Guide to Recent Scholarship. Minneapolis: Fortress, 2009.

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