Credit points


Campus offering

No unit offerings are currently available for this unit


THBS501 Biblical Studies or equivalent

Teaching organisation

This unit 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 Synoptic Gospels, Matthew, Mark and Luke, share similarities in content, arrangement, and specific language. Commentators attribute this to literary interdependence. The question of the precise nature of this literary relationship, the so-called Synoptic Problem, continues to figure prominently in contemporary Gospel scholarship. The longstanding majority view favours Marcan priority and holds that both Matthew and Luke made direct use of the Gospel of Mark as a source, along with an additional hypothetical document, called Q Sayings Gospel.

This unit builds on the knowledge and skills developed in the prerequisite Biblical Studies unit, which included the study of the Gospel of Mark. This unit provides students with the opportunity to study the Synoptic Gospels further via an examination of either the Gospel of Matthew or the Gospel of Luke, applying a variety of methodologies used in the discipline, including both historical and literary approaches. Students will learn advanced text-critical skills, become acquainted with scholarship in the field, and engage the Gospel in contexts relevant to their professional and personal lives.

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.

Learning Outcome NumberLearning Outcome DescriptionRelevant Graduate Capabilities
LO1Describe the key narrative themes and literary characteristics of the selected GospelGC1, GC7, GC9
LO2Discuss the various reading communities represented in the text of the selected GospelGC1, GC3, GC7, GC11
LO3Apply knowledge and skills gained through critical examination of the selected Gospel to situations relevant to one’s professional and/or personal faith practiceGC1, GC2, GC6, GC8


Topics will include:

  • A survey of the history of the first century Mediterranean world with an emphasis on the religious and social conditions informing the synoptic gospels.
  • A detailed study of either Matthew or Luke, drawing on historical, narrative, and/or social-scientific methodologies.
  • A study of the distinguishing stylistic and theological characteristics of the selected gospel.

Learning and teaching strategy and rationale

The Gospels 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, the Synoptic Gospels remain central to their spiritual and professional lives. For this reason, the curriculum for this unit has been designed to build students’ capacity and competency in reading, interpreting, teaching and preaching the Synoptic Gospels as leaders, teachers, pastoral assistants and/or ministers in faith-based organisations.

This unit is a fully online unit that involves 150 hours of focused learning, or the equivalent of 10 hours per week for 15 weeks. The structure of this unit 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 this unit, is designed to encourage students’ autonomy and to 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 Gospel texts effectively. The three assessment tasks are designed to provide progressive engagement with key passages from the selected Gospel and, therefore, focus 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 the selected Gospel in a meaningful and relevant way. This 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 the Evangelist’s community (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 the selected Gospel 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 for the selected Gospel. 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 passages from the selected Gospel within a contemporary pastoral, theological, academic, liturgical or pedagogical situation.

Overview of assessments

Brief Description of Kind and Purpose of Assessment TasksWeightingLearning Outcomes

Literature Review

Oral or written presentation of the current scholarship on the socio-cultural, historical and/or pastoral circumstances of the selected Gospel or an issue/theological theme from either the Gospel– 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 the Gospel texts.




Exegetical examination of one or more key passages from the selected Gospel; e.g., an 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 Gospel texts within a specific critical framework.


LO1, LO2

Proposal for Teaching, Preaching or Praying a Synoptic Gospel

Written or multimedia proposal on the application of one or more key texts to a pastoral, pedagogical, or personal situation – e.g., a 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 selected Gospel and or passage/s examined in assessment tasks one and two.


LO1, LO2, LO3

Representative texts and references

Burkett, D.R. An Introduction to the New Testament and the Origins of Christianity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002.

Byrne, B. J. Lifting the Burden : Reading Matthew's Gospel in the Church Today. Strathfield, N.S.W. : Collegeville, Minn.: St. Pauls ; Liturgical Press ;, 2004.

Byrne, B.J. The Hospitality of God: A Reading of Luke’s Gospel. Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 2000.

Grindheim, S. Christology in the Synoptic Gospels : God or God's Servant. London: Bloomsbury Publishing, 2012.

Harrington, D. J. Sacra Pagina: The Gospel of Matthew. Sacra Pagina Series 1. Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 1991.

Johnson, L. T. Sacra Pagina: The Gospel of Luke. Sacra Pagina Series 3. Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 1991.

McKnight, S., J. Riches, W. Telford and C. M. Tuckett. The Synoptic Gospels. Sheffield, England: Sheffield Academic Press, 2001.

Perkins, P. Introduction to the Synoptic Gospels. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2007.

Talbert, C.H. Reading Luke: A Literary and Theological Commentary. Rev. ed. Reading the New Testament. Macon, GA: Smyth and Helwys, 2002.

Weren, W. J. C.. Studies in Matthew's Gospel : Literary Design, Intertextuality, and Social Setting. Leiden: BRILL, 2014.

Have a question?

We're available 9am–5pm AEDT,
Monday to Friday

If you’ve got a question, our AskACU team has you covered. You can search FAQs, text us, email, live chat, call – whatever works for you.

Live chat with us now

Chat to our team for real-time
answers to your questions.

Launch live chat

Visit our FAQs page

Find answers to some commonly
asked questions.

See our FAQs