Office Hours: Lyon 321
Many resources for the course will be found at Educator: https://online.lyon.edu
In the Gospel of Mark, chapter 8, verse 29, Jesus asks his followers, "Who do you say I am?" This question has been posed afresh to each generation of Christians (and often non-Christians) ever since the gospels were written. This is the central question of the course. For many Christians the answer to the question seems obvious at first glance. However, merely comparing several of the most popular movies about Jesus made in recent times indicates that there are a variety of views about who Jesus is. Indeed, a little exploration suggests that the answer was not even so obvious to Jesus’ first followers.
As 21st century people living in America, we have different tools for answering this question than Jesus’ followers. Some of our tools may be better, some may be worse. On the one hand, we have the benefit of the written gospels and hundreds of years of archeological and historical research to help us; on the other hand, we do not have living eyewitnesses around to question. These advantages and disadvantages will become apparent as we embark upon our quest.
To give clarity to our explorations, this course makes a careful distinction between the quest of the historical Jesus and the quest of the Christ of faith. As we will see, Christianity has always been primarily concerned with the Christ of faith, providing us today with a vast wealth of resources for this aspect of the quest. However, the quest for the historical Jesus is a relatively new concern in scholarship and raises many problematic issues. This quest will be a significant focus for much of the course.
We will raise many difficult questions; some questions we may like, some we may not. But the ultimate purpose of this course is to see how these questions help us draw together faith and reason in ways that can deepen and enrich each other. Keep in mind, there are often differences of opinions about interpretation of the biblical texts and about the historical Jesus. Inevitably, there will be a variety of perspectives found in our readings and among members of the class. I hope that we would all respect each other’s perspectives where they differ. One of my responsibilities is to sharpen students' thinking about the issues raised in the course. Please keep in mind, even if I question a student’s views, I respect those views. We should all be open to having our perspectives questioned and challenged – that is not a lack of respect for differing views, but a means of trying to better understand others and, when done honestly, a way to pursue Truth.
As we begin this course, let me suggest a prayer, "For the Spirit of Truth," to guide all of us:
Upon successful completion of this course students should be able to:
Lyon College Policy on Attendance:
Page 115 of the Lyon Catalog states: Students are expected to attend all class periods for the courses in which they are enrolled. They are responsible for conferring with individual professors regarding any missed assignments. Faculty members are to notify the Registrar when a student misses the equivalent of one, two, three, and four weeks of class periods in a single course. Under this policy, there is no distinction between “excused” and “unexcused” absences, except that a student may make up work missed during an excused absence. A reminder of the college’s attendance policy will be issued to the student at one week, a second reminder at two weeks, a warning at three weeks, and notification of administrative withdrawal and the assigning of an “F” grade at four weeks. Students who are administratively withdrawn from more than one course will be placed on probation or suspended (see Academic Probation and Academic Suspension).
Attendance will be taken and counts 5% of the final grade.
Students must turn in all e-journals, essays, take all exams, and must turn in a paper for the course. Failure to turn in an essay, take an exam, or turn in a term paper will result in an "F" for the course. Students will be penalized points for taking a quiz or exam late, or turning in an e-journal, essay, or paper after the due date.
CELL PHONES, COMPUTERS, AND OTHER ELECTRONICS: Cell phones should either be turned off or put on silent or vibrate in class. They should be put away and not visible. Texting during class is not permitted. If you are awaiting an emergency call, then you should sit near the class entrance, and when your phone vibrates, you should quietly exit and take your call in the hallway out of earshot our class and other classes. Students may NOT use computers in class except for specific times indicated by the professor or otherwise given permission to do so by the professor. Listening to iPods or other mp3 or similar players is prohibited in class. Violation of these requirements will adversely affect your participation/attendance grade for the class.
Essays on Films:
In order to understand how Jesus is sometimes interpreted in modern north American culture, we will watch several films depicting Jesus from the following: King of Kings (1961); The Greatest Story Ever Told (1965); Jesus Christ Superstar (1973); Last Temptation of Christ (1988); Jesus of Montreal (1989); and The Passion of the Christ (2004). Most of these videos are available either at the Lyon College Library or at local video stores. Students will need to watch three of the first four videos on their own and write a 3-5 page (1300-2200 word) essay (word-processed, one-inch margins, 12 point Times New Roman font, double-spaced) analyzing the three films by addressing the following questions: (1) Which gospel(s) seem to have the most influence on the film? Give examples that support your observations. (2) What key aspects of the film are not in the gospels at all? (3) What symbols, scenes, and images are used to convey the film maker's view of Jesus? (4) Do you think those symbols, scenes, and images capture meanings found in the gospels themselves, even if they are not explicitly found in the gospels? (5) What kind of picture of Jesus is the film trying to portray? (6) How does that portrayal reflect the time that the movie was made? (7) As a whole, do you think the film is a faithful portrayal of Jesus, theologically and/or historically? Explain why or why not. The first essay is due Feb.21; the second essay is due Mar. 14; and the third essay is due Apr. 4.
As an upper division course, each student is expected to do an in-depth research paper of at least 12-15 pages (4000-6600 words excluding bibliography/works cited pages). Students are welcome to research a topic of her/his interest related to the nature of the gospels, the historical Jesus, archeology and Jesus, or related issues. Students need to turn in a paper proposal by Jan. 31 or earlier. The proposal should contain a tentative topic, a short statement about what is being explored or researched, some relevant references that will be used in the paper. I am open to students doing a project that does not take the form of a traditional term paper--students will need to negotiate with me on an alternative project and settle on it by Feb. 7. To get ideas for papers, students should skim ahead in their books and explore websites like The New Testament Gateway (http://www.ntgateway.com/). Check the paper guidelines at http://web.lyon.edu/departments/rph/RPH325/paperguide.htm for more specific instructions. The paper is due by class time on April 18.
The purpose of e-journals is to encourage personal reflection upon the material covered in the course as well as to increase student accessibility to the professor. Students will need to keep an e-journal throughout the course, writing at least two paragraphs for each journal on a topic related to the readings covered at that time. The journal is meant to give students a chance to reflect on issues, questions, ideas, etc., that have come up in the readings and classes. In other words, the e-journal should discuss the material covered – what it means, how it relates to our understanding of ourselves today, asking questions about concepts that are not clear from class discussions, and communicating with the professor about your final paper. They should be e-mailed to me at email@example.com by 5:00 p.m. on the date due (see Course Schedule below), The e-journals will be graded for their thoughtfulness, depth of engagement with concepts covered, and clarity of expression. E-journals that are late will be graded down five points for each day they are late.
Course Schedule: [Note: this schedule is subject to revision and should be checked by students at least once a week.]
Gospel readings come from The Five Gospels
© 2013 Paul Custodio Bube