|Religion 243-RC1 Dr. Robert M. Fowler
Jesus and the Gospels Department of Religion
3 semester hours Office: Marting Hall 320
Summer 2008 Office Phone: 440-826-2173
Thursdays 6:15–9:15 PM Secretary: 440-826-2076
Marting #316 FAX: 440-826-3264
• This course meets on 8 Thursday evenings only: May 29, June 5, 12, 19, 26, July 3, 10, and 17.
• Because so much material is being compressed into so little class time, a course such as this is designed for the mature, responsible, and skilled student who can successfully do most of the work of the course outside of class, without supervision.
Course Description: This course has a dual focus: we will examine the life and teachings of the historical Jesus of Nazareth, and we will examine some important early Christian interpretations of Jesus, especially the Gospels of Mark and John. In other words we will be examining both Jesus, the historical man of Nazareth, and the Gospels, as Christian portraits of faith in Jesus as the Christ, the Son of God.
The approach we will take to the material will also be dual. We will be studying the material historically (and thus this is a 'history' course) as well as literarily (and thus this is a 'literature' course).
The course is not devotional or catechetical in nature; it is not Sunday School or church; no particular religious attitude toward Jesus of Nazareth is presumed or advocated.
Course Objectives: The primary objective is to gain knowledge and understanding of the historical Jesus of Nazareth, what we can say with confidence about his life and teaching, and the variety of ways in which his early followers interpreted his significance for Christian faith.
A secondary objective is for students to gain experience in critical reading and thinking, and to gain experience in writing.
Requirements, Expectations, and Procedures: The course will involve a great deal of reading in preparation for each class session. The classroom time will be devoted to discussions of both the primary reading, from the Gospels, and the secondary reading, the literature listed below. Several short papers are required, discussing the contents of the books. There will be a final take-home essay assignment.
Class Participation Grade: Class participation counts for 10% of the course grade = 5% for attendance + 5% for contributions to class discussions. Up to 5% of extra credit may be earned by participating in Blackboard discussions.
Attendance Policy: This class will abide by the College Absence Policy, as approved by the BW faculty on 3/23/99. Nota Bene: "The policy of the College is that all students are expected to attend all classes." However, the policy recognizes that some absences may be excused for a death in the family, a serious illness, a major religious holiday, or official college activities. Also in keeping with the policy, in this class all absences beyond 10% of the class meetings will count as unexcused.
Just as important as being in class is being in class on time. Students who habitually arrive late to class are even more disruptive than if they had not come at all. Accordingly, every two 'tardies,' for whatever reason, will count as an unexcused absence. Leaving class early, for whatever reason, will count as a 'tardy.'
For an Evening/Weekend class meeting only 8 times: 0 absences or tardies = A for attendance; 0 unexcused absences and no more than one excused absence = B for attendance; 1 unexcused absence = C for attendance; 2 unexcused absences = D; 3 or more = F. Nota Bene: if the attendance grade is D or lower, that will also be the overall course grade.
Class Discussion Grade: The first step toward a good class discussion grade is to come to class! You can't contribute to class regularly if you don't come to class regularly. And remember: If you earn a D or an F for attendance, then that's your grade for the whole course, no matter how chatty you might be on the days you are present.
If you're in class faithfully but don't say much, you'll get a C for class discussion. If you want a B or an A for class discussion, not only will you have to be present, you'll also have to limber up your vocal cords and speak!
Blackboard Extra Credit Option: Students are required to use Blackboard to access course materials (handouts, web links, digitized videos, etc.). Occasionally I may send out an email message to everyone via Blackboard, so be sure to check your BW email account regularly. Every BW student is assigned a BW email account, but if you don't use your BW email address, you can register a different email address within Blackboard, under the Support tab.
In order to extend class discussion beyond the time and space of the classroom meetings, Students may earn extra credit by participating in Blackboard's "Discussion Board." Each substantial message (i.e., thoughtful and constructive remarks, and not merely words for the sake of words) is worth one point; a thoughtful and lengthy message is worth an extra point; an especially thoughtful or interesting message is also worth an extra point.
In the course of the term, I will record up to 20 points of extra credit for Discussion Board contributions. A full 20 points for Discussion Board contributions will earn a 5% bonus added to one's overall course grade (= 1/2 a letter grade).
You may earn up to three points per week—no more—so don't wait until the end of the term to contribute.
By now, most BW students have learned to use Blackboard. You can access Blackboard from any computer in the world with a web browser, including the many computers in BW computer labs. If you are new to Blackboard, the World Wide Web, or email, contact the BW Information Technology Help Desk at 826-7000 for help in getting started
Late Paper Policy: Everyone is allowed to turn in one paper up to five days late with no penalty. If that paper is late by more than five days, late penalties will begin to accrue. Late penalties will apply immediately to every late paper after the first.
The penalty for a late paper is reduction of the grade by a half-grade for every five days that the paper is late. E.g., a paper up to five days late will be docked one-half a grade; a paper up to ten days late will be docked one full grade; a paper up to fifteen days late will be docked one-and-a-half grades, etc.
Papers must be submitted electronically via SafeAssign, on our course Blackboard site. Papers must be submitted in either the .doc or .rtf format. Other formats will not work on SafeAssign.
Grades: Attendance plus class discussion will count as 10% of the course grade. The remainder of the course grade will be determined by the grades from the smaller essays and the final essay. The smaller essays should count for about 60% of the course grade, and the final essay should count for about 30%.
Office hours and Consultations: Usually I shall be available for consultation either before or after class, but to be absolutely sure to catch me, it would be wise to call ahead of time to set up an appointment. Also, during the week feel free to call me. My phone numbers are listed on page 1 above. The most reliable way to contact me is by email.
Cell phones, pagers, and other electronic devices: Cell phones, pagers, and other electronic devices must be turned off and kept out of sight in the classroom.
Accommodations for Disability: Any student with a documented disability (e.g., mobility, learning, psychological, vision, hearing, etc.) who needs to arrange accommodations must contact both the instructor and Disability Services (826-2116) at the beginning of the term.
Statement on Academic Integrity: Baldwin-Wallace College is committed to the growth and learning of its students and believes strongly that such growth and learning prospers best within a community of trust. We believe that academic honesty – the fair and straightforward representation of what one has learned, researched and/or written – is the foundation of a healthy environment for learning. Instructors, administrators, staff, and students alike are responsible for upholding high ethical standards of academic honesty in all academic endeavors.
The academic community of Baldwin-Wallace supports the policy that any form of academic dishonesty is a serious breach of ethics and shall be dealt with appropriately through the student judicial and shared governance systems. For a full explanation of the policies and procedures that guide academic integrity at Baldwin-Wallace College, see the College's Academic Honesty Policy ( http://www.bw.edu/resources/dean/policies/ ).
Academic dishonesty includes claiming someone else's work as your own (e.g., plagiarism), seeking an unfair advantage over other students in taking a test or fulfilling an assignment, and fraud. Baldwin-Wallace College faculty are very attentive to infractions of the Academic Honesty Policy. While all violations of the Policy may not be detected and may result in short-term gains (e.g., a slightly improved exam score, easier completion of an assignment, etc.), the long-term consequences of all infractions are costly. These consequences include lasting damage to one's work ethic, character development, sense of accomplishment, and self-respect. Please help maintain Baldwin-Wallace College's environment of academic integrity by completing all assignments honestly.
Required Textbooks and Recommended Reading:
Hershel Shanks, ed., The Search for Jesus: Modern Scholarship Looks at the Gospels (Washington, DC: Biblical Archaeology Society, 1994)
Werner H. Kelber, Mark's Story of Jesus (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1979).
Robert Kysar, John's Story of Jesus (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1984).
Marcus J. Borg, Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time: The Historical Jesus and the Heart of Contemporary Faith (San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1994).
John Dominic Crossan, Jesus: A Revolutionary Biography (San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1994.
Andrea Lundsford and Marcia Muth, The St. Martin's Pocket Guide to Research and Documentation, 4th ed. (Boston: Bedford/St. Martin's Press, 2008).
The Bible. (You should have available for your use a good, modern translation of the Bible. You should buy one if you do not already own one. If you have a Bible, but are in doubt about whether it is a “good, modern translation," please consult your instructor. In class I shall use the New Revised Standard Version; or to be more precise, I shall use The New Interpreter's Study Bible: New Revised Standard Version with the Apocrypha (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2003).
Outline of Course Content and Assignments:
Class meeting #1—Thursday May 29
(1) For the first week, read (and re-read) carefully the Shanks book (The Search for Jesus: Modern Scholarship Looks at the Gospels) and come to class prepared to discuss it thoroughly. Come ready to offer your questions, admit your confusions, and declare your surprise at information and interpretations previously unknown to you. The critical, academic study of Jesus and the Gospels is invariably a new experience for everyone, even for the most avid student of the Bible, and so you are certain to have many questions—just be sure to share them with the instructor and with your fellow students.
(2) There are also two handouts on our course Blackboard site that you will need to access and study. You may find these at: DOCUMENTSVIDEOSAUDIOS > COURSE HANDOUTS > STORIES OF REMARKABLE CONCEPTIONS AND BIRTHS. The handouts are entitled "Comparison of Birth Stories in Matthew and Luke" and "Stories of 'Miraculous' Conceptions and Births from the Ancient Mediterranean World." You will need to work through all of this material so that we can devote extra time to the chapter in Shanks on the birth of Jesus.
(3) Throughout the course it will be important for you read the primary literature—that is, the Gospel accounts of the life and teachings of Jesus—as well as the secondary scholarly literature about Jesus and the Gospels. That is, look up, read, and study the passages in The Bible referred to in the Shanks, Kelber, Kysar, Borg, and Crossan books.
(4) In class this week we will discuss the chapters of the Shanks book and survey broadly the major issues and questions that arise in a careful, critical study of Jesus and the Gospels.
***Paper Assignment #1—Due Tuesday, June 3, at 6:00 PM ***
Write a 1500 word book report on the Shanks book. For this first paper, I recommend that you produce a straightforward, vanilla-flavored book report, summarizing the contents of each chapter, clearly and thoughtfully. The main goal of this book report is simply to describe faithfully the contents of the book. See the general guidelines for writing papers at the end of the syllabus.
As much as possible, discuss the material in your own words. Keep the use of quotations to a minimum, but if you do use a quotation, always document the source of the quotation, so that your reader can verify it, if he chooses. If you do not document clearly the source of a quotation, that is plagiarism!
Although you might occasionally quote at length Borg, Crossan, Fowler, or some other scholar, there is never a reason to quote from the Bible at length. Instead, cite chapter and verse of the biblical passage, and let your reader look up the relevant material. Use either the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible or the Revised Standard Version, the translation that is used in the Gospel Synopsis.
Papers must be word-processed, double-spaced, 1" margins all around, 12 point serif font, and please put your name and page number on each page. Use Andrea Lundsford and Marcia Muth, The St. Martin's Pocket Guide to Research and Documentation, 4th ed. (Boston: Bedford/St. Martin's Press, 2008). Please put footnotes at the bottom of the page, using the Turabian/Chicago style of documentation. Please indicate every single source you use on a "Works Consulted" page at the end of your paper.
Make the first page of your paper a cover sheet, and on it indicate:
The course number and name
The title of this assignment
Word count for the main body of the paper only
Academic Integrity Statement, Wording Provided by Instructor
REL 123–S01—Jesus and Quantum Theory
Dr. Abner J. Pumpernickel
Essay Assignment #13
February 30, 2002
I declare that this assignment represents my own original work, words and ideas. The work of others has been properly cited, and I have not taken unfair advantage over my fellow students. By submitting this assignment via the class Blackboard site, I understand that it will be scanned automatically by "SafeAssign" for possible plagiarism. Moreover, I agree to have this assignment added to a BW database of student papers to be used in future SafeAssign scans.
The paper must be submitted electronically, as either a .doc or .rtf documents. They must be submitted via the course Blackboard site: Go to ASSIGNMENTS > SafeAssign Drop Area For Shanks Essay.
Class meeting #2 and the first half of class meeting #3: June 5 and 12
(1) Read (and re-read) the Gospel of Mark in its entirety, in The Bible, preferably at a single sitting and preferably out loud. (Reading time of one-and-a-half to two hours.)
(2) Read (and re-read) the Kelber book (Mark's Story of Jesus).
(3) Strongly recommended: Read (and re-read) the chapter on the Gospel of Mark from the textbook by David Barr (PDF file available on Blackboard.)
(4) The Gospel of Mark is the shortest of the gospels, but it is a highly dramatic and powerfully told story. Even if you think you know the gospels well, chances are you will be surprised by many of the things you encounter in Mark. It is a Gospel that many people think they know or understand, but for the most part do not. If you can get a hold of a Gospel Parallels or a Gospel Synopsis (easily obtained in the library, and usually available in the bookstore), study Mark therein and notice how the other Gospel writers have edited it. We do not really see Mark's Gospel clearly, because the other Gospel writers have taught us to see Mark their way, and we do, usually unconsciously.
Come to class ready to discuss both the Gospel of Mark and the secondary literature about Mark.
***To be announced—a paper on Mark,
due on Tuesday, June 17, at 6:00 PM ***
Second half of class meeting #3 and all of class meeting #4: June 12 and 19
(1) Read (and re-read) the Gospel of John in its entirety, in The Bible.
(2) Read (and re-read) the Kysar book (John's Story of Jesus).
(3) Strongly recommended: Read (and re-read) the David Barr chapter on John.
(4) With John we will be discussing what most scholars believe was the last of the four canonical Gospels to be written. For many people it is an especially beloved Gospel, one that people assume to be simple, easy, and clear. However, for all its supposed simplicity, this gospel is full of challenges. If you can get a hold of a Gospel Parallels or a Gospel Synopsis (easily obtained in the library, and usually available in the bookstore), study John therein and notice how different it is from the three synoptic Gospels. It is small wonder that one scholar has called John “the maverick Gospel.”
***To be announced—a paper on John,
due on Tuesday, July 1, at 6:00 PM ***
Class meetings #5 and #6: June 26 and July 3
(1) Read (and re-read) carefully the Borg book (Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time) and come to class prepared to discuss it thoroughly. Come ready to offer your questions, admit your confusions, and declare your surprise at information and interpretations previously unknown to you. The critical, academic study of Jesus and the Gospels is invariably a new experience for everyone, even for the most avid student of the Bible, and so you are certain to have many questions—just be sure to share them with the instructor and with your fellow students.
(2) Watch Borg's video (available on Blackboard: DOCUMENTS&VIDEOS > VIDEOS), "From Galilean Jew to the Face of God: The Pre-Easter and Post-Easter Jesus," and also read the accompanying text (also available on Blackboard: DOCUMENTS&VIDEOS > COURSE HANDOUTS > MARCUS BORG DOCUMENTS), "Jesus at 2000" and "From Galilean Jew..."
Class meetings #7 and #8: July 10 and 17
(1) Read (and re-read) the Crossan book (Jesus: A Revolutionary Biography) and come to class prepared to discuss it thoroughly. Crossan's book is honest and fearless. Some will find it exhilarating. All will find it a challenge.
(2) As the time approaches for us to tackle Crossan, I will point you toward addtional audio, video, and text resources for Crossan, all of which are posted on Bb.
Final paper on (1) the historical Jesus, according to Borg and Crossan; and (2) final reflections on "what is a gospel?"
Due Tuesday, July 22, at 6:00 PM
Standard Guidelines for a Critical Book Report (and for writing other kinds of papers as well): A good book report is an accurate, succinct description of the contents of a book. Your major goal should be to try to describe what the author of the book is up to in such a way that the author would recognize her or his work by reading your report. However, not everything in a book is of equal interest or significance, so you will want to be critical (that is, discerning and discriminating) about what you include and what you exclude from your report. In brief, do justice to the book.
For guidance in grammar and punctuation, and regarding documentation and the form of the paper, consult Andrea Lundsford and Marcia Muth, The St. Martin's Pocket Guide to Research and Documentation, 4th ed. (Boston: Bedford/St. Martin's Press, 2008).
Two excellent, classic guides to writing are William Zinsser, On Writing Well, 3rd ed. (New York: Harper & Row, 1985, and William Strunk, Jr. and E. B. White, The Elements of Style, 3rd ed. (New York: Macmillan, 1979).
For further help in writing, see your instructor, or see the friendly folks in The Writing Lab, in the basement of Marting Hall (826-2417).
The report need not be long; ordinarily four or five pages will suffice (the instructor will give you a suggested length or word count). The quality of your writing is far more important than the quantity of your writing. Do not use a clear plastic folders—they are merely a nuisance. Staple the pages together. Proofread the paper carefully, and correct all mistakes. You will, of course, want to turn in a paper free from any spelling, punctuation, or syntax errors. If a paper contains an excessive number of errors, the grade will be lowered accordingly. I may want to keep your paper, so always make a copy of it for yourself.
Since no two books and no two book-reporters are ever alike, chances are that no two book reports will ever be alike. Take comfort from this. Be as creative and original as you wish, but strive to be faithful to the author and her or his book.
Some students, nevertheless, will want to be given an idea of what a book report might include. I recommend the following: (1) Always include at least a brief summary of the general contents or organization of the whole book. Do not dwell on this; limit yourself to a page or less. (2) The bulk of your report should be a description and discussion of what you judge to be the one, two, or three most important features of the book (e.g., what are the author’s major topics, issues, concerns, emphases, or theses?). This is the main body of your report and might take up as much as three or four pages. (3) Finally, it is always appropriate, if you wish, to conclude with a brief statement of your personal response to the book. Keep this under strict control, perhaps limiting yourself to less than a page. Such a self-imposed limitation helps to keep the focus of your report off of you and on the book, where it belongs.
Organize or structure your report carefully. The three-part outline offered just above is only one among many possible variations on the classic ‘beginning—middle—end’ organizational structure: (1) provide a clear beginning by carefully introducing your remarks; (2) make your main points in a middle section; and (3) summarize your remarks in a fitting conclusion. It is especially important to introduce your report well. ‘Well-begun is half done.’ Always introduce your reader to the task at hand by stating clearly the title of the book to be reviewed, who the author is, and the approach you will take toward the book.
Express your own insights into the book, using your own words. Do not plagiarize, which is the practice of quoting an author’s words without giving proper credit. An occasional quotation is fine, but keep quotations to a minimum, and always—always—when you quote, document clearly the source of the quotation.
Use non-sexist, inclusive language. Do not use the word “man” if you really mean “person,” “human being,” or “woman or man.” Do not use the word “man” if you really mean “humanity” or “humankind.” Do not use “he” if you really mean “she or he.”
Study Tips from Dr. Mac
— Prepare thoroughly for each class session.
What you get out of class depends upon what you put into it.
— Read the assigned readings actively and aggressively.
Don't read passively; aggressively question and analyze what you are reading.
Take careful notes on your reading, and/or highlight or underline sparingly the main points in the reading, and/or construct an outline of the material.
Read everything at least twice; then, if you still don't understand it, read it again, and again, and again.
— In class, take copious notes.
Write down every word that is said in class, and more.
That is, when you review your notes (which you should do regularly), add your own comments and explanations to your already exhaustive written record of class discussions.
Many students find that typing their classnotes immediately after class makes the notes more readable, and at the same time it helps them to review and master the material.
— In class and out of class, ask questions.
It's hard to get answers if you don't ask questions! Learning is fundamentally a matter of asking questions. She or he who does not question does not learn. Often the questions are more enduring, and therefore more important, than the answers.
— Ask for help.
Ask for help from fellow students, from your professor, from college staff, and from any of the many services on campus: the Writing Lab, the Learning Center, the Health Center, etc.
— Come see your professor.
Professors are thrilled (and very impressed) when students come to their offices to ask questions, to discuss course material, or just to chat. Professors at this college are available to students, so come see us!
— Grading scale.
On objective quizzes and examinations, I usually consider 90% and above A work, 80% and above B work, etc. However, if the objective scores are uniformly low, I will grade “on the curve,” thus bringing all grades up.
My grading system is even more detailed than the college's official plus and minus system. On papers and examinations I use the following grades: . . . . C-, C‑/C, C, C/C+, C+, C+/B-, B-, B-/B, B, B/B+, B+, B+/A-, A- . . . . etc. When it comes time to assign final course grades, I boil these grades down and use simple pluses and minuses: . . . . C-, C, C+, B-, B, B+, A- . . . .
According to my standards, a C is a respectable, average grade; a B represents clearly superior work; an A is for unusually strong work and is a rare achievement.
— Criteria for Assigning Grades.
These are the qualities I shall look for in student performance generally. The following are listed in ascending order of significance:
(1) Doing the Work. This is the absolute minimum that any instructor can expect of a student: coming to class, doing the reading, writing the reports, etc.
(2) Understanding. It is possible, I suppose, to do one's academic work in a perfunctory way and gain nothing from it. For example, it is possible to hear a good lecture without understanding it, or to read a good book without understanding it. But it is far better to understand! I shall gladly assume the responsibility of assigning understandable reading and presenting understandable lectures, but the responsibility for achieving understanding is ultimately the student's. Understanding is something you can only achieve for yourself.
(3) Language skill. Even if you do the work and understand it to a degree, the depth of your understanding will be limited if your language skills are limited. Moreover, without good language skills, it is difficult, if not impossible, to communicate your understanding to other people in a clear fashion. With sharp language tools, however, it becomes possible to cut deeply to the heart of the material you are studying, and to share your insights with others in a clear and compelling way.
(4) That Something Extra. This is the most difficult quality to define, but we all 'know it when we see it.' This is the realm of not just doing the work, but doing it extraordinarily well, and doing more of it than is expected. This is the realm not just of understanding, but of seeing things that others do not see, making connections that others have not made, asking questions that others have not dreamed of. This is the realm not just of skill with language, but of surprising and exciting skill with language. In short, this is the realm of superlatives, the realm of extraordinary accomplishment, made possible by extraordinary creativity, perseverance, and skill.
How do these qualities correspond to the grading system? The C student does the work, understands it in a satisfactory manner, and demonstrates satisfactory language skills, both in the comprehension and in the expression aspects of his or her learning. The B student does the work, and sometimes extra work, understands it very well, and consistently demonstrates very good language skills. The B student will occasionally demonstrate "that something extra" but not consistently. The A student consistently does all the work and then some, consistently understands it thoroughly, consistently demonstrates an impeccable command of language, and consistently demonstrates "that something extra" in surprising and exciting ways.