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REL 150 Syllabus

Dr. Darrell Pursiful
757-0564 x250 (office) Sect 012: TR 12:15–1:30 pm
djpursiful [at] gmail [dot] com https://pursiful.com/classroom/

REL 150 is a course designed to explore the literature of the New Testament with emphasis on the history, literature, and faith associated with the beginnings of the Christian Era.


REL 150 aims to provide the student an opportunity to become familiar with the texts of the New Testament in the context of the history and faith of the first Christians. Students successfully completing REL 150 should demonstrate the following competencies:

  1. An understanding of the various writings of the New Testament in terms of their respective literary genres, historical contexts, and theological themes.
  2. Familiarity with biblical scholarship dealing with the literary and historical study of the New Testament.
  3. An understanding of the development of the text and canon of the New Testament.
  4. An understanding of the origins and development of Christianity within the context of the first-century world as reflected in the New Testament.
  5. An understanding of the major events in the life of Jesus and their significance as reflected in the New Testament.
  6. An understanding of the teachings of and about Jesus found in the New Testament.
  7. An appreciation for the role of the New Testament in the development of Christian faith and its impact on western civilization.


New Oxford Annotated Bible with the Apocrypha, 4th ed. (NRSV), college ed. (Oxford University Press, 2001).

Mercer Dictionary of the Bible, ed. Watson E. Mills, et al. (Mercer University Press, 1990).


Course grades will be assessed based on the following assignments:

Quizzes (100 points). At least thirteen daily quizzes (10 points each) will be given during the semester. They will not be announced in advance, and no makeup quizzes will be administered for any reason. Daily quizzes will be drawn from the assigned readings for the day and/or the previous day’s lecture and discussion. The student’s ten highest scores will be computed in the final grade.

Fishbowl (200 points). Students who do not choose to write the optional paper (see below) will participate in one of three group activities. Students will sign up for one of the following activities in the first two weeks of class:

(1) Fishbowl 1. Students will take part in an unscripted conversation on the topic of the Sermon on the Mount, which the rest of the class can “overhear.” This will require participants to read the assigned biblical text as well as all assigned MDOB articles and to come prepared with their questions and observations.

(2) Fishbowl 2. Students will take part in an unscripted conversation on the topic of the Parables, which the rest of the class can “overhear.” Format and expectations are the same as for the first fishbowl.

(3) Fishbowl 3. Students will take part in an unscripted conversation on the topic of Spiritual Gifts, which the rest of the class can “overhear.” Format and expectations are the same as for the first fishbowl.

Optional Paper (200 points). Students may choose to write a paper instead of participating in a group activity. For most students, it is recommended that this paper be an introduction to a character from the New Testament, such as Mary Magdalene or Peter. Other topics may be permitted with prior approval. Topics should be negotiated with the professor in person or via email on or before March 2. Papers should be five to seven pages long, double spaced, and employ at least three additional sources besides MDOB. Papers are due on the date of the final Fishbowl (see schedule). (See <https://pursiful.com/2008/12/better-writing-requires-focus/> for help with writing better papers for this and every other class at Mercer University!)

Exams (2 x 200 points). Two exams will be administered on the dates listed in the course schedule. The professor is under no obligation to arrange a make-up exam for any student who misses a scheduled exam, although a make-up exam (a type and format decided by the professor) may be possible in cases of dire family emergency or other catastrophic events. Exams will be drawn from readings, lectures, and fishbowl discussions and will consist of a variety of objective, short answer, and essay type questions. Essays are to be written on paper provided by the student.

Final Exam (300 points). The Final Exam will be a comprehensive exam in the same general format of the two periodic exams. It will be administered on Friday, May 4 from 2:00 to 5:00 pm, as scheduled by the Registrar. There will be no provision for a make-up exam.

The grading scale for this course is:

A 910-1000
B+ 860-909
B 810-859
C+ 760-809
C 710-759
D 660-709
F 0-659

Any student who receives failing grades during the course is urged to arrange to meet with the professor to discuss such work.


The College’s academic misconduct policy (Honor Code) will be followed.


Each student is required and expected to be present for each scheduled class session. Since class lectures and discussions are the foundation for quizzes and examinations, attendance is crucial. Students absent from 25% or more of the scheduled class sessions will not receive credit for the course.


Out of courtesy for all those participating in the learning experience, all cell phones and pagers must be turned off before entering the classroom. Students who have legitimate reasons to have phones or pagers activated during class should set them to silent or vibrate settings. If a necessary call or page is received, students should quietly exit the class and not return for the remainder of the class period.


Students requiring accommodations for a disability should inform the instructor at the close of the first class meeting or as soon as possible. The instructor will refer you to the ACCESS and Accommodation Office to document your disability, determine eligibility for accommodations under the ADAAA/Section 504 and to request a Faculty Accommodation Form. Disability accommodations or status will not be indicated on academic transcripts. In order to receive accommodations in a class, students with sensory, learning, psychological, physical or medical disabilities must provide their instructor with a Faculty Accommodation Form to sign. Students must return the signed form to the ACCESS Coordinator. A new form must be requested each semester. Students with a history of a disability, perceived as having a disability or with a current disability who do not wish to use academic accommodations are also strongly encouraged to register with the ACCESS and Accommodation Office and request a Faculty Accommodation Form each semester. For further information, please contact Carole Burrowbridge, Director and ADA/504 Coordinator, at 301-2778 or visit the ACCESS and Accommodation Office website at http://www.mercer.edu/disabilityservices.


Each class session will have a particular focus. In preparation for lectures and discussions students should read the assigned biblical texts and articles from the MDOB. Optional MDOB articles are noted in [brackets].

Jan 10           A Bird’s-Eye View of the New Testament

Jan 12            The Quests for the Historical Jesus
Primary Sources: n/a
MDOB: Jesus; Gospels, Critical Study of; Form/Gattung

Last Day for Late Registration and Drop/Add is Jan 13

Jan 17            The Prehistory of the Gospels
Primary Sources
: Luke 1:1-4; John 20:30-31; 21:24-25
MDOB: Genre, Gospel; Gospel; Agrapha; Literary Criticism; Synoptic Problem; Q; Redaction

Jan 19            The Synoptic Gospels
Primary Sources:
Matthew 1–2; 5; Mark 1–2; Luke 4, 6
MDOB: Gospel; Matthew, Gospel of; Mark, Gospel of; Luke, Gospel of

Jan 24            The New Testament Context
Primary Sources: Galatians 4:4-5; 1 Maccabees 1–2; Pirqe Aboth 1 MDOB: Maccabees; Messiah/Messianism; Pharisees; Sadducees; Synagogue

Jan 26           Hebraic Christianity: Matthew
Primary Sources: Matthew 1–8; 10; 13; 15
MDOB: Abraham; David; John the Baptist; Lord’s Prayer, The; Matthew; Matthew, Gospel of; Pharisees; Sadducees; Temptation of Jesus

Jan 31           Hebraic Christianity: Matthew
Primary Sources:
Matthew 16–18; 21; 23–28
: Binding and Loosing; Law in the New Testament; Messiah/Messianism; Righteousness in the New Testament

Primary Sources:
Matthew 5–7
MDOB: Beatitudes; Ethics in the New Testament; Lord’s Prayer, The; Righteousness in the New Testament; Sermon on the Mount

Feb 7          Hebraic Christianity: James
Primary Sources:
Gal 2:1-14; James 1–5; The Didache
General Letters; James; James, Letter of; Wealth; Poor; Justification [Wisdom Literature; Abraham]

Feb 9            FIRST EXAM (Covering Methodology and Hebraic Christianity) 

Feb 14            Petrine Christianity: 1–2 Peter and Jude
Primary Sources: 1 Peter 1-5; 2 Peter 1–3; Jude
Jude, Letter of; Peter; Peter, Letters of; Persecution in the New Testament [Descent into Hell; Judgment, Day of]

Feb 16            Petrine Christianity: Mark
Primary Sources
: Mark 1–8
Demon in the New Testament; Disciple/Discipleship; Mark; Mark, Gospel of; Messiah/Christ; Son of God; Son of Man [Satan in the New Testament]

Feb 21           Petrine Christianity: Mark
Primary Sources
: Mark 9–16
: Abomination of Desolation; Eschatology in the New Testament; Gethsemane; Kingdom of God; Mark, Long Ending of; Passion, The; Passion Narrative

Feb 23            Hellenistic-Jewish Christianity: Luke
Primary Sources:
Luke 2–7; 9–12; 14
Banquet; Holy Spirit; Luke; Luke, Gospel of; Magnificat; Neighbor; Samaritans; Transfiguration; Virgin Birth [Genealogy in the New Testament; Poor]

Feb 25               Hellenistic-Jewish Christianity: Luke
Primary Sources:
Luke 15–19; 21–24
Ascension of Christ; Crucifixion; Publicans; Resurrection in the New Testament; Seven Words from the Cross; Travel Narrative; Women in the New Testament [Paradise]

Mar 2           FISHBOWL 2: THE PARABLES
Primary Sources
: Luke 14–16
MDOB: Kingdom of God; Parables

Mar 7            Spring Break/No Class

Mar 9            Spring Break/No Class

Mar 14            Hellenistic-Jewish Christianity: Acts
Primary Sources: Acts 1–10; 12
MDOB: Apostles, Acts of the; Barnabas; Holy Spirit; Philip; Seven, The; Simon Magus; Stephen; Theophilus; Tongues [James; Peter]

Mar 16          Hellenistic-Jewish Christianity: Acts
Primary Sources:
Acts 13–16; 18–19; 21–22; 24–25; 27–28
: Antioch; Christian; Jerusalem Council; We-Sections [Paul]

Mar 21            Hellenistic-Jewish Christianity: Hebrews
Primary Sources: Hebrews 1; 4–7; 9–13
MDOB: Apostasy; Hebrews, Letter to the; Hope in the New Testament; New Testament Use of the Old Testament; Suffering in the New Testament [Atonement, Day of; Rest; Melchizedek]

Mar 23            SECOND EXAM (Covering Petrine and Hellenistic-Jewish Christianity)

Last Day for Course Withdrawal is Mar 24

Mar 28            Pauline Christianity: Paul the Missionary and Letter-writer
Primary Sources
: 1 Thessalonians 1–5; Philemon
 Epistle/Letter; Paul; Philemon, Letter to; Thessalonians, Letters to the [Philippians, Letter to the]

Mar 30            Pauline Christianity: The Corinthian Correspondence
Primary Sources: 1 Corinthians 1–3; 7; 11; 15; 2 Corinthians 1:1–3:6; 11–13
MDOB: Corinthian Correspondence; Food Offered to Idols; Opponents of Paul

Apr 4              FISHBOWL 3: SPIRITUAL GIFTS
Primary Sources: 1 Corinthians 12–14
 Apostle/Apostleship; Gifts of the Spirit; Holy Spirit; Prophecy; Teaching; Tongues

Apr 6               Pauline Christianity: Galatians
Primary Sources
: Galatians 1-6
Apostle/Apostleship; Galatians, Letter to the; Faith; Grace; Law in the New Testament; Abraham; Hagar; Justification; Circumcision

Apr 11           Pauline Christianity: Romans
Primary Sources
: Romans 1–11
Grace; Flesh and Spirit; Justification; Romans; Letter to the; Redemption in the New Testament; Body in the New Testament [Salvation in the New Testament]

Apr 13            Pauline Christianity: Pauline Trajectories
Primary Sources:
Acts 20; Ephesians 1–6; 1 Timothy 1–5
Gnosticism; Prison Epistles; Ephesians, Letter to The; Pastoral Epistles; Timothy; Titus; [Colossians, Letter to the; Philemon, Letter to]

Apr 18            Johannine Christianity: Revelation
Primary Sources: Rev 1–6; 10–13; 19–21
Apocalyptic Literature; Revelation, Book of; Jude, Letter of; Parousia/Second Coming; Millennium; Eschatology in the New Testament [Patmos]

Apr 20           Johannine Christianity: The Gospel
Primary Sources: John 1–11
MDOB: Incarnation; John the Apostle; John, Gospel and Letters of; Lamb of God; Logos/Word; New Birth; Signs and Wonders; Sychar; Woman Taken in Adultery

Apr 25            Johannine Christianity: The Gospel
Primary Sources
: John 12–21
: Advocate/Paraclete; Beloved Disciple, The; Caiaphas; Dualism; Light/Darkness in the New Testament [Christology]

Apr 27            Johannine Christianity: The Letters
Primary Sources: 1 John 1–5; 2 John; 3 John
MDOB: Love in the New Testament; Elder; Antichrist

May 5            FINAL EXAM 2:00 pm–5:00 pm (Comprehensive)



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