Dr. Platypus

Home » Classroom » REL 150 Syllabus

REL 150 Syllabus

Dr. Darrell Pursiful Sect 004: TR 10:50–12:05 pm
757-0564 x250 (office) Sect 005: TR 12:15–1:30 pm
djpursiful [at] gmail [dot] com https://pursiful.com/classroom/

In REL 150, we’ll explore the literature of the New Testament. In particular, we’ll try to get a handle on the history, literature, and faith associated with the beginnings of the Christian era and see how those things are relevant today.


Here are some things the REL department hopes you gain from this class:

  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). There will be at least thirteen daily quizzes, which won’t be announced in advance. All the questions will come from the day’s assigned readings and the previous day’s discussion.

The good news is that only your top ten scores will count. The bad news is that there will be no make-up quizzes. At all. Period.

Fishbowl (200 points). You’ll need to pick one of the following group activities. A sign-up sheet will go around the first couple weeks of class.

(1) Fishbowl 1. A Fishbowl is an unscripted conversation with some of your classmates, with a little bit of guidance from the professor as needed. The point is for the class to “overhear” your discussion and learn from it. The first Fishbowl will be on the topic of the Sermon on the Mount. Be sure to read the assigned readings very carefully and come prepared to share your questions and observations.

(2) Fishbowl 2. Same as above, but the topic will be the Parables.

(3) Fishbowl 3. Same as above, but the topic will be Spiritual Gifts.

Optional Paper (200 points). Terrified of speaking in front of the class? No problem! You can choose to write a paper instead. Most students should plan to write a character study of some New Testament character such as Mary Magdalene or Peter. If you’d like to do something more creative, just let me know.

Papers should be 5–7 pages long, double spaced, and cite at least three additional sources besides MDOB. Papers are due on the date of the third 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). There will be two exams. The dates are on the syllabus. If you miss an exam, you’re probably in deep trouble, but I might be persuaded to give you a make-up in cases of dire family emergency or other catastrophic events.

Final Exam (300 points). There will be a comprehensive final exam at the end of the course. If you’re a graduating senior and you’re satisfied with your class average to that point, I’ll let you waive the final. Just please let me know that this is what you’re planning to do at least a week in advance!

There will be no provision for a make-up final exam.


Using higher math (which we always do at Mercer University), that gives you a possible 1000 points for the course. Your grade will be determined accordingly:

A 910-1000  < This is awesome!
B+ 860-909
B 810-859   < This is good
C+ 760-809
C 710-759   < This is okay
D 660-709
F 0-659   < Try to avoid this range

If you’re concerned about your grade and would like some guidance on how best to proceed, please come see me.


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


You’re an adult. You can decide for yourself whether come to class or kiss it off. Be advised, however, that quizzes and exams are largely based on class discussions. Poor attendance is usually its own reward. In any event, if you miss eight or more class sessions (>25%), you’ll be awarded a grade of F for the course.


Please turn off your phone or at least set it to vibrate. This is just common courtesy for your classmates and your teacher. If you must take a call during class, quietly collect your things and exit the classroom. We’ll see you next time.


If you have any sort of disability that may hinder your success in this course, please visit Ms. Johnson at Disability Services and come talk with me privately about what sort of accommodation you’ll need.

And now, behold! The Mercer University ADA Statement!

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 Katie Johnson, Director and ADA/504 Coordinator, at 301-2778 or visit the ACCESS and Accommodation Office website at <http://www.mercer.edu/disabilityservices>.


Read the assigned passages before you come to class that day.

Jan 8 A Bird’s-Eye View of the New Testament
Jan 10



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 11

Jan 15


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 17 The Synoptic Gospels
Primary Sources:
Mark 1:1–3:6; Matthew 1–2; 5; Luke 4, 6
MDOB: Gospel; Matthew, Gospel of; Mark, Gospel of; Luke, Gospel of
Jan 22


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 24


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 29


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
Jan 31


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 5


Hebraic Christianity: James
Primary Sources:
Gal 2:1-14; James 1–5; The Didache
General Letters; James; James, Letter of; Wealth; Poor; Justification
Feb 7 FIRST EXAM (Covering Methodology and Hebraic Christianity) 
Feb 12


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
Feb 14


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
Feb 19



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 21


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
Feb 26



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
Feb 28


Primary Sources
: Luke 14–16
MDOB: Kingdom of God; Parables
Mar 12


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
Mar 14


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


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
Mar 21 SECOND EXAM (Covering Petrine and Hellenistic-Jewish Christianity)

Last Day for Course Withdrawal is Mar 22

Mar 26 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
Mar 28


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 2


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


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 9


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
Apr 11


Pauline Christianity: Pauline Trajectories
Primary Sources:
Ephesians 1–6; 1 Timothy 1–5
Gnosticism; Prison Epistles; Ephesians, Letter to The; Pastoral Epistles; Timothy; Titus
Apr 16


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
Apr 18



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 23


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


Johannine Christianity: The Letters
Primary Sources: 1 John 1–5; 2 John; 3 John
MDOB: Love in the New Testament; Elder; Antichrist
Apr 30

May 3

Section 004: FINAL EXAM 2:00 pm–5:00 pm (Comprehensive)

Section 005: FINAL EXAM 2:00 pm–5:00 pm (Comprehensive)




%d bloggers like this: