REL 203

Jesus and the Jesus Traditions

The figure of Jesus has sparked theological debates, artistic expressions, government decrees, religious persecutions, pietistic revivals, and social and moral attitudes, affecting the lives of countless generations. This course addresses an over-arching question throughout the semester: How does an educated person in today's society evaluate such conflicting responses? The course draws on current historical and narrative approaches to understand the 'images' of Jesus in their respective literary, social, and historical contexts. It addresses some of the following questions. What did Jesus mean to the first interpreters? How did the early Christian communities view Jesus? What do the texts reveal about early Christian attitudes towards outsiders (government, different religious groups, social/moral attitudes)? How has Jesus been perceived in Christian tradition (art, literature, theology, ecclesiology) and in the development of western civilization (e.g., literature, the arts, politics, public schools)? The goal is not to give final and definitive answers. Rather, the course seeks 1) to encourage questions regarding the themes, purpose, and significance of the texts; 2) to provide methodological tools to aid such questions; 3) to place these questions and answers amidst the questions and answers of others; and 4) to understand the Jesus traditions both ancient and contemporary in light of their own social, cultural, and literary contexts.