REL 294
Paul and Early Christianity: Race, Ethnicity, Empire, and the New Testament Spring 2023
Division II

Class Details

In the Christian New Testament, 13 letters are attributed to “Paul” (out of a total of 27 documents that comprise the New Testament). These letters have been a rich source for a host of political and theological debates over the last two millennia, but in this course, we will examine them as expressions of earliest Christianity’s encounter with race, ethnicity, gender, and the ethics of a new religious movement, established in the midst of the oppressive Roman imperial order. Seven of these letters were almost certainly written by someone known to us as Paul of Tarsus. How Paul, a devout Jew, addressed controversial issues in his newfound communities, often in equally controversial ways, will guide our discussions of the role of religion and politics in his world as well as our own. Reading the letters of Paul and related documents in the New Testament, and interpretations of Paul over the centuries, including in modern scholarship, especially by African American, Asian American, and Latinx biblical scholars, theologians, artists, and thinkers will focus our study of religion and politics, ancient and modern.
The Class: Format: lecture
Limit: 20
Expected: 15
Class#: 3365
Grading: yes pass/fail option, yes fifth course option
Requirements/Evaluation: Students will prepare oral and written summaries of the letters (at least one per student) from their own perspectives in conversation with scholarly interpretation, as well as write short papers (two for the semester, 3-4 pages each) on relevant themes for today inherent in these ancient documents. There will also be a final, research paper (8-10 pages) examining race, ethnicity, gender, and/or politics -- then and now -- using several of the letters as sources for the written exploration.
Prerequisites: None
Enrollment Preferences: juniors and seniors, either Religion majors, concentrators, or at least one course in Religion
Distributions: Division II

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