CC 325 AX - Portraits of Jesus

3-4 Credits
MWF 11:50am-12:40pm - Professor Smith
Cross-listed with THEO 329 CX
Fulfills upper level theology requirement

Who was Jesus? A first-century Jewish rabbi calling Israel to return to covenant fidelity with Yahweh? A Galilean peasant proclaiming a subversive message of social and economic justice? A wandering Cynic sage? A mystical healer? The Son of God? The four canonical Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) represent some of the earliest and most widely known literary attempts to interpret the significance of this man’s life, death, and resurrection. They are by no means the only such attempts, however: numerous non-canonical gospels give strikingly different accounts of the importance of Jesus. Moreover, throughout the history of the church, readers of these primary sources have interpreted them in myriad ways, yielding portraits of Jesus that both complement and contradict each other.

This course examines some of the aims, methods, and results of attempts—both religious and secular—to understand Jesus of Nazareth over the past two millennia. In our study of the Gospels, we will concern ourselves with the following broad questions: What can be known about the historical person of Jesus? Of what theological significance is this figure for contemporary Christian faith? How has Jesus shaped western intellectual history, and how have various cultural concerns shaped our portrayal of him? We will further explore the portrayal of Jesus in novels, visual art, and films. Among the films to be viewed and discussed will be: The Last Temptation of Christ (Scorcesi, 1988); Jesus of Montreal (Arcand, 1989); The Passion of the Christ (Gibson, 2004); and Son of Man (Dornford-May, 2006).

Requirements will include weekly critical assignments, two 3-4 page papers, one final 10-12 page paper, and an oral presentation based on the final paper.

Required texts:

• Holy Bible. New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) with Apocrypha. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1989. ISBN: 9780195283808
• Gompertz, Rolf. A Jewish Novel about Jesus. iUniverse, 2003. ISBN: 9780595284375
• Hornik, Heidi J., and Mikeal C. Parsons. Illuminating Luke, Volume 3: The Passion and Resurrection Narratives in Italian Renaissance and Baroque Painting. T & T Clark International, 2007. ISBN: 9780567026965
• Longenecker, Bruce W. The Lost Letters of Pergamum: A Story from the New Testament World. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Academic, 2003. ISBN: 9780801026072
• Pelikan, Jaroslav. Jesus Through the Centuries: His Place in the History of Culture. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1985. ISBN: 9780300079876
• Saramago, José. The Gospel According to Jesus Christ. Translated from the Portuguese by Giovanni Pontiero. New York: Harcourt Brace & Co., 1994. ISBN: 9780156001410
• Wright, N. T. The Challenge of Jesus: Rediscovering Who Jesus Was and Is. Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 1999. ISBN: 9780830822003