College Of Arts And Sciences | Images of Jesus in Western Culture
E103 | 0090 | Brakke


E103   Images of Jesus in Western Culture (Brakke) (3 Cr.) MW 1:25-2:15 SW
119 plus discussion section

Who is (or was) Jesus of Nazareth?  The mysterious suffering messiah in
the Gospel of Mark or the divine messenger of self-awareness in the
"heretical" Gospel of Thomas?  The manly preacher of capitalist ambition
in Bruce Barton's novel The Man Nobody Knows or the reluctant and tempted
Son of God in the movie The Last Temptation of Christ?  This course will
not try to answer the question of who Jesus really  is or was.  Instead,
we will study how different cultures in western history have produced
different images of Jesus that reflect the issues and values of their
times.  We will begin by reading gospels about Jesus and studying artistic
representations of him from the ancient Greco-Roman world.  We will then
turn to twentieth-century American culture and examine how Jesus is
presented in novels, films, and art.  We will see that different images of
Jesus reflect different cultural ideas about human fulfillment, gender,
and race.

The course will not be about how people "should" think about Jesus, but
about how people actually have thought about him.  While some of the views
about Jesus we will study are familiar and considered "orthodox" by
Christian believers (such as the Gospel of Mark), others are intentionally
critical of standard Christian beliefs and so have been seen by some
Christians as "false" or even "blasphemous."  We will study all these
images critically and sympathetically, so an open mind and a willingness
to take seriously a diversity of viewpoints will be essential qualities
for students in this course.

Requirements will include two tests and a few short papers.