Religious Studies | Jesus in Popular Culture
R102 | 4108 | Brakke


Who was or is Jesus of Nazareth?  The mysterious secret messiah of
the Gospel of Mark?  Or the divine visitor to earth of the Gospel of
John?  The confident “man's man” of the popular book The Man Nobody
Knows?  Or the tortured figure caught between the conflicting
demands of humanity and divinity in the controversial film “The Last
Temptation of Christ”?  This course will not decide which of these
is the “real” Jesus.  Instead, we will study how these different
images of Jesus reflect the values, hopes, and anxieties of the
cultures that produced them.  As people tell and retell the story of
Jesus, they must grapple with the same questions: What was Jesus'
mission and primary teaching?  Was he human, divine, or both?  Why
did he cause a violent commotion in the Temple?  Why was he killed
and by whom?  Why did Judas betray him?  What does it mean to say
that he rose from the dead?  We will study materials from the
cultures of the ancient Mediterranean, 19th- and 20th-century
America, and contemporary global culture, including the Gospels,
early Christian art, modern novels, and movies.
	A note of caution: Many of the images of Jesus we will study
here are held dear by many Christian believers or considered by them
to be the “true meaning” of Jesus.  But other images we will
consider were created precisely to challenge or to attack
traditional beliefs, and so have been considered by some Christians
to be heretical, offensive, even blasphemous.  We will study all
this material sympathetically and critically, so students in this
class will need, as you do in all your classes, an open mind.  But
at times some of you will need also a thick skin or a sense of humor
about matters that may be very important to you.  Students who
took “Images of Jesus in Western Culture” (E103) should not register
for this course.
	Requirements: An hourly test, two short papers, and a final
exam.  Students will also have to attend evening screenings of five
films.
	Textbooks: Bruce Barton, The Man Nobody Knows; David
Cartlidge and David Dungan, Documents for the Study of the Gospels;
José Saramago, The Gospel According to Jesus Christ; Terrence
McNally, Corpus Christi; Richard C. Stern et al., Savior on the
Silver Screen; E103 Course Reading Packet