Religious Studies | JESUS IN POPULAR CULTURE
R102 | 10440 | Brakke, D


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 many 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; Jose Saramago, The
Gospel According to Jesus Christ; Terrence McNally, Corpus Christi;
Richard C. Stern etal., Savior on the Silver Screen; E103 Course
Reading Packet