Religious Studies | Introduction to the New Testament
A220 | 14131 | B. Storin


The course provides an historical introduction to the collection of ancient Christian
literature commonly called the New Testament. There are 27 writings in the New
Testament, and we will treat each independently, as they were not all written by a single
author but instead by a variety of early Christians, each of whom had their own approach to
the “Christ event” and their own take on how to live the Christian life. While these works
eventually became considered Scripture (often very soon after their composition) and
thereby foundational to the directions of later Christian traditions, our investigation is
limited to the religious and cultural contours of these writings within the historical context
of the first and second century Mediterranean world. After an introduction to that context
(which covers several aspects of ancient Judaism and the Roman Empire), our
investigations focus on the various New Testament writings themselves. The course
concludes with discussions about the “making” of the New Testament: since the writings
within the New Testament only represent a fraction of the literature about Jesus Christ and
the Christian life circulating around the ancient world, why were they selected to be in the
New Testament and not others? We will explore the various processes that resulted in the
canonization of these writings as the “New Testament.” The student should emerge from
this course with a basic knowledge of the historical context of the New Testament writings
as well as the basic religious and literary themes prevalent within them. The student can
expect to read all 27 books of the New Testament as well as some other writings from
ancient Christianity and some secondary literature (textbook and readings on Oncourse).