Skip to main content

Study information

Encountering the Historical Jesus

Module titleEncountering the Historical Jesus
Module codeTHE2031
Academic year2019/0
Module staff

Professor Louise Lawrence (Convenor)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks


Number students taking module (anticipated)


Module description

Jesus, as a historical figure, continues to stir up controversy and debate in scholarly and popular circles. This module will introduce a variety of historical methods used within the ‘Quests for the Historical Jesus’ and develop a plausible picture of his life, aims and the movement he led. Beginning with an analysis of the state of the ‘quest’ for the historical Jesus it will then critically examine some of the key New Testament narratives and theological interpretations of the life and teachings of this mysterious Galilean.

Module aims - intentions of the module

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 1. Demonstrate a detailed knowledge of the various aims, agendas, sources and methodologies of contemporary historical Jesus scholarD
  • 2. Apply diverse historical critical tools to selected New Testament texts and other relevant literature and evidence
  • 3. Critically evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of diverse interpretive methods and judge the plausibility of various constructions of the historical figure of Jesus

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 4. Demonstrate knowledge of, and critical reflection on, contrasting scholarly and historical perspectives
  • 5. Show the ability to make careful use of core methods of historical-critical and social-scientific biblical interpretation

ILO: Personal and key skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 6. Communicate clearly and imaginatively in both written and oral form
  • 7. Construct logical and lucid arguments using appropriate methods
  • 8. Participate appropriately within group work
  • 9. Generously engage with methods and people who represent opinions and viewpoints different from your own

Syllabus plan

Whilst the content may vary from year to year, it is envisioned that it will cover some or all of the following topics:

  • Introducing the quest[s] for the historical Jesus
  • Inside and Outside the New Testament
  • Methods of E.P. Sanders
  • Methods of J. D. Crossan
  • The birth of Jesus and the infancy narratives
  • John the Baptist: Forerunner or Guru?
  • Kingdom of God versus Kingdoms of World
  • Jesus' Teaching (Parables; Wisdom) 
  • Jesus as Magician/ Miracle Worker: Exorcisms and Healings
  • Jesus’ Roles, Titles and Self-Understanding 
  • The Execution: Jewish/Roman Involvement
  • Easter Morning: What Really Happened? 

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled learning and teaching2211 x 2 hour lectures
Scheduled learning and teaching1111 x 1 hour seminars
Scheduled learning and teaching111 x 1 hour tutorial
Guided independent study266Private study

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Essay503000 words1-9Written and oral feedback
Take home examination4024 hours1-9Written feedback
Seminar presentation1010 minutes1-9Written feedback on content and presentation

Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
EssayEssay1-9Referral/Deferral period
Take home examinationTake home examination1-9Referral/Deferral period

Re-assessment notes

Deferral – if you miss an assessment for certificated reasons judged acceptable by the Mitigation Committee, you will normally be either deferred in the assessment or an extension may be granted. The mark given for a re-assessment taken as a result of deferral will not be capped and will be treated as it would be if it were your first attempt at the assessment.

Referral – if you have failed the module overall (i.e. a final overall module mark of less than 40%) you will be required to submit a further assessment as necessary. If you are successful on referral, your overall module mark will be capped at 40%.

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

  • G. Theissen and A. Merz, The Historical Jesus: A Comprehensive Guide (1998)
  • General Reading M. J. Borg, ed. Jesus: A New Vision (1987)
  • M. J. Borg and N. T. Wright, The Meaning of Jesus: Two Visions (1999)
  • J. D. Crossan, The Historical Jesus: The Life of a Mediterranean Jewish Peasant (1991)
  • J. D. Crossan, Jesus: A Revolutionary Biography (1993)
  • C. J. den Heyer, Jesus Matters: 150 Years of Jesus Research (1996)
  • P. Fredriksen, Jesus of Nazareth. King of the Jews: A Jewish Life and the Emergence of Christianity (1999)
  • R. Horsley, Jesus and the Spiral of Violence : Popular Jewish Resistance in Roman Palestine (1987)
  • R. Horsley, Bandits, Prophets and Messiahs: Popular Movements in the Time of Jesus (1999)
  • J. P. Meier, A Marginal Jew: Rethinking the Historical Jesus, Volumes 1 , 2 & 3 (1991; 1994; 2001)
  • E. P. Sanders, Jesus and Judaism (1985)
  • E. P. Sanders, The Historical Figure of Jesus (1993)
  • N. T. Wright, Jesus and the Victory of God (1996)

Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

Credit value30
Module ECTS


Module pre-requisites


Module co-requisites


NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date