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Level 6

6AAT3201 Jesus in Context


The modules run in each academic year are subject to change in line with staff availability and student demand so there is no guarantee this module will run. Module descriptions and information may vary depending between years.

Credit value: 15
Module tutor: Dr Jonathan Norton
Assessment: One 2,500-word essay (40%) and one two-hour examination (60%)

Students are reassessed in the failed elements of assessment and by the same methods as the first attempt.

Teaching pattern: one two-hour class per week over ten weeks
Pre-requisites: None

The module provides an introduction to the historical quest for Jesus in modern scholarship and seeks to probe the evidence in order to consider how we can arrive at reliable assessments about Jesus as a historical figure. Jesus is located within his contemporary context of Second Temple Judaism. Key topics of his life will be explored in lectures and in small group work.

Sample Topics

  • The historical quest for Jesus: history, basic problems, recent proposals
  • Sources and criteria in the historical quest for Jesus
  • John the Baptist and Jesus' baptism
  • The Kingdom of God and Jesus' ethical teaching
  • Jesus’ healings and exorcisms
  • Debate: Pharisees, Sadducees, Herodians
  • Jesus’ passion and death

Past syllabus

Please find syllabus document available here for academic year 2015-16. Please be aware that the content of the syllabus will differ each academic year. 

Further information

Module aims
  • to familiarise students with the history and problems of, as well as current methodological approaches to, the historical quest for Jesus;
  • to enable students to understand Jesus within his social, political, geographical, cultural, and religious context;
  • to identify core texts from the gospels and elsewhere that provide evidence for Jesus;
  • to enable students to study these texts, using various critical tools and paying attention to Jesus’ context.
Learning outcomes

Generic skills

  • to engage critically with primary sources
  • to assess critically discussions of those sources in secondary literature, and to recognise the various contexts within which those discussions are carried out
  • to present confidently ideas and arguments in both oral and written form 

Module specific skills

  • to recognise the methodological problems and theological contexts of the historical quest for Jesus
  • to engage with recent scholarly contributions to the study of Jesus
  • to understand Jesus within his first-century Jewish- Palestinian context
  • to evaluate texts in the gospels using historical methodologies
  • to engage with the appropriate critical tools used in the interpretation of these texts
  • to assess the process of reformulation of the Jesus tradition as represented by the canonical and extra-canonical gospels


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