Theology Quest and Questions, Term 1: Opening up the Gospels

This course of study opens up questions concerning the very essence of Christianity and its beginnings. Those questions take us on a journey back to the carpenter of Nazareth, prophet and wise man, who lived a controversial life, suffered a shameful death, but left an indelible mark on the history of the world. To gain access to firm information about him requires the gaining of skills and sensitivity in the reading and interpretation of the four Gospels. And sooner or later a judgement about his long-term and world-wide significance means doing something else – listening to, and then taking a position on, the views of perhaps the greatest theologian of the first century of the Christian era, Saul of Tarsus who became Paul the Christian.

All of these studies have implications for Christianity in the 21st century. The Christian Church is nourished by the Gospels but needs ever and again to listen to specialist insights and to learn fresh ways of reading and hearing them. It lives in part by recovering a sense of what Jesus’ life, death and resurrection may mean. It also lives in part by recognizing how the authors of the Gospels set about making Jesus a contemporary figure in the lives of their Christian communities. And finally it is probably no exaggeration to say that the Christian community as we know it would not be what it is but for the influence of the vision of the world that Paul braved his critics to maintain. So our quest and questions take us back in history but also bring us forward to where we ourselves are now.

This course of study opens up questions concerning the very essence of Christianity and its beginnings. Those questions take us on a journey back to the carpenter of Nazareth, prophet and wise man, who lived a controversial life, suffered a shameful death, but left an indelible mark on the history of the world. To gain access to firm information about him requires the gaining of skills and sensitivity in the reading and interpretation of the four Gospels. And sooner or later a judgement about his long-term and world-wide significance means doing something else – listening to, and then taking a position on, the views of perhaps the greatest theologian of the first century of the Christian era, Saul of Tarsus who became Paul the Christian.

All of these studies have implications for Christianity in the 21st century. The Christian Church is nourished by the Gospels but needs ever and again to listen to specialist insights and to learn fresh ways of reading and hearing them. It lives in part by recovering a sense of what Jesus’ life, death and resurrection may mean. It also lives in part by recognizing how the authors of the Gospels set about making Jesus a contemporary figure in the lives of their Christian communities. And finally it is probably no exaggeration to say that the Christian community as we know it would not be what it is but for the influence of the vision of the world that Paul braved his critics to maintain. So our quest and questions take us back in history but also bring us forward to where we ourselves are now.

What family of literature a Gospel belongs to; how the ‘little stories’ about Jesus were combined with skill and sensitivity to form large narratives which would stir the original hearers and readers, and relate to their situations; and how the three synoptic Gospels relate to one another.