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Interpreting the Gospels

Foundational unit for postgraduates

This unit offers an introduction to interpretive methods for reading gospels, with a particular focus on the Gospels of Mark and John with their uniquely different styles and so possibilities for interpretive engagement. Particular emphasis will be placed on ways in which Christian community, mission and discipleship are presented in these narratives.

Learning Outcomes: Upon successful completion of this unit, it is expected that students will be able to:

  1. Identify and evaluate various approaches to interpreting the gospels in general and the Gospels of Mark and John in particular.
  2. Articulate a nuanced understanding of contrasting theological foci in Mark and John;
  3. Discuss critically at least two different interpretive methods relevant to reading gospel narratives;
  4. Exhibit an appreciation for interpretive issues peculiar to New Testament studies;
  5. Demonstrate a capacity to make connections between text and life, hermeneutically and theologically;
  6. Demonstrate a capacity to undertake independent research at postgraduate level.

Prerequisites: None

Teaching Methods: Classroom: rotating lecture/discussion/group work over 3 hours per week


Level 1
Two 1000 word essays 50%
Two 500 word document studies 25%
Two 500 word exegetical studies 25%

One 3000 word essay  50%
Two 750 word document studies  25%
Two 750 word exegetical studies  25%

Faculty: Thoa Nguyen

Recommended reading:

* = set texts recommended for purchase

Bockmuehl, M. Seeing the Word: Refocusing New Testament Study. Grand Rapids: Baker, 2006.
Carter, W. John: Storyteller, Interpreter, Evangelist. Massachusetts: Hendrickson, 2006.
Coggins, RJ and JL. Houlden. (eds) A dictionary of biblical interpretation. London: SCM Press, 1990.
Cousar, CB. An Introduction to the New Testament: Witnesses to God’s New Work. Louisville & London: Westminster John Knox Press, 2006.
Dungan, DL. A History of the Synoptic Problem: The Canon, the Text, the Composition and the Interpretation of the Gospels. New York: Doubleday, 1999.
Green, JB (ed.) Hearing the New Testament: Strategies for interpretation. Grand Rapids, MI/Carlyle, UK: Eerdmans/Paternoster, 1995.
Hurtado LW. Lord Jesus Christ: Devotion to Jesus in Earliest Christianity. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2003.
Johnson, LT. The writings of the New Testament. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999.
Kelly, A & F, Moloney. Experiencing God in the Gospel of John. New York: Paulist Press, 2003.
Moloney, FJ. Mark: Storyteller, Interpreter, Evangelist. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2004.
Rhoads, D. Reading Mark, Engaging the Gospel. Minneapolis: Fortress, 2004.
Smith, DE. ed. Chalice Introduction to the New Testament. St Louis, Miss.: Chalice Press, 2004