The Jesus Debate

REL 322/522            Sample Syllabus

The last 30 years have witnessed a vigorous debate among scholars concerning both HOW (methodologically) and WHAT (factually) we can know of the historical Jesus.  Does faith in the risen Christ shine so brightly that we can no longer discern the historical Jesus, as some think, or can we use modern historical methods to discover Jesus?  We will survey the current debate and analyze the work of four scholars with rather different notions of who Jesus was.  The course will require a good deal of critical thinking but should be accessible to the beginning student.

Instructor:    Dr. David L. Barr, 147 University Hall, 775‑2293 or 2274 (dept, leave message).  

The best way to contact me is by E-mail: david.barr@Wright.Edu; you will also find additional information on my web page:

Office Hours: 11-12 TTh and by appointment.  My mailbox is in 131 Allyn Hall Wing.

Text for the course:

Class Procedure:  Classes will be primarily a time to examine the traditions about Jesus and the reconstructions of scholars, share insights, and enter into a mutually helpful dialogue concerning the historical Jesus.


  1. To become familiar with the issues for thinking historically about Jesus.
  2. To understand and be able to use the methodology of historical Jesus research.
  3. To become familiar with some of the leading alternative views of the historical Jesus.


  1. Reading of the daily assignments according to the schedule in the syllabus.  xxxMany days will require some writing to be turned in.
  2. Satisfactory performance on the quizzes and final exam.
  3. A critical evaluation of the historicity of some aspect of the Jesus tradition, which will be presented both orally in class and in a brief written report.

The grade will be apportioned as follows:

Course Outline: