New Testament Backgrounds – NBST 800

CG • Section 8WK • 07/01/2018 to 12/31/2199 • Modified 02/09/2022

Course Description

A study of the peoples, movements, and cultures surrounding the world of the New Testament. Special emphasis is placed on the impact of background material on the exposition of key segments of the New Testament. Resources from Greco-Roman and Second Temple Jewish archaeological and literary discoveries are examined with attention given to their influence on informing the interpretation of the New Testament. Historiography within the first century world is explored with an emphasis on its impact upon the Gospels and Acts.

For information regarding prerequisites for this course, please refer to the Academic Course Catalog.


“Backgrounds” includes many subjects, including history, religion, culture, sociology, and geography. Understanding the Greco-Roman and Judaic backgrounds to the New Testament is extremely important for interpreting and applying the text of the New Testament. Background material can be used appropriately and inappropriately, so exposing students to background material will aid in its use and in avoiding abuse. The task of studying backgrounds is truly formidable, but the rewards for hard work can be substantial.

Course Assignment

Textbook readings and Presentations

Course Requirements Checklist

After reading the Course Syllabus and Student Expectations, the student will complete the related checklist found in the Course Overview. 

Discussions (6)

The student will complete 6 Discussions in this course. For each Discussion, you will read the prompt and then respond by creating a thread that addresses the questions/issues raised by the prompt. After you have posted your own thread in response to the prompt, you must log back in and respond to the threads of at least two of your classmates, affirming where you agree, stating your reasons why you disagree, and/or offering new insights or raising new questions unanticipated in your classmates' threads. For all Discussions scheduled between Modules 1-7: Weeks 1-7, the student will post one thread of at least 600 words and at least 2 Replies of at least 200 words. The replies should be posted in the classmate’s thread.

In the thread of each Discussion, it is expected that you interact with the assigned reading as well as two scholarly sources referenced in the assigned textbook reading or scholarly peer-reviewed journal articles that are accessible in the ATLA database.Any sources used, including assigned readings, videos, and narrated PowerPoint presentations, must be properly documented in current Turabian format. You may use either footnotes/bibliography or parenthetical citations/bibliography, but not both in the same post. Correct spelling, grammar, and punctuation must be used. See the Discussion Assignments Grading Rubric for the grading criteria.

This course utilizes the Post-First feature in all Discussions. This means you will only be able to read and interact with your classmates' threads after you have submitted your thread in response to the provided prompt.

(CLO: A, B, C, D, E, F)

The Background of the New Testament Essay Assignments (2)

The student will write two 8–10-page research-based essays in current Turabian. The purpose of the essays is to explore the historical background of a specific passage contained in the New Testament and to explain how this information provides clarity regarding the passage’s meaning. The essays must include at least 8 secondary sources and 2 primary sources in addition to the course textbooks and the Bible.

(CLO: A, B, D, F)

Book Critique Assignment

Each student will submit a 6-7 page book critique of Larry Hurtado’s Destroyer of the Gods: Early Christian Distinctiveness in the Roman World (Baylor Press, 2017) in current Turabian format. The critique must include a brief summary of the book’s content and main themes and an analysis of its strengths and weaknesses. Critiques should be divided fairly evenly between summary and the critical evaluation. The critique should be double-spaced, typed in 12 point Times New Roman font, and contain one inch margins. Quotations from the book should not exceed 10% of the overall content of the critique.

(CLO: C, F)

Quizzes (8)

Each week, students will complete a weekly open-book, open-notes quiz on the assigned material. The purpose of the quizzes is to ensure that students have carefully read the assigned material and are familiar with its contents. Quizzes have a time limit of 3 hours, and they must be completed by 11:59 p.m. (EST) on final day of the module: week they are due. Each reading quiz includes 20 questions, each of which are worth one point.

(CLO: A, B, C, D, E, F)