Can We Write a History of Jesus?

Course Description

Many TV shows and documentaries have tried to provide a window into the life of Jesus of Nazareth from a strictly historical perspective. These shows often present the Jesus of the Gospels (or the Jesus of faith) as less real or verifiable. In this course, renowned biblical scholar Rev. Jerome Murphy-O'Connor provides a compelling and accessible lecture about the optimistic developments in biblical scholarship with respect to the historical Jesus. After providing a brief history of biblical theology, Rev. Murphy-O'Connor counters the skepticism and suspicious claims of the Jesus Seminar (often sensationalized in the media) and others by explaining how scholarship has evolved to the point that we can develop an historical account of Jesus of Nazareth. This course will also provide a brief history of biblical theology and an opportunity to discuss concepts of revelation in light of Rev. Murphy-O'Connor's lecture.

Course Content

Unit 1

  1. History of Biblical Scholarship.
  2. Divino Afflante Spiritu.

Unit 2

  1. Lecture by Jerome Murphy-O'Connor.
    1. The Descent into skepticism created by source criticism and form criticism.
    2. The Ascent from skepticism created by studies in orality, anthropology and archeology.

Unit 3

  1. Dei Verbum.
  2. Revelation.

Course Format

  • Four weeks in duration, which includes orientation week.
  • Typically 15-20 students in each course.
  • All readings available online in text format.
  • Supplemental readings are provided to encourage further exploration of topic, internet links provided for all readings.
  • Written assignments (150-200 words) required.
  • Facilitator moderated chat session with students in course.

Required Texts

  • All course materials are available online in the course.

Participation Requirements

  • View or read the lecture for each unit.
  • Read assigned texts; keep notes, questions, and comments for class discussion.
  • Participate in the class discussion using the Forums area: post at least 2 comments, questions, or responses per unit.
  • Write 150-200 words in response to the assignment in each unit.
  • Participate in at least 2 scheduled chat sessions throughout the course.
  • Complete the course evaluation.

Time Expectations

3 to 5 hours per week, depending on your learning style and schedule.

Course Certificate

A certificate of completion awarding 15 contact hours will be sent upon completion of all course requirements.

Meet the Developer

Rev. Jerome Murphy-O'Connor, O.P.

Rev. Jerome Murphy-O'Connor, O.P.

A Dominican priest and professor at the Ecole Biblique et Archeologique Francaise in Jerusalem, Father Murphy-O'Connor was a leading authority on freedom, grace and sin in the work of St. Paul, with a particular focus on the Corinthian letters. Among his 14 books are St. Paul the Letter-Writer: His World, His Options, His SkillsPaul of Tarsus: His StorySt. Paul: A Critical Life; and What is Religious Life? He also wrote The Holy Land: An Archaeological Guide from Earliest Times to 1700, now in its fourth edition, and published hundreds of articles in journals, dictionaries, encyclopedias and other publications. Born in Ireland, Father Murphy-O'Connor earned his doctoral degree from the University of Fribourg (Switzerland). He spent many summers teaching as a visiting scholar at universities worldwide, including at the University of Notre Dame.