Since my classes last only a semester, I use the first day back from Winter/Christmas Break the same way I use the first day of school in August. I introduce myself to my students and ask them to introduce themselves to one another. Also, I give them a question and ask them to share their answer with the whole class. My question is simple: ‘What are you looking forward to learning about the New Testament?’ (I ask the same question to my ‘Religion in the United States’ students, but about ‘American religion’ rather than ‘the New Testament’. I’ll talk about this in a future post.) Their responses were interesting and worth sharing here. These are the cumulative responses of over sixty students:
- Many gave the obvious answer: Jesus. Many added specifics, like Jesus’ life, Jesus’ influence, his influence on religion, his impact on his contemporaries, his journeys, his ‘powers’, the narratives/stories about him, the geopolitical context of his day, why the Romans killed him, and there was a group who was fascinated by his ‘hidden years’ (i.e., teens, twenties).
- A couple felt like they knew a lot about Jesus, but want to know what else is discussed in the NT.
- Some were interested in how God is depicted in the NT, how God’s depiction in the NT is similar to or different from the OT, what God is like, how does God act, and what role does God play in morality in the NT.
- Several who took my Old Testament class last semester wanted to know how the New Testament connects to the Old.
- There were a few interested in the people around Jesus—Peter, James, John, Mary Magdalene, etc. Other said the same thing, but wanted to know more about these people as the ‘main characters’.
- Other interests included the miracles of the NT, the parables, the role of women in Jesus’ movement.
- There were a couple who cared mostly about the modern impact of the NT: why so many denominations? why do people have faith in Jesus now? how is Jesus depicted in movies? what moral principles can be derived from the NT?