DIRECTIONS: Choose one question. Write an essay of between 750 and 1000 words [three to four typed, double-spaced pages]. The questions are rather open-ended. Be sure to provide your own sharp focus by writing a clear thesis statement in your introduction. Underline your thesis statement. DRAW FROM APPROPRIATE SCRIPTURAL SOURCES AS WELL AS THE AUTHORS YOU'VE READ. IF YOU WISH YOU MAY ALSO USE WEB SOURCES. 

The essay is due on Thursday, March 22.

1. Write an essay discussing the problem of using gospels as sources for understanding the historical Jesus. In your essay, explain what a gospel is, how the gospel writer gets and develops materials into the distinctive literary form we call a gospel, and the limits of gospels as historical sources. Be sure to give some examples of how biblical/historical criticism works in determining historical material on Jesus' life.  Make explicit use of Mark, Paula Fredrickson or Ehrman, and, if you wish, web sources.

2. A central question for historians is why Jesus was killed. How does one's understanding of the historical Jesus depend on an understanding of his death? Briefly describe the two major historical explanations [political subversive or religious subversive] and discuss which one seems particularly persuasive to you? Be sure to make explicit use of either Ehrman or Fredricksen.

3. "The historical Jesus was a charismatic Jewish teacher and eschatological prophet who witnessed to the power of God for delivering Israel from its suffering; Paul transformed Jesus’ message and in doing so "de-Judaized early Christianity, transforming it into a new religion." Discuss this thesis  by  drawing critically on Pelikan’s first chapter, "The Rabbi," (you can also find a link to it in my online notes), and at least one of the authors you read as well as appropriate sections of the Gospel Paul's letters.

4. Use Paul's First Letter to the Corinthians to write an essay describing an early Christian community. What appears to be the major features of that community and what are the main issues that will come to shape the Church after the Apostolic Age? Besides First Corinthians be sure to use either Chadwick or Noll  for context.

NOTE: I would be happy to help with this assignment. Drop in during office hours or E-mail me at You might also like to raise some questions or try out some of your ideas in the Caucus Forum.  You'll find an Essay#1 item there. Use it to get reactions to your ideas as you prepare.