Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Postgraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2012-2013 (archived)

Module THMN41430: Images of Christ: The Gospel Story in the Arts

Department: Theology and Ministry

THMN41430: Images of Christ: The Gospel Story in the Arts

Type Open Level 4 Credits 30 Availability Available in 2012/13 Module Cap None.


  • None


  • None

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None


  • to explore a variety of artistic presentations of Christ, and to consider how some of these images of Christ may be used in communicating the gospel story today.


  • The taught component of the module will cover four media: poetry, painting, music, and film.
  • The syllabus will focus on artistic representations of Jesus’ nativity, passion, and resurrection in the Western tradition.
  • 1. Poetic representations of Jesus’ nativity, passion, and resurrection from 1600 to 2000. Poets for discussion may include George Herbert, Isaac Watts, Gerard Manley Hopkins, T. S. Eliot, Edwin Muir, R. S. Thomas, and Elizabeth Jennings.
  • 2. Portrayals of Jesus’ nativity, passion and resurrection in Western art from 1250 to 2000. Painters to be considered may include Giotto, Fra Angelico, Titian, Caravaggio, Poussin, Rembrandt, Chagall, and Dali.
  • 3. Musical representations of Jesus’ nativity, passion and resurrection, principally from 1600 to 2000; these may include Schütz’s Christmas Oratorio, Bach’s St Matthew Passion, Handel’s Messiah, Stainer’s Crucifixion, and Pärt’s St John Passion.
  • 4. Films portraying the life and death of Jesus from 1960 to 2004. Films may include Ray’s King of Kings (1961), Pasolini’s The Gospel According to St Matthew (1964), Stevens’ The Greatest Story Ever Told (1965), Zeffirelli’s Jesus of Nazareth (1977), Arcand’s Jesus of Montreal (1989), and Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ (2004).

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • On successful completion of the course the student will gain:
  • A systematic and critical understanding of the use of the arts in Christian tradition
  • A comprehensive appreciation of the variety of cultural presentations of Christ in their social contexts from medieval times to 2000 including an understanding of why diverse images of Christ became popular at certain times
Subject-specific Skills:
  • The ability to analyse and critique various portrayals of Christ from the standpoint of Christian doctrine
Key Skills:
  • The development of transferable skills in selecting and presenting past and contemporary images of Christ (in two or more media) to make Christianity comprehensible and interesting for people today.

Modes of Teaching, Learning and Assessment and how these contribute to the learning outcomes of the module

  • 30 hours contact time through lectures, discussions multimedia presentations (e.g. PowerPoint, music, video). This will normally comprise ten sessions of 3 hours each, together with some tutorial support.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours

Summative Assessment

Component: Essay Component Weighting: 30%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Referenced paper to accompany formative presentation 1500 words 100%
Component: Essay Component Weighting: 70%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Paper dealing with the artistic presentation of Jesus in one or more media (normally two media) 3500 words 100%

Formative Assessment:

A 15-minute multimedia presentation, using (at least) two artistic media, for a context specified by the student (e.g., school assembly, adult class, evangelistic gathering), together with a 1500 word referenced text covering the cultural background and artistic techniques, and offering a theological critique of the artistic works chosen for the presentation.

Attendance at all activities marked with this symbol will be monitored. Students who fail to attend these activities, or to complete the summative or formative assessment specified above, will be subject to the procedures defined in the University's General Regulation V, and may be required to leave the University