Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Postgraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2014-2015 (archived)

Module THMN41830: Preaching from the Synoptic Gospels

Department: Theology and Ministry

THMN41830: Preaching from the Synoptic Gospels

Type Open Level 4 Credits 30 Availability Available in 2014/15 Module Cap


  • None


  • None

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None


  • The module will enable students to reflect critically on, and exercise the skill of, preaching in competent, imaginative and engaging ways that are faithful both to biblical scholarship and speak into the contemporary context. Special emphasis will be placed on selected passages from the Synoptic Gospels which present particular challenges for the preacher (for example - Uncomfortable sayings in Mark: (1:16-20; 3:31-35; 10:1-12; Passages difficult to read true to Matthean intent: Matthew 18:10-14; Matthew 2:1-12; 15:21-28; Over familiar parables: Luke 10.29-37;Luke 15.11-32; Luke 18.9-14)
  • Objectives:
  • to provide students with an in-depth understanding of the theological purposes behind each of the Synoptic Gospels, in order to enable students to preach in ways faithful to authorial intent;
  • to help students further develop their exegetical skills so that they can examine the selected passages in detail;
  • to enable students to reflect critically upon contemporary homiletical theory and its relationship to praxis;
  • to enable students to develop self-reflective awareness of their own preaching;
  • to model good practise and encourage the development of skills related to preaching.


  • Lectures and seminars will offer an overview of the structure and theology of each of the synoptic Gospels, looking at the particular challenges each Gospel presents to the preacher, with exploration of the tendency to conflate material, particularly seasonal texts. We will explore the challenges of reading each Gospel in ways faithful to the writer’s intent, and how such reading might translate into sermon structure, content, and delivery. We will critically examine in detail a range of homiletic strategies in moving from text to sermon, earthing that discussion in specific passages, and in particular contemporary contexts. Students will have the opportunity to hear lecturers preach, as well as their peers, and to offer and receive feedback, as well as preaching a sermon themselves.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • detailed understanding of the distinctive theological concerns of each of the Synoptic Gospels and how these impact on homiletic methodology;
  • a critical awareness of the issues arising from preaching from each of these Gospels, with particular reference to the exegesis of particular set passages – (examples given above).
Subject-specific Skills:
  • critically reflect on a key aspect of ministerial praxis;
  • apply conceptual homiletic strategies to biblical texts in the movement from text to sermon;
  • practise and plan for the appropriate, wise and imaginative place of preaching in the ongoing mission and ministry of the church;
  • preach with careful scholarship, clarity and conviction to a non-specialist audience, expressing complex ideas with simplicity and depth, demonstrating sophisticated capacity to understand their audiences;
  • construct a sermon which is biblically rooted, pastorally aware and deals appropriately with the interface between text and context, showing awareness of the apologetic importance of connecting with popular culture
Key Skills:
  • demonstrate their ability as self-reflective, critically-aware practitioners;
  • effectively communicate ideas orally to both specialist and non-specialist audiences in a clear, concise, and engaging manner;
  • acquire and synthesise information through reading and research, and to present that information clearly and effectively in written format

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

  • Teaching and learning methods will vary, incorporating:
  • lectures: to convey information and exemplify an approach to the subject-matter, enabling students to develop a clear understanding of the subject matter relating to the set texts; to promote critical awareness of the challenges of preaching each Gospel in ways which honour the theological drive and purpose of that particular Gospel, avoiding conflation of parallel texts. Also to developing a grasp of the range of homiletic possibilities offered by texts through the modelling of effective preaching by course tutors.
  • small group discussions: to promote deeper critical engagement with the texts, offer opportunity for developing and exploring questions relating to exegesis and homiletic strategy and to encourage self-reflection and modelling of good practice through interaction with students and staff. Preaching classes: to deepen awareness of the challenges of moving from text to sermon; to sharpen understanding of how to plan, construct, shape and deliver a sermon; to assist in learning to given and receive constructive critical feedback and to enable students to develop skills in communication.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours

Summative Assessment

Component: Sermon Component Weighting: 60%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Videoed sermon 20 minutes 70%
Critical reflection 1000 words 30%
Component: Essay Component Weighting: 40%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Essay 2500 words 100%

Formative Assessment:

There is no formally assessed formative work but written and verbal feedback is given on the tasks outlined below. Students are required to keep a preaching journal in which they give a detailed analysis of 2 sermons they have listened to in a ‘live’ context based on synoptic gospel texts. Specific guidance on areas to focus on wiill be issued. These journals will be discussed in class enabling students to critically reflect on hermeneutic and homiletic strategies they have observed, and to comment on how what they have observed will shape their future development as preachers. The course tutors will give written feedback on this piece. A first version of the sermon, delivered live to a ‘preaching class’ during the second block, will be discussed in class and with the staff. Verbal feedback will be given on this sermon.

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