Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Postgraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2019-2020 (archived)

Module THMN41930: The Quest for the Jesus of History and the Mission of the Church

Department: Theology, Ministry and Mission

THMN41930: The Quest for the Jesus of History and the Mission of the Church

Type Open Level 4 Credits 30 Availability Not available in 2019/20 Module Cap None.


  • None


  • None

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None


  • to enable integration of study of the ‘Quest for the Historical Jesus’ at both primary and secondary level with reflection and practice of the Mission of the Church.


  • Part one of this module explores the range of historical methods used since from the alleged beginning of the quest at the end of the 18th century down to current scholarship. It will include the following topics:
  • The Beginning of the Quest (Reimarus)
  • The Early Quest (Survey of various 19th century contributions to the Quest)
  • Eschatological approaches to Jesus (Weiss, Dalman, Schweitzer)
  • The Christ of Faith School
  • The Methods of the ‘New Quest’ School
  • The Methods of the ‘Third Quest’
  • Postmodern criticism of the Quest(s)
  • Part two will require the student to work out and present a critical account of their own preferred method. They will then undertake an investigation of one major part of the Jesus-tradition and offer their own historical reconstruction. The following are possible topics:
  • ‘Jesus’ Teaching and Praxis in relation to the Kingdom of God’
  • ‘Jesus as Healer’
  • ‘Jesus and Women Followers’
  • ‘Jesus and the Political Realities of his Time’
  • ‘The Triumphal Entry’
  • ‘Jesus and the Last Supper’
  • ‘The Trial and Crucifixion’
  • ‘The Resurrection’
  • Students will be expected to engage with the complexity of the traditional sources related to the topic. Those who decide that the Quest has little value for Christian theology and mission will still be required to demonstrate understanding of the assumptions and methods of the Quest and to relate their account of the tradition to accounts characteristic of the Quest.
  • Part three: The Quest and Christian Mission. The final part of the module will look at the complex relationship between the Quest(s) and Christian mission. It will include:
  • apologetic or antagonistic responses to unorthodox reconstructions (e.g. Reimarus, Strauss, Schweitzer, Jesus Seminar);
  • approaches to mission that assimilate or assume particular reconstructions
  • 1) A. Ritschl’s liberal gospel
  • 2) Schweitzer’s own missionary career
  • 3) The Christ of Faith School and Mission
  • 4) Liberation Theology and New Quest reconstructions of Jesus (e.g. Boff, Gutiérrez)
  • 5) Postmodern quests.
  • Consideration of the missiological implications of more recent (‘Third Quest’) reconstructions will then be included. Finally, the student will be invited to write up their work from part two in a way that demonstrates informed awareness of how their handling of the Jesus tradition may impact upon their participation in Christian mission. The ability to work in the primary texts of the New Testament and some background in Synoptic and Johannine studies would be desirable, but not required.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • By the end of this module, students should be able to:
  • identify and evaluate the historical methods employed by some of the main contributors to the quest for the historical Jesus
  • offer a critical account of their own preferred historical method for approaching the Jesus-tradition
Subject-specific Skills:
  • undertake their own historical investigation of a part of the Jesus-tradition
  • reflect critically upon the implications of the various reconstructions for Christian mission.

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

  • The course will be a combination of research based lectures and student led seminars and discussions based on extensive primary and secondary reading. This will involve students in building their knowledge base and appropriate skills for research in this field and in reflective ministry in the Church. The course is taught normally over 30 hours in 20 x 90mins sessions.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Lectures Part 1 – 7, Part 3 - 6 Weekly 90 minutes 19.5
Tutorials 2 per student One early in course to prepare for Part 2. One to offer critique of the student seminar (in parts 2-3). 15 minutes each 0.5
Seminars Part 2 - 7 (student-led) Weekly 45-60 minutes 7

Summative Assessment

Component: Essay Component Weighting: 100%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Essay based on seminar 5000 words 100%

Formative Assessment:

One essay (2,500) that critically compares and contrasts the historical reconstructions of two major contributors to the Quest of the Historical Jesus. One seminar (45-60 mins) that outlines the fruit of a historical investigation of one major part of the Jesus Tradition. Tutorials to discuss student seminar presentations.

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