Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Undergraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2023-2024 (archived)

Module THEO2671: The Historical Jesus

Department: Theology and Religion

THEO2671: The Historical Jesus

Type Open Level 2 Credits 20 Availability Not available in 2023/24 Module Cap None. Location Durham


  • None.


  • None.

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None.


  • To familiarise students with the key features of Jesus research in a historical context.
  • To develop an understanding of Palestinian history in the first century CE and of the history of Christianity in this period.
  • To investigate the critical interplay between historical scholarship, biblical exegesis and systematic theology.


  • The question of what Jesus of Nazareth said and performed in the time before the crucifixion is nowadays far more vivid in New Testament research than some decades ago. The so-called third quest after the historical Jesus attracts evangelical as much as secular researchers, and it is not at least inspired by new insights (or insights pretending to be new?) concerning Ancient Judaism which much more than in Bultmanns times appear to make it possible to understand Jesus traditions in the historical context of Early Judaism. As a consequence, much more in the Jesus tradition is regarded as historical by many researchers nowadays than one could imagine in the older historical criticism.
  • This module aims at defining, discussing and applying methods for a critical evaluation of sources both inside and outside the New Testament in order to reconstruct knowledge about the historical Jesus.
  • New theories about the historical researchers will be taken in consideration and assessed critically along with the sources. The module can be taken both by students reading Greek and students not reading Greek.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • A systematic understanding of the methods and relevant history of historical-critical scholarship and of theories concerning the historical Jesus.
  • A coherent and detailed knowledge of the historical milieu of early Christianity, especially in Palestine, and an understanding of its principal characteristics.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • The ability to read, interpret, and evaluate ancient sources pertaining to the historical Jesus, and to situate Jesus traditions within their ancient context.
  • The ability to evaluate modern and contemporary scholarship on the historical Jesus critically, and with a recognition of the ways in which theories on the historical Jesus may have been influenced by theological or other presuppositions.
Key Skills:
  • Skills in the acquisition and interpretation of information through close, nuanced reading of primary and secondary sources.
  • Skills in the structured presentation of information in written form.
  • Skills in the conducting of research.
  • Skills in thinking theologically and historically.

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

  • Seminars enhance subject-specific knowledge and understanding both through preparation and through interaction with students and staff, promoting awareness of different viewpoints and approaches.
  • Summative essays develop subject-specific knowledge and understanding, along with student skills in the acquisition of information through reading and research, and in the structured presentation of information in written form.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Seminars 20 10 in Michaelmas Term; 10 in Epiphany Term 1.5 hours 30
Preparation and Reading 170
Total 200

Summative Assessment

Component: Critical Review Component Weighting: 20%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Critical review of a research article 1500 words 100%
Component: Essay Component Weighting: 80%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Essay 5000 words 100%

Formative Assessment:

A formative review (1500 words) in Michaelmas Term. A formative essay (3000 words) in Epiphany Term.

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