The student is able to:
• reproduce the main insights of the author as presented in this
• do literature research into the historical context and place in
the history of ideas of this classic;
• give a scholarly analysis and discussion of the form and
rhetorical flow of the text;
• describe and present the main argumentative steps in a specific
part of this classic, and evaluate their coherence with other aspects of
• discern anomalies and ambiguities in the text and bring them to
bear on the argumentative power of it;
• apply insights from this classic to other texts from the same
• reflect on ways of approaching this text from the perspective of
one’s own specific methodology within theology and/or religious studies;
• analyze contemporary religious phenomena from the perspective of
reading this classic work so as to stimulate discussion in a community
• confront ideas proposed by the author of the classic with one’s
• collect research results from a subgroup, organize the material
in a logical fashion, pick out the key issues and present those to the
reading community and a broader audience;
• reflect critically on and develop their skills in reading
classics in a scholarly and independent way.
In this course, research master students and divinity students read an
absolute top classic from the field of theology and/or religious
studies. Staff members are cordially invited to join in order to create
a community of readers. The course will include two types of sessions.
During plenary sessions (the second session of the week), the whole
group will practice close reading of a rather small but representative
piece of text. This meeting is particularly open to staff members.
During this meeting, flow of argumentation, ambiguities and evaluation
will take center stage, introduced by a few short presentations from
students or staff members. During the first session of the week, a
larger part of the work is discussed, with a primary emphasis on the
historical context and specific methodological approaches to the text.
In most of these sessions, small groups will carry out their own
research on a specific part or theme the books under discussion during
that week. Each subgroup will present the results of their work during
the first session. At the end of the course, students will present the
results of the course during a public event to which all faculty staff
and students will be invited.
Form of tuition
Seminar, including group sessions, presentations, plenary close reading.
Type of assessment
Oral presentations and feedback on them will be part of this course, and
will be 50% of the mark of the course. Every student has to make sure to
present her work at least once during this period. The other 50% will
consist of a paper.
• The length of the paper should be between 2000 and 2300 words;
• Address a theme from E.P. Sanders' treatment of Paul within the
context of Palestinian Judaism,
• Pose a research question related to your religious tradition and/or a
phenomenon in your field of research;
• Critically discuss the approach offered by Sanders in his 1977
Criteria for evaluating the paper: a clear, coherent, well-defined,
concise text with relevant research question(s), justification for the
choice of at least one particular methodology, and relevant
bibliography, transparently composed answers to the research question(s)
in a well documented manner (i.e. with detailed
references to the texts, and interacting with relevant literature),
clear conclusions, adequate bibliographical annotations and layout.
Criteria for evaluating presentations in class:
• Keeps to the time;
• Clear question, steps to answer it, clear conclusion;
• Critical discussion of the literature read;
• Engaging the others;
• Using audiovisual tools efficiently (when applicable).
The work that we will reflect upon is the monograph that changed the
field of Pauline studies and ushered in the so-called "New Perspective
- E.P. Sanders. Paul and Palestinian Judaism: A Comparison of Patterns
of Religion. London: SCM Press, 1977, ISBN 978-1506438146 (627 pp.).
In 2015 Sanders added yet another voluminous book to the massive
literature on Paul, in which he summarises his views of Paul, reached in
the decades since he wrote his 1977 classic. We will not read this new
work too, but it is at least worth mentioning:
- E.P. Sanders. Paul: The Apostle's Life, Letters, and Thought.
Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2015. ISBN 978-0-8006-2956-4 (862 pp.).
Recommended background knowledge
Few books have so thoroughly changed, or at least influenced, an entire
discipline as Sanders' Paul and Palestinian Judaism has. It is a
specialist work, but reading and discussing it is a valuable enterprise
for all students of theology and religious studies. Knowledge of Hebrew
and Greek is not required, though it may be of help.
This course is part of the Research Master and of the Ministry Master.