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Durham University

Postgraduate Module Handbook 2021/2022

Archive Module Description

This page is for the academic year 2021-22. The current handbook year is 2022-23

Department: Theology and Religion

THEO40130: Paul and his Interpreters

Type Open Level 4 Credits 30 Availability Not available in 2021/22


  • The study of the New Testament at undergraduate level.


  • None

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None.


  • To investigate the variety of ways in which the memory and letters of Paul have been employed in the history of interpretation, with focus on major figures in this history .
  • To build on undergraduate study of the New Testament, providing depth in the analysis of the hermeneutics of one central figure, Paul.
  • To provide a foundation for research in Pauline studies at doctoral level.


  • Paul was a radioactive figure, with a very long half-life. His impact in his own life, and the power of his surviving letters have ensured that his reputation and his writings have been much studied and deployed in the course of Christian history. His letters are sufficiently multi-dimensional, and contain sufficient gaps and ambiguities, to make them open to a wide range of interpretations, and he thus provides an excellent case-study in the history of interpretation of the New Testament.
  • This course will study selected moments in that history, where definitive lines of interpretation have been laid down. It begins in the new Testament itself, with the images of Paul offered in the Deutero-Pauline letters and in the Acts of Apostles, and then proceeds to select moments in the second century, such as The Acts of Paul and Thecla, Valentinian Gnostics and Marcion. The first term will be completed with studies of John Chrysostom, Augustine, Luther and Calvin as interpreters of Paul's letters.
  • The second term will focus on the interpretation of Paul in the modern period, from F.C. Baur, through Schweitzer, Bultmann, Barth and Kasemann to the contemporary generation of Pauline scholars, including the 'new perspective'.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • By the end of the module, the students should be able to:
  • Understand and describe the most significant trajectories in the interpretation of Paul from the first to the twentieth centuries.
  • Analyse the processes by which select figures in the history of interpretation have engaged with the text of Paul's letters.
  • Describe in depth at least one example in this history, putting that interpretation into historical and cultural perspective.
Subject-specific Skills:
Key Skills:

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

  • The seminars will survey, over 19 weeks, a select array of interpretations of Paul. Students will prepare for each seminar by guided reading, will make occasional seminar presentations, and will examine examples in depth in their formative and summative essays.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Seminars 19 Weekly 1.5 28.5
Preparation and Reading 271.5
Total 300

Summative Assessment

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

Formative Assessment:

One 5000 word essay.

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