Inside the PTS Curriculum: Gospels, Acts, and Johannine Epistles
The “Inside the PTS Curriculum” series gives you an inside look at what students are learning in their courses at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary. Each article focuses on one class, its subject matter, what students can expect to learn, the required texts, and the kinds of assignments students can expect. We’ll let you know whether the course is required or available for the Master of Divinity (MDiv), the Master of Arts in Pastoral Studies (MAPS), or Master of Theological Studies (MTS). Each article will include the professors’ bio.
This week’s course is: Gospels, Acts, and Johannine Epistles.
About Gospels, Acts, and Johannine Epistles
This term Pittsburgh Theological Seminary students will be studying the Gospels with Dr. Edith Humphrey and Dr. Tucker Ferda in the class “Gospels, Acts, Johannine Epistles.” A required course for the Master of Divinity (MDiv) degree, the class also fulfills a requirement for the Master of Arts in Pastoral Studies (MAPS), and is open to students in the Master of Theological Studies (MTS) degree.
Students in the course will get an introduction to Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John (along with John’s Epistles), and Act, as well as explore their significance in the Church and the world today.
The class devotes time and attention to the specific content of each of the books, as well as to their genres and connections with ancient biography or history. Students will also explore the various theological and historical portraits of Jesus and learn about the methods used in critical study of the Gospels (source, form, redaction, literary, sociohistorical, canonical, and rhetorical).
By the end of the class, students will have a better understanding of the contents, structures, and literary genres of these New Testament books. They will also gain an appreciation for the historical context of Second Temple Judaism and the Greco-Roman world.
Students will leave with tools and methods to interpret Acts, the Gospels, and John’s epistles as Christian Scripture, as well as the ability to consider how socio-cultural context shapes interpretive traditions and practices. In addition to the historical and interpretive work students will do, they will spend time reflecting on the connection between Christian ministry and biblical insight, both then and now.
As a first year course, the Gospels, Acts, and Johannine Epistles class offers students an opportunity to begin to engage in graduate-level theological research, as well as foster a love of the texts in their unity and diversity.
As to required texts, students will use either the New Oxford Annotated Bible with Apocrypha or Harper Collins Study Bible (NRSV) with Apocrypha. They will also use Burton H. Throckmorton’s, Gospel Parallels or Kurt Aland’s Synopsis of the Four Gospels (which is Greek/English). The final required text is the second edition of David Wenham and Steve Walton, Exploring the New Testament: A Guide to the Gospels and Acts, vol. 1.
In addition to course participation and written reflection on the assigned readings, students can expect three short writing assignments, two content quizzes, and a five to seven page essay.
About the Instructors
The professors for this course are uniquely qualified to lead students in their exploration of New Testament. Dr. Edith M. Humphrey is the William F. Orr Professor of New Testament at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary (2002-present). Prior to her service at PTS, she taught at several colleges and universities in Canada and was professor of Scripture at Augustine College, Ottawa, Canada, from 1997-2002, where in her final year she served as dean. She earned her bachelor’s (with honors) from Victoria University (University of Toronto) and received her doctorate from McGill University, Montreal, where she was awarded the Governor General’s Gold Medal.
A prolific author, several of Dr. Humphrey’s recent books include, Further Up and Further In: Orthodox Conversations with C. S. Lewis on Scripture and Theology (St. Vladimir’s Press, 2017); Scripture and Tradition: What the Bible Really Says (Baker Academic, 2013); Grand Entrance: Worship on Earth as in Heaven (Brazos, 2010).
In addition to her writing and scholarship, Dr. Humphrey is also an accomplished musician. She was the musical director and organist at St. George’s Anglican Church in Ottawa, she now helps with her parish choir, participates in the PTS Taizé ensemble, and plays oboe in the North Pittsburgh Symphonic Band. In addition to her thought-provoking lectures and discussions, Dr. Humphrey often incorporates music into her classes.
Also teaching this course is Dr. Tucker Ferda, who began his position as visiting assistant professor of New Testament in 2017 after serving as a lecturer since 2013. He earned his Ph.D. in New Testament from the University of Pittsburgh, where he also served as teaching fellow. In 2015, he was named one of only three Society of Biblical Literature Regional Scholars, an award which “recognizes and promotes outstanding entry-level scholars.” Dr. Ferda has expertise in a wide range of areas in biblical studies, including the Gospels, the life of Jesus, the Old Testament in the New, the history of biblical interpretation, Hellenistic Jewish literature, the Dead Sea Scrolls, and biblical theology.