Telford Work


Biblical Ethics

Spring 2010

A course syllabus is not "a binding contract between professor and student, but a professor's aspiration for how he profoundly wishes the semester will turn out." Michael C. Tinkler

Course Description

The Bible displays the life of Israel and the first Christian churches and believers, and guides the moral conduct of all who gather and believe along with them. This course concentrates on the moral theologies of the biblical writings, especially those of the New Testament. We will learn to read the scriptures in their original cultural contexts and reflect on our own contemporary cultural contexts, in order to learn how to share the gospel, live faithfully, and discern signs of God’s Kingdom.

The course brings together the academic fields of biblical interpretation, theological ethics, doctrines of Scripture and the Church, missiology, and culture. It focuses on (a) the church’s character and task, (b) the good news entrusted to Christians to believe, show, and proclaim to the world, (c) original and contemporary cultural contexts as settings and audiences of Christ’s mission, and especially (d) the holy scriptures as mirrors of faithful Christian life and models for interpreting both this task, this gospel, and these many contexts.


1. Attendance at class meetings; active participation in class sessions and discussions (10%).

2. One formal written presentation of around 600 words, on either required class reading or outside reading (15%); these are listed on the schedule.

3. Three formal written exercises of 1000-1200 words, on topics linked from the syllabus below (60%) and drawing principally from the required readings; due as noted on the schedule.

4. One written question per class discussion reading, due at the beginning of the day it is to be discussed (15%).

No exams or research paper; instead, assignments focus on the required readings.



First Topic



Second Topic

Assignment due


Course and syllabus

Rev 1-3; Hays ch 8; Meeks 143-147

Becoming a reader: Revelation

Presentation on Meeks ch 1 [Telford Work]


Community origins: Genesis, Deuteronomy 1-4

Meeks intro; Hays pp 1-15; Hays ch 5

Community origins: Luke/Acts



House rules: Deuteronomy 5-26, James

Meeks 147-160; Deut 5; James 1

Scripture and ethics in Christian life: Discussion of Fowl and Jones ch 1 [___________]

Presentation on Markus Bockmuehl, “Keeping It Holy”* [___________]


Wise nurture: Proverbs, Pastorals

Longenecker, “ Four Ways of Using the New Testament,” 185-191

Learning to become wise readers: Discussion of Fowl and Jones ch 2 [___________]

Presentation on Meeks ch 2 [___________]


Judgment and forgiveness: Deuteronomy 27-34, Jeremiah

Deut 29-32

Learning to become people of character: Discussion of Fowl and Jones ch 3 [___________]

Presentation on Robert Wilken, “Keeping the Commandments”* [___________]


Character-izing interpretive disputes: Discussion of Fowl and Jones ch 4 [___________]


Challenges to our interpretive practices: Discussion of Fowl and Jones ch 5 [___________]

Exercise 1


Christian ethics’ cosmic context: Colossians, Ephesians, Philemon

Col 1, Eph 1

Post-Enlightenment culture: Discussion of Newbigin ch 1 [___________]



Life after Paul’s Gospel: Thessalonians, Galatians, Philippians

1 Thess 1, Gal 1, Phil 1

Profile of a culture: Discussion of Newbigin ch 2 [___________]

Presentation on John Stott, The Contemporary Christian* [___________]


Trust creation’s messiah: The Gospel of John

Hays ch 6

The Word in the world: Discussion of Newbigin ch 3 [___________]

Presentation on R.R. Reno, “God or Mammon”* [ Sharon Lee]


Living amid rivals’ messiahs: 1-3 John

1 John 1

Early Christian communities: Discussion of Meeks ch 4 [___________]

Presentation on Meeks ch 3 [___________]


Reconciled life: Romans

Hays ch 1;
Rom 1


Exercise 2


Presentations on Newbigin ch 4 [___________]

and Newbigin ch 5 [___________]


Ethics at the ends of the ages: 1 and 2 Corinthians

Meeks 124-136; 1 Cor 1


Presentation on Thompson, “Human Rights”* [___________]


Becoming a character: 1 and 2 Peter

1 Pet 1, 2 Pet 1

Putting it into practice: Discussion of Anderson and Sleasman [___________]

Presentation on Synthetic and Hermeneutical Tasks (Hays chs 9-10 and 13) [___________]


Baptizing and teaching to obey: The Gospels of Mark and Matthew

Hays 93-111; Meeks 136-143; Mark 1, Matt 1

What must we be? Discussion of Newbigin ch 6 [___________]



Christ is better,
live like it
: Hebrews

Heb 1, 12:14-13:25

Bonhoeffer as performer of Scripture: Discussion of Fowl and Jones ch 6 [___________]

Exercise 3

* Readings on reserve:

Markus Bockmuehl, “Keeping It Holy,” in Carl E. Braaten and Christopher R. Seitz, eds., I Am the Lord Your God: Christian Reflections on the Ten Commandments, Eerdmans, 2005, pp 95-125.

Stephen E. Fowl and L. Gregory Jones, Reading in Communion: Scripture and Ethics in Christian Life, Eerdmans, 1991.

Richard Hays, The Moral Vision of the New Testament: A Contemporary Interpretation of Christian Ethics, HarperCollins, 1996.

Wayne Meeks, The Moral World of the First Christians, SPCK, 1986.

Lesslie Newbigin, Foolishness to the Greeks: The Gospel and Western Culture, SPCK, 1986.

R.R. Reno, “God or Mammon,” in Braaten and Seitz, pp 218-235.

John Stott, “The Bible,” The Contemporary Christian, IVP, 1992, chs 10-13.

David G. Thompson, “The High Price of Unity: The Universal Declaration of Human Rights,” in Kevin J. Vanhoozer, ed., Everyday Theology: How to Read Cultural Texts and Interpret Trends, Baker, 2007, pp 99-113.

Robert Wilken, “Keeping the Commandments,” in Braaten and Seitz, pp 239-252.

Rules of the Game
Pointers for Presentations
Preparing to Preach
A Few (Strong) Suggestions on Essay Writing
Peer Review Guidelines
Review Form (PDF)