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"A Jew for the Jews and a Greek for the Greeks". Paul of Tarsos and the Expansion of Early Christianity


Admission requirements

This course is intended for students enrolled in the (Research) MA Classics and Ancient Civilizations, Religious Studies or History.
In addition to the general rules set out for admission to the master program, students are required to hold a BA either in Religious Studies, Classical Languages, Ancient History, Egyptology, Assyriology or Archaeology. Minimum number of participants is 3, maximum is 20.


Sha'ul, better known under his Latin name Paul, is one of the most influential and ciontrioversial figues of nascent Christianity. St. Augustine, Luther and many other Christian intellectuals were inspuired by his thought and zeal, creating an ocean of literature. Who was Paul, the thirteenth apostle who called himself “an utter disgrace” (1Cor 15:8)?
Driven almost like a maniac, Paul travelled on land and sea through the Eastern Mediterranean (he even planned to go to Spain!) to convince people that he end of the world ahs come near and that faith in the crucified Christ offered the only chance to be incorporated into Israel, God’s own people, and be saved from God’s coming wrath. On the basis of this message, Paul founded small groups of Christ-believers in cities as diverse as Thessaaloniki, Philippi or Corinth and wrote letters to solve conflicts and answer questions on all sorts of practical issues such as how to organize a common meal in the evening, what to do with a slave who had escaped from his master, why it is better to refrain from marrying or if the freedom of a Christian allows him to eat sacrificial meat or go to a prostitute. All these issues, and many more, are discussed in Paul’s letters which will form the basis of our seminar. These letters not only present a true panopticum of the social world of the ancient Mediterranean, but they confront us with an author who uses all sorts of rhetorical figures, invectives and metaphors to persuade his readers. In Paul’s letters we see early Christianity cross religious, social and geographical boundaries and establish its own network of “Global Connections", based on new models of communication and identity formation.
The seminar is based on a “close reading” (in Greek for the “Greeks”, in translation for the “Barbarians”) of selected key passages from Paul’s undisputed letters and related secondary literature.

Course objectives


  • of the major cultural and political developments in athe eastern Meditereanean;

  • of the major groups and trends in Palestinian and Diaspora Judaism;

  • of the roles of the Roman and Jewish authorities for the spread of earliest Christianity;

  • of the most important literary and archaeological sources of Diaspora Judaism and earliest Christian groups;

  • of examples of how the Pauline form of Christrianity as de-bordered "uncircumcised Judaism” was picked in later generations.


  • research: independent formulation of a complex research question, collecting materials, analyzing results, constructing arguments, formulating conclusions;

  • critical assessment of primary and secondary literature; oral presentation: the oral presentation will give a clear and well-argued interpretation of specific textual passages, making effective use of a handout and/or PowerPoint;

  • written presentation: the paper will offer a clear and well-structured presentation of original research.

  • the student must demonstrate his or her grasp of critical issues in recent scholarship, and assess recent scholarly contributions by confronting them with the original source material;

  • this course aims at active participation and preparation: the student demonstrates involvement in the topic by asking well-informed and constructive questions and making contributions to the collective progress, on the basis of antecedent independent preparation.

The requirements for MA and ResMA students are differentiated:

  • MA students may expect more help in choosing their topic, literature and research question, and when preparing their presentation (with handout). Their paper may consist of an assessment of the status quaestionis on a given topic.

  • ResMA students are expected to come up with their own original topic, literature and research question for the presentation (with handout). Their paper will have the more complex form of a scholarly report on a given issue discussed in current research. In addition to that, they will write a proposal / abstract for a paper to be held at a (fictitious) conference.


Visit MyTimetable.

Mode of instruction

  • Seminar

Assessment method


  • Assignments (report on research question and bibliography), for ResMA students also proposal for (fictitious) conference paper.

  • Oral presentation;

  • Written paper (ca. 7500 words, based on research in primary sources, including footnotes and bibliography).


  • Written paper: 60 %

  • Oral presentation: 30 %

  • Assignments: 10%

The final grade for the course is established by determining the weighted average with the additional requirement that the written paper must always be sufficient.


Should the overall mark be unsatisfactory, the paper is to be revised after consultation with the instructor. Only the final paper can be re-taken. The sufficient parts cannot be re-taken.

Inspection and feedback

How and when an exam review will take place will be disclosed together with the publication of the exam results at the latest. If a student requests a review within 30 days after publication of the exam results, an exam review will have to be organized.

Reading list

Textual basis:

  • E. Nestle / B. Aland / K. Aland (eds.), Novum Testamentum Graece, 28th ed., Stuttgart 2012 (there are also editions with facing German or English translation).

Secondary Literature:

  • E.P. Sanders, Paul, Oxford 1991.

  • J.A. Harrill, Paul the Apostle. His Life and Legacy in Their Roman Context, Cambridge 2012.

  • P. Frederiksen, Paul. The Pagan’s Apostle, New Haven / London 2017.


Enrolment through uSis is mandatory.
General information about uSis is available on the website.

Registration Studeren à la carte en Contractonderwijs

Registration Studeren à la carte.
Registration Contractonderwijs.

Not applicable.


Prof.dr. J.K. Zangenberg


Attendants who miss more than two sessions will have to repeat the course.