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BA Latin and Spanish / Course details

Year of entry: 2020

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Course unit details:
Paul: Theology, Ethics, Philosophy

Unit code RELT30962
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 3
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
Offered by Religions & Theology
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


This course helps you to understand the ideas of the most influential Christian writer. You will learn to interpret the apostle Paul’s main letters. You will learn to discuss theological and ethical ideas in them, and ways in which Paul’s ideas are used both by Christian churches and secular philosophers. You will gain a set of skills for evaluating such uses.

You do not need to have studied a New Testament course unit before and you do not need to understand Greek (although there is an option to study a key text in Greek if you have some knowledge of the language).


  • To enable students to discuss ideas expressed in Paul's letters by interpreting the letters in their first-century context.
  • To enable students to assess historic and current uses of Paul’s ideas.


The course is structured around a sequence of key ideas. In each area, attention is given: (a) to understanding the occurrence of the ideas in Paul’s letters as first century texts; (b) to considering the nature of the idea; (c) to considering their use in churches or by philosophers. The key ideas are:

  • Slavery and redemption (both actual and as a metaphor for salvation)
  • Eschatology (ideas about the end-times and how current life relates to it)
  • Ideas about salvation
  • Christology (ideas about Christ)
  • Theology of gender
  • Ethics
  • Short group project on the chronology of Paul’s life and the authorship of letters attributed to him (not summatively assessed)
  • In-depth study of one of Paul’s letters

Teaching and learning methods

  • Interactive lectures with discussions.
  • Seminars studying one of Paul’s letters in depth. There is a choice of seminar between studying the text in English or studying the text in Greek.
  • Further web-based material to interact with provided via Blackboard

Knowledge and understanding

  • Discuss the structure and content of Paul’s main letters
  • Evaluate arguments for and against Pauline authorship of the various letters ascribed to him in the New Testament
  • Discuss theological and ethical issues in Paul's letters
  • Evaluate scholarly understandings of Paul’s ideas
  • Evaluate uses of Paul’s ideas by either churches or recent philosophers (or both)

Intellectual skills

  • Use appropriate strategies to interpret Paul’s letters in their context
  • Use appropriate strategies to evaluate uses of Paul’s letters
  • [For students studying the letters in English only] discuss issues in using English translations of key Pauline texts and implement strategies for handling such issues
  • [For students studying the letters in both English and Greek] translate and interpret passages in Paul's letters where the Greek is of particular theological or ethical significance.

Practical skills

  • Use advanced library resources for study of the New Testament
  • Identify and appropriately use good quality New Testament scholarly resources on the internet
  • Identify past and present uses of Paul’s letters and ideas in various media
  • Implement strategies for assessing such usage

Transferable skills and personal qualities

  • Use research and critical skills in an essay project
  • Synthesise information and present it in various written forms
  • Show ability to plan work and to work well in a group.
  • Demonstrate good presentation skills

Assessment methods

Assessment task Length Weighting within unit

Study of one or two verses from one of Paul’s letters

1000 words

Formative only

Participation in a group project and presentation on the chronology of Paul's life and letters 

Equivalent to 1000 words

Formative only

Provisional outline and bibliography for your assessed essay

500 words

Formative only

Essay on a topic of your choice in the study of Paul. (Students taking the course in English will need to demonstrate awareness of translational issues in key passages that they use. Students taking the course with Greek will need to discuss the Greek of a relevant text or texts as part of their essay.)

2500 words


Written examination (two essays from a choice of eight)

Two hours 60%


Feedback methods

  • Oral and written feedback on group presentation
  • Written feedback on all assessment tasks
  • Additional one-to-one feedback (during consultation hour or by making an appointment)

Recommended reading

David Horrell, An Introduction to the Study of Paul, London: T&T Clark Intl, 2006, 2nd edn;

David Horrell, Solidarity and Difference Solidarity and Difference: A Contemporary Reading of Paul's Ethics (London: T&T Clark Intl, 2005)

John Milbank, Slavoj Zizek, Creston Davis, Paul's new moment: continental philosophy and the future of Christian theology (Grand Rapids: Brazos, 2010)

Peter Frick, ed., Paul in the Grip of the Philosophers: the Apostle and Contemporary Continental Philosophy (Fortress, 2013)

Tom Wright, What Saint Paul Really Said (Oxford: Lion, 1997)

Stephen Westerholm, Perspectives Old and New on Paul: The `Lutheran' Paul and his Critics (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2004);

Peter Oakes, Reading Romans in Pompeii: Paul’s Letter at Ground Level (London: SPCK/Minneapolis: Fortress, 2009)

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Assessment written exam 2
Lectures 22
Seminars 22
Independent study hours
Independent study 154

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Andrew Boakye Unit coordinator

Additional notes

Free Choice : Yes


By the end of this course students will be able to:

•         discuss reference to, and usage of Paul’s ideas in the kinds of cultural and political contexts encountered in areas of work such as the media

•         Evaluate uses by people working in such fields

•         Accurately handle issues relating to Paul (and ethical and philosophical issues related to his ideas) likely to arise in R.E. teaching in schools

•         Accurately handle Paul’s letters in contexts of use in churches

A full description of this course can be found in MyManchester.

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