Christology

Course Description

Christology is the study of the person and work of Jesus Christ. It is a topic of Systematic Theology. The course examines this major Bible doctrine in the context of Jewish Scriptures and New Testament with emphasis on the black context and the image and use of Jesus in society.

  • Survey the Christology of the New Testament book by book
  • Survey the traditional topics of Christology from Systematic Theology
  • Discuss the history of the study of Jesus from the Reformation to Post-Modernity
  • Discuss the Christology of the Creeds and Confessions
  • Discuss the many images of Jesus in history and society
  • Read excerpts from biblical scholarship reflecting on Christ and the Church

Requirements

Weekly assignments will be given. Each assignment includes article excerpts to be read and corresponding questions to be answered. Grades will be determined by the successful completion of these assignments.

Internet access is very helpful. Print handouts will be kept at a minimum in order to keep copying costs to a minimum. Course notes and more will be posted on this web site (www.sacrapagina.com). Register and access these downloads. Please check the site weekly for the notes before coming to class. If there are any special topics you would like to discuss, please let me know by sending me an email at john.ruffin@gmail.com.

Download the Christology Assignment Workbook

Course Outline

Part 1: Introduction and Contextualization

Part 2: Jewish Scripture and the Messiah: Typology from Adam to Exile

Part 3: New Testament Christology: Synoptics Gospels to Revelation

Part 4: From the Creeds and Confessions to the Three Quests for the Historical Jesus

Part 5: Christology: The Person of Christ

Part 6: Christology: The Work of Christ

Download Syllabus

Supplement

Contemporary Black Christology and Black/Latin Liberation Theology in action:

Visit the Color of Christ website. Click here.

Read Charles Colcock Jones (1804-1863) and The Religious Instruction of the Negroes in the United States (Published by Thomas Purse, 1842) Summary: Charles Colcock Jones’ The Religious Instruction of the Negroes in the United States is an extended exhortation urging white ministers and slaveowners to attend to the spiritual needs of slaves and free blacks. Download.

“By far the most popular of Sallman’s pictures, the Head of Christ has been reproduced more than 500 million times according to its publishers (Kriebel & Bates). Anthony Kriebel and Fred Bates, employees of the Gospel Trumpet Company of Anderson, Ind., arranged to market the image late in 1940. Reproductions subsequently carried their imprimatur and the copyright date of 1941. Chicago Offset Printing Company printed the image in a six-color separation lithographic process that preserved what many admirers consider unique about the picture: its radiant, incandescent glow. During the years of the Second World War, one press at Chicago Offset continuously printed the Head of Christ under the operation of two shifts of laborers.” (Source: The Color of Christ: The Son of God and the Saga of Race in America by Edward J. Blum, Paul Harvey)

“During the mid-twentieth century, the white Jesus encountered both his greatest challenge and his most enduring new face. The test came not from Hollywood or from Harlem but from the sons of preacher men and the lessons of the “least of these.” Grievances against Christ and new Jesus figures animated the era of the civil rights movements and they captured the spirit of the 1960s. Whether it was civil rights activists conceiving of Christ as the architect of nonviolent resistance, or Native American peyote journeyers locating Jesus among the stars with their ancestors, or new liberation theologians denouncing the “honky Christ,” or college students seeing Jesus as a rebellious hippie, Americans played with the body of Jesus. His holy face was once again symbolic of a changing America.

“Underneath the turbulence, however, emerged a new popular consensus about Christ’s body. It came from a surprising source too— a midwestern painter who crafted his work first for Fundamentalist Christians. Warner Sallman painted what became the most widely reproduced piece of artwork in world history. His Head of Christ (1941) adorned living rooms, bedrooms, Sunday schools, and films. It became a shared resource among Protestants and Catholics, who had fought with each other for so long. Its ubiquity soon inspired countless imitations and parodies, which spoke to but never lessened its power. It was so iconic that to combat “card-carrying members of the Communist Party,” one American minister wanted every Christian to carry a small print of Sallman’s Christ in their wallets. Reproductions of this Head of Christ multiplied at an epic rate. Even as white Americans of the civil rights era were compelled to open their schools, neighborhoods, restaurants, borders, and ballot boxes to nonwhites, they held fast to this white vision of Jesus. No matter how many critics denounced its stereotypical white features or his apparent passivity or femininity, this Head of Christ became the literal face of Jesus to millions.” (The Color of Christ, p. 12)

Watch an episode from “Good Times” to appreciate the role and place of white Jesus in American pop-culture and history.

Now reconsider how you would respond to this news story,
ACLU seeks removal of Ohio school’s Jesus portrait
. Does the painting in this school look familiar?

Watch Dr. James Cone, Charles A. Briggs Distinguished Professor of Systematic Theology, Union Theological Seminary, deliver the 2006 Ingersoll Lecture on October 19, 2006.. Click here

Bill Moyer’s interview with Dr. James Cone about the cross and the lynching tree.

Or watch here PBS Video