Course Number: SAS 651
Course Title: Synoptic Gospels        


Dr. Matthew Ramage


This course explores the stylistic and literary characteristics of Matthew, Mark, and Luke. Students study the Synoptic Gospels' theological, spiritual, and historical background.


  1. Students will be able to articulate the core content of the Gospels: their message, themes, and the mysteries of Christ’s life.
  2. Students will be able to demonstrate familiarity with the historical and geographical context in which the Gospels were written (able to recognize/identify key people, places, events, and dates)
  3. Students will be able to summarize the purpose, audience, structure and theology of each Synoptic Gospel as well as to compare and contrast these features of each Synoptic Gospel with the others and with the Gospel of John where applicable.
  4. Students will be able to apply both patristic-medieval and modern historical-critical methods of interpretation to study of the Synoptic Gospels, with an emphasis on underscoring how the Old Testament is fulfilled in Christ and how the Gospel applies to the life of the Church today.
  5. Students will be able to appraise and respond to critiques of the Gospels as levied by influential modern skeptical scholars.


Week 1: Course Introduction & Foundations for Study of the Gospels




Week 2:  Intro to the Gospels: Historical Setting and the Synoptic Problem




Week 3: Baptism and Temptations of Jesus




Additional resources (optional)

Week 4: The Gospel of the Kingdom and Sermon on the Mount




Week 5: The Lord’s Prayer and The Disciples




Week 6: Jesus’ Parables, Peter’s Confession, and the Transfiguration




Week 7: Triumphal Entry, Cleansing of Temple, and Eschatological Discourse




Week 8: Last Supper and Agony in the Garden




Week 9: The Trial(s), Crucifixion, and Burial of Jesus




Week 10: The Resurrection




Week 11: Ascension & Life of the Early Church in Acts




Week 12: Genealogies of Jesus, the Annunciation, and the Visitation




Week 13: Nativity, Presentation, Magi, Flight into Egypt, and 12-Year Old Jesus in the Temple




Week 14: Jesus, Interpreted: Benedict XVI & Bart Ehrman’s Contrasting Approaches to the Historical Jesus of the Gospels




Week 15: The Problem of an Imminent Parousia & A Concluding Apologia for the Christian Approach to the Historical Jesus





Please begin each week first by reading the required text(s) then by viewing or listening to the lecture(s) I post in Populi. This order is important because my lectures will build upon the readings and assume your knowledge of them.  Be sure to complete the readings and lectures before engaging in any “activity” (e.g. quizzes, discussion posts).  The breakdown of your grade will be determined as follows:

You must post at least twice each week this assignment is due: one post directly in response to the discussion topic and then at least one post as a comment upon another’s post. While you may post as often you wish, I will evaluate your discussion contributions based upon content and not upon quantity of words.

While length may vary, aim to convey your direct response to the discussion question in approximately three to four paragraphs (roughly 500-700 words).  Your essay responses to fellow students will vary in length, but make sure that they are substantial and not just “I agree” or “I disagree,” etc.

You may give your final exam essay a title of your own choosing and make your own outline, but here are the basic points you need to cover: First, summarize the agnostic Bart Ehrman’s main arguments as detailed in the book, attending to the relevant biblical data adduced to make these arguments (In doing so, you will want to honestly note what you consider to be the strengths of the skeptics’ arguments).  Then you will move to identify problems or inconsistencies in the skeptic’s argumentation based on the reading in conjunction with your own reasoning.  Finally, you will use the chapter on Benedict’s exegesis and the concluding chapter of the book to craft a response to the skeptic that at once takes seriously his arguments while addressing the question in a faithful way—thus reflecting the sort of approach Pope Benedict wishes us to have toward the Bible.

In addition to demonstrating your penetrating understanding of my book, I encourage you to draw from our course lectures and the works of Benedict XVI read this semester.  You may use additional academic sources if desired, but this is not required.  If you have any questions about what constitutes a quality, academic resource, please ask.

Guidelines for Papers

Before beginning your essays, please refer to the Guidelines for Papers, Projects, and Theses, which is available here. Guidelines for Papers, Projects, and Theses 

Citations in Discussion Posts

Please use parenthetical references to document any source for the weekly discussions in Populi. When referring to an idea or when giving a direct quote from any source, you must use a parenthetical reference. A parenthetical reference is placed at the end of your sentence, before the punctuation mark. Give the author’s last name followed by a comma, an abbreviated book or article title followed by a comma, and then record the page or paragraph number to which you refer.  

Example: Ramage, Dark Passages, 54.

When quoting from a website, providing the link to the web address of the article suffices. You may also provide the author’s name and the title of the piece.  However, be judicious about citing from internet sources.  Countless important and helpful sources are available online, but remember that not every source is credible.  Citing from poor sources will be reflected in the grade of your posts and paper.  



Orthodox readings

Heterodox or challenging readings


Basis of evaluation with explanation regarding the nature of the assignment and the percentage of the grade assigned to each item below. Students who have difficulty with research and composition are encouraged to pursue assistance with the Online Writing Lab (available at


A 94-100; A- 90-93; B+ 87-89; B 84-86; B- 80-83; C+ 77-79; C 74-76; C- 70-73 60-69; F 59 and below

Grading Rubric for Papers and for Discussion Board Postings

1 (F)

2 (D)

3 (C)

4 (B)

5 (A)


Absence of Understanding

Demonstrates no awareness of the discipline or its methodologies as they relate to the topic.

Lack of Understanding

Demonstrates a misunderstanding of the basic concepts addressed in the topic through an inability to articulate them.

Adequate understanding

Demonstrates an adequate understanding of basic concepts addressed in the topic but could express them with greater clarity.

Solid Understanding

Demonstrates a clear understanding and articulation of concepts with some sense of their wider implications.

Insightful understanding

Clearly demonstrates an understanding and articulation of concepts of the topic; highlights connections to other concepts; integrates concepts into wider contexts.


Missing Research

Shows no evidence of research: citation of sources missing.

Inadequate research and/or documentation

Over-reliance on few sources; spotty documentation of facts in text; pattern of citation errors.

Weak research and/or documentation

Inadequate number or quality of sources; many facts not referenced; several errors in citation format.

Adequate research and documentation but needs improvement

Good choice of sources but could be improved with some additions or better selection; did not always cite sources; too many citation errors.

Solid research and documentation

A number of relevant scholarly sources revealing solid research; sources appropriately referenced in paper; only a few minor citation errors.


Incomplete writing

Is only partially written or completely misses the topic.

Writing difficult to understand, serious improvement needed

Fails to address the topic; confusing organization or development; little elaboration of position; insufficient control of sentence structure and vocabulary; unacceptable number of errors in grammar, mechanics, and usage.

Acceptable writing, but could use some sharpening of skill

Is an uneven response to parts of the topic; somewhat conventional treatment; satisfactory organization, but more development needed; adequate syntax and diction, but could use more vigor; overall control of grammar, mechanics, and usage, but some errors.

Solid writing, with something interesting to say.

Is an adequate response to the topic; some depth and complexity in treatment; persuasive organization and development, with suitable reasons and examples; level-appropriate syntax and diction; mastery of grammar, mechanics, and usage, with hardly any error.

Command-level writing, making a clear impression

Is a thorough response to the topic; thoughtful and insightful examination of issues; compelling organization and development; superior syntax and diction; error-free grammar, mechanics, and usage.


(for discussions, not applicable to papers)

Inadequate response

Response merely provides laudatory encouragement for original post

Poor response

Response misses the point of the original posting.

Acceptable response

Response makes a contribution to the posting to which it responds.

Individually-conscious contributory response

Response makes a contribution to the posting to which it responds and fosters its development.

Community-conscious contributory response

Response makes a contribution to the learning community and fosters its development.


Holy Apostles College & Seminary is committed to the goal of achieving equal educational opportunities and full participation in higher education for persons with disabilities who qualify for admission to the College. Students enrolled in online courses who have documented disabilities requiring special accommodations should contact Bob Mish, the Director of Online Student Affairs, at or 860-632-3015. In all cases, reasonable accommodations will be made to ensure that all students with disabilities have access to course materials in a mode in which they can receive them. Students who have technological limitations (e.g., slow Internet connection speeds in convents) are asked to notify their instructors the first week of class for alternative means of delivery.


Students at Holy Apostles College & Seminary are expected to practice academic honesty.

Avoiding Plagiarism

In its broadest sense, plagiarism is using someone else's work or ideas, presented or claimed as your own.  At this stage in your academic career, you should be fully conscious of what it means to plagiarize. This is an inherently unethical activity because it entails the uncredited use of someone else's expression of ideas for another's personal advancement; that is, it entails the use of a person merely as a means to another person’s ends.

Students, where applicable:

Consequences of Academic Dishonesty:

Because of the nature of this class, academic dishonesty is taken very seriously.  Students participating in academic dishonesty may be removed from the course and from the program.


Even though you are not required to be logged in at any precise time or day, you are expected to login several times during each week. Because this class is being taught entirely in a technology-mediated forum, it is important to actively participate each week in the course. In a traditional classroom setting for a 3-credit course, students would be required, per the federal standards, to be in class three 50-minute sessions (or 2.5 hours a week) and prepare for class discussions six 50-minute sessions (or 5 hours) a week. Expect to devote at least nine 50-minute sessions (or 7.5 quality hours) a week to this course. A failure on the student’s part to actively participate in the life of the course may result in a reduction of the final grade.


An Incomplete is a temporary grade assigned at the discretion of the faculty member. It is typically allowed in situations in which the student has satisfactorily completed major components of the course and has the ability to finish the remaining work without re-enrolling, but has encountered extenuating circumstances, such as illness, that prevent his or her doing so prior to the last day of class.

To request an incomplete, distance-learning students must first download a copy of the Incomplete Request Form. This document is located within the Shared folder of the Files tab in Populi. Secondly, students must fill in any necessary information directly within the PDF document. Lastly, students must send their form to their professor via email for approval. “Approval” should be understood as the professor responding to the student’s email in favor of granting the “Incomplete” status of the student.

Students receiving an Incomplete must submit the missing course work by the end of the sixth week following the semester in which they were enrolled. An incomplete grade (I) automatically turns into the grade of “F” if the course work is not completed.

Students who have completed little or no work are ineligible for an incomplete. Students who feel they are in danger of failing the course due to an inability to complete course assignments should withdraw from the course.

A “W” (Withdrawal) will appear on the student’s permanent record for any course dropped after the end of the first week of a semester to the end of the third week. A “WF” (Withdrawal/Fail) will appear on the student’s permanent record for any course dropped after the end of the third week of a semester and on or before the Friday before the last week of the semester