Introductory Activities for Teaching Christology

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This article gives two introductory activities for use in teaching Christology. One activity involves brainstorming impressions and knowledge the students have about Jesus. The second activity, on faith portraits of Jesus, corresponds nicely with chapters 3–5 of the text Jesus of History, Christ of Faith. Students analyze each Gospel for biographical information, personality traits, teachings, lifestyle, and major life events of Jesus. After the analysis the students write a summary portrait of Jesus.

Mimi McCaul, who teaches at La Salle High School in Pasadena, California, passes along to you some of the strategies she uses in the course Jesus of History, Christ of Faith. Thanks, Mimi!

Introductory Activity

  1. On the first or second day of the course, ask the students as a class to brainstorm everything they know, or any impressions they have, about Jesus. Write these ideas on the chalkboard, but be sure that the students also copy the list on paper for their own use.
  2. Tell the students as individuals to organize all the brainstormed ideas into specified categories, perhaps chronological or topical. They should turn these categorized lists in to you. The activity is useful in four ways:
  1. It stirs the students' imagination and memory about Jesus.
  2. You can get a sense of the students' knowledge about Jesus.
  3. Used as an icebreaker, the activity gets the students involved right away, contributing to the class.
  4. The students can keep the categorized lists, bringing them out at the end of the course to see how much more they know about Jesus and have come to know him.

Faith Portraits of Jesus

The goals of the "faith portraits" strategy are these: a. that the students hear the story of Jesus as told through the Gospels b. that they formulate a personally meaningful portrait of Jesus based on the Gospels.

This part of the course follows the historical and cultural background (chapters 3-5) in Jesus of History, Christ of Faith, and the activity can be done as a portion of time in each class session.

1. Each day in class, have the students, seated in a circle, take turns reading a gospel passage out loud. (We start the semester with Mark, then go to Matthew, read some portions of Luke, and end with selected sections of John).

2. As the gospel passage is read, the students should take notes so that they can later build a portrait of Jesus. The notes will fall into these categories:

  1. Biographical information: for example, name (with explanation of origin), aliases, birth date, bhace, height, weight, hair color, eye color, distinguishing features, profession(s), religion, baptismal record, mother, father, family, death and resurrection (The students will discover that the Gospels provide no information on some items.)
  2. Personality traits: for example, compassion, sensitivity
  3. Teachings: for example, sayings, parables
  4. Lifestyle: for example, friends, social life, travels, home
  5. Major life events: for example, initial gathering of followers, journeys, confrontations with authorities

Students may disagree about the personality traits manifested by Jesus in a particular passage. So as the passages are being read, encourage free discussion and explore the students' reactions to the passages. No two people hear a story in the same way. How we hear tells us something about who we are and how we see life.

3. When the class has finished working with one of the Gospels, ask the students each to write a summary portrait of Jesus as portrayed by the author of the Gospel. As the Gospels are studied, you can ask the students to point out differences in the accounts given by the four Evangelists.

4. After all four Gospels have been read and discussed, ask the students each to write a summary portrait of Jesus. It should include their favorite names for Jesus, traits they find especially appealing, and so on. They need to answer this question: How do I see Jesus now that I have studied the Gospels?


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Published February 1, 1991.