Debating Paul



Abstract.  This classroom note describes the lessons I learned from the use of formal debates during the two semesters I taught “Paul and Early Christianity” to undergraduates at a liberal arts college in Ohio. The purpose of the course was primarily to give students the exegetical skills to understand Paul in his own context. The secondary purpose was to help students understand the role that exegetical differences play in different moral and theological uses of Paul. I found that the debates helped students understand the controversial nature of biblical exegesis, to read the course material carefully, to develop clear arguments, and to empathize with different points of view. The debates also entailed certain problems, some of which were hindrances that needed to be corrected. However, some apparent problems actually turned out to be teaching opportunities and even served as their own solutions. Appendices, including the course syllabus and debate questions and readings, can be found at: