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Lesley Dean-Jones, Chair 2210 Speedway, Mail Code C3400, Austin, TX 78712-1738 • 512-471-5742

L. Michael White

Professor Ph.D., Yale University

Professor of Classics and Religious Studies: Ronald Nelson Smith Chair in Christian Origins
L. Michael White

Contact

  • Phone: 512-232-1438
  • Office: WAG 212
  • Office Hours: Mon and Tues 2-3:30
  • Campus Mail Code: C3450

Biography

FieldsNew Testament and Christian Origins, Graeco-Roman Religions

 

Interests

New Testament and Christian Origins, Jews & Christians in the Roman World, Graeco-Roman Religions, Archaeology

C C 318 • The Rise Of Christianity

33625 • Spring 2014
Meets MWF 1100am-1200pm SAC 1.402
(also listed as CTI 310, J S 311, R S 318 )
show description

An introduction to the origins and development of Christianity from the earliest days of the Jesus sect in first century Judea through the second century, when it emerged as a religion of the Roman empire.

The course is designed to acquaint students with the sources, issues, and methods of studying this historical development, primarily as reflected in the New Testament and contemporaneous literature.

Special attention will be given to the social, political, and religious backgrounds within the development of early Judaism and in the larger Graeco-Roman environment.  The study will focus on reconstruction of the religious beliefs, practices, and social organization of the early Christian movements and on critical examination of the New Testament documents in order to place them in their proper historical context.  Lectures will be supplemented with archeological evidence relevant to the historical and cultural setting.

In addition to secondary readings in historical backgrounds and critical analysis, the primary sources for the course will be the New Testament writings themselves.  Students will be expected to have a good modern translation of the New Testament and preferably the entire Bible with the Apocrypha.  The format of the course will be primarily lecture, but it will also encourage discussion.

There are no prerequisites for this course, and a firsthand knowledge of biblical materials or traditions is not assumed.

Grading:

  • three quizzes (in class): 20% each
  • final exam: 40 %

C C 383 • Mystery Cults In Greek And Rom

33405 • Fall 2013
Meets TH 200pm-500pm WAG 307
(also listed as R S 386C )
show description

The course examines the role and development of the so-called “Mystery Cults,” first as indigenous cults in archaic and Classical Greece and then in the rise and diffusion of Hellenistic mysteries, especially in the Roman period.    

Following an introduction to the field of study, critical discussion will begin with the notion of "conversion" in ancient religion, or more specifically, were the mysteries really "conversionist" cults, as often depicted?   To this end the seminar will open with a discussion of initiation rituals and religious conversion in antiquity.  Readings include the ancient novel of Apuleius, The Metamorphoses and the classic study of A.D. Nock, Conversion, along with more recent criticisms of that work by R. MacMullen, J.Z. Smith, and Z. Crook. 

Next, we will examine the earlier Greek Mysteries with emphasis on the origins development of the Eleusinian mysteries as an indigenous Greek cult.  Then we will move to the Hellenistic period and the rise of the so-called “oriental” cults and follow with their grown and diffusion in the Roman periods.   The bulk of the discussion will focus on the later development of the cults as religious, political, and social phenomena.  The scholarly perspective will be represented by the classic works of F. Cumont and R. Reitzenstein in light of recent studies by W. Burkert, J.Z. Smith, U. Bianchi, R. Gordon, R. Beck, and others to observe changing perspectives on the mystery cult phenomenon.   Discussions will evaluate the traditional theories of origins, character, and development in the light of new historical, archaeological, and theoretical evidence.

Principal topics to be covered are:  Archaic Greek mysteries (Andana and Panamara), Bacchic & Orphic mysteries, the Mysteries of Eleusis, the Cult of Cybele (Magna Mater), the Egyptian Cults of Isis and Sarapis, , the Cult of the Syrian Goddess (Atargatis), and the Mithras Cult.

Archaeological evidence will be treated in two main ways:  (1)  introducing, surveying, and evaluating the archaeological and epigraphic data for each cult group selected for study and (2)  developing and/or comparing the evidence for specific regions and/or localities.    For example, we will wish to consider the differences of public vs. private performance in addition to differences between Greek cities and the cities of Italy (esp. Rome, Ostia, and Pompeii).

Student work/participation includes: (a)  leading  regular discussions of relevant readings, (b) substantial research papers with presentation of results to the seminar, (c) participation in group projects (e.g., bibliographic collections) as related to research. 

 

Texts:

Apuleius, Metamorphoses ,  ed. Hanson (2 vols.; LCL; Cambridge:  Harvard UP,  1989).

Plutarch, Moralia, vol. V, ed. Babbitt (LCL; Cambridge:  Harvard UP, 1936).

M. Meyer, The Ancient Mysteries:  A Sourcebook   (San Francisco:  Harper-Row, 1987; Philadelphia:  Univ. of PA Press, 1999).

R. Beck, The Religion of the Mithras Cult in the Roman World (Oxford:  Oxford UP, 2006).

W. Burkert, Ancient Mystery Cults (Cambridge:  Harvard UP, 1987).

M.B. Cosmopoulos, Greek Mysteries:  The Archaeology and Ritual of Ancient Greek Secret Cults (London: Routledge, 2003).

R. MacMullen, Paganism in the Roman Empire (New Haven:  Yale UP, 1981).

A.D. Nock, Conversion:  The Old and the New in Religion from Alexander to Augustine (Oxford: Clarendon, 1933).

Simon Price, Religions of the Ancient Greeks (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1999).

Jörg Rüpke, Religion of the Romans (Cambridge:  Polity Press, 2007).

Jonathan Z. Smith, Drudgery Divine:  On the Comparison of Early Christianities and the Religions of Late Antiquity (Chicago:  University of Chicago Press, 1990).

Robert Turcan, The Cults of the Roman Empire (London: Blackwell, 1996).

 

GK 328 • Biblical Greek: Acts

33505 • Fall 2013
Meets TTH 1100am-1230pm WAG 208
show description

Reading and analysis of selections from the New Testament, the Septuagint, and related writings.

Prerequisites: Greek 312K or 312L (or 322) with a grade of at least C; or Greek 412 with a grade of at least A-, and consent of the undergraduate adviser.

C C 318 • The Rise Of Christianity

33165 • Spring 2013
Meets MWF 1100am-1200pm SAC 1.402
(also listed as CTI 310, J S 311, R S 318 )
show description

  This course is designed to acquaint students with the sources, issues, and methods in studying the development of the earliest Christian movement, primarily in  the New Testament period.  It will survey the development of the Christian movement, from its beginnings as a reforming sect within first century Judaism until it became a major cult in the Roman world, by looking at two intersecting sets of factors:  the world situation during the period of its origins and the forces which gave it its peculiar social and theological shape.  In particular, attention will be given to critical examination of the New Testament writings themselves, in order to "place" them in their proper historical context and to reconstruct some of the major phases and factors in the development of the movement.   In the light of this critical reconstruction, sociological and anthropological methods will be introduced into the historical discussion; topics will include: sociological formation and development of sectarian groups; gender, status, group dynamics, and boundary maintenance in diaspora communities; and the evolution of organizational structures in cultural contexts.    

For the most part the primary sources for the course will be the New Testament writings themselves.  It will be necessary, therefore, for each student to have access to a good, modern version of the New Testament (and preferably the whole Bible, including the Apocrypha). For study purposes, comparison of different translations is encouraged.  The other course books (listed below) provide a guide to the early Christian writings and  the early history of the movement.    

TEXT

A BIBLE (at least the NEW TESTAMENT, preferably in a good modern translation)   [Recommended:   Harper-Collins Study Bible, 2nd ed.;    New Revised Standard Version]

L. Michael White, From Jesus to Christianity  (Harper, 2004) pb.

[ Optional:  L. Michael White, De Jesús al christianismo  (EVD, 2007; Spanish language edition of above)]

Alan F. Segal, Rebecca’s Children:  Judaism and Christianity in the Roman World (Harvard UP, 1986) pb.

A xerox packet of additional readings to accompany the syllabus  

GK 328 • Pauline Epistles

33240 • Fall 2012
Meets TTH 1100am-1230pm WAG 208
show description

This course is designed to give intermediate and advance students experience and facility with elements of koine (or Hellenistic) Greek as employed in the earliest Christian literature, the letters of Paul. For those at the intermediate level (GK 328)the class will focus on reading and translating the Greek of Paul's letters with grammatical and syntactic analysis. Readings will survey the range of Pauls letters from earlier to later periods. Some will be read as a whole; others only in part to sample the flavor of language and composition. In addition students will be introduced to critical issues in Pauline letter formation and the tools for study of Pauline language and context, e.g., concordance and lexical aids. In addition to regular readings and quizzes, students will be expected to complete one essay project analyzing language of Pauls letters.All students are expected to be prepared for daily readings in class of assigned sections of text. The schedule of readings plus additional readings and preparation will be given at the beginning of the semester.

C C 318 • The Rise Of Christianity

33070 • Spring 2012
Meets MWF 1100am-1200pm JES A121A
(also listed as CTI 310, J S 311, R S 318 )
show description

    This course is designed to acquaint students with the sources, issues, and methods in studying the development of the earliest Christian movement, primarily in  the New Testament period.  It will survey the development of the Christian movement, from its beginnings as a reforming sect within first century Judaism until it became a major cult in the Roman world, by looking at two intersecting sets of factors:  the world situation during the period of its origins and the forces which gave it its peculiar social and theological shape.  In particular, attention will be given to critical examination of the New Testament writings themselves, in order to "place" them in their proper historical context and to reconstruct some of the major phases and factors in the development of the movement.   In the light of this critical reconstruction, sociological and anthropological methods will be introduced into the historical discussion; topics will include: sociological formation and development of sectarian groups; gender, status, group dynamics, and boundary maintenance in diaspora communities; and the evolution of organizational structures in cultural contexts.    

For the most part the primary sources for the course will be the New Testament writings themselves.  It will be necessary, therefore, for each student to have access to a good, modern version of the New Testament (and preferably the whole Bible, including the Apocrypha). For study purposes, comparison of different translations is encouraged.  The other course books (listed below) provide a guide to the early Christian writings and  the early history of the movement.    

TEXT

A BIBLE (at least the NEW TESTAMENT, preferably in a good modern translation)   [Recommended:   Harper-Collins Study Bible, 2nd ed.;    New Revised Standard Version]

L. Michael White, From Jesus to Christianity  (Harper, 2004) pb.

[ Optional:  L. Michael White, De Jesús al christianismo  (EVD, 2007; Spanish language edition of above)]

Alan F. Segal, Rebecca’s Children:  Judaism and Christianity in the Roman World (Harvard UP, 1986) pb.

A xerox packet of additional readings to accompany the syllabus  

C C 383 • Early Jewish/Christn Lit I

33020 • Fall 2011
Meets W 200pm-500pm BUR 436A
(also listed as R S 385K )
show description

The Early Jewish and Christian Literature Survey  (RS 385 K & L) is a graduate level, genre-based critical review over two semesters covering the period from the 3rd cent. bce to the 5th cent. ce.   Lit Survey I (RS 385K) focuses on three interrelated literary genres that figure prominently in the development of these religious traditions and in their environment:  (1)  Letters (or Epistles), including both personal correspondence and literary epistles; (2) Hortatory literature, including oratory and moral exhortation of various types (protreptic, paraenesis, and homilies); and (3) Apologetic literature, including both formal apologia as well as other, less formal types.    Students will be introduced to the textual resources, research tools and bibliography, and critical perspectives on literary and cultural backgrounds of each genre in the Hellenistic and Roman periods and key representatives in Jewish and Christian expression in diachronic perspective.   Key critical issues will treat the relation of these genres to Greek and Roman rhetorical traditions, and particularly the Second Sophistic, as well as to Hellenistic moral philosophy.   Students will also be introduced to pertinent recent trends in literary criticism, specifically rhetorical criticism.                  Texts: Novum Testamentum Graece Septuaginta The Apostolic Fathers, ed. Ehrman (LCL). The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, vol. 2, ed. Charlesworth. Clement of Alexandria, ed. Butterworth (LCL). Eusebius of Caesarea, Ecclesiastical History, ed. Lake and Oulton (LCL).   Studies: C. Moreschini and E. Norelli, Early Christian Greek and Latin Literature:  A Literary History (Hendriksen, 2005). F. Young, L. Ayres, and A. Louth, The Cambridge History of Early Christian Literature (Cambridge UP, 2004). A.J. Malherbe, Ancient Epistolary Theorists (Scholars Press, 1988). H-J. Klauck, Ancient Letters and the New Testament (Baylor UP, 2006). S.E. Porter, Handbook of Classical Rhetoric in the Hellenistic Period, 330 bc – ad 400 (Brill, 1997).

GK 328 • Biblical Greek: Acts

33122 • Fall 2011
Meets TTH 1230pm-200pm WAG 420
show description

The Book of Acts, sometimes called the “the first Christian history,” is arguably the most polished piece of Greek literature in the New Testament.  It has been compared in form and style to both Greek histories and Hellenistic romances (novels).  This course will give advanced students of Greek experience with the character of the koine Greek style and syntax, in the light of literary trends that blend elements of earlier Jewish traditions (such as Philo and Josephus) with contemporary Roman orators and historians of the Second Sophistic.  Secondary readings will introduce students to critical issues in the study of Acts as both literature and history. 

 Since Acts is part of a two-volume work by the same author as the Gospel of Luke, we will also read selected passages in the Gospel for stylistic comparison, as well as samples from other historical prose works by non-Christian authors, including Thucydides, Philo, Josephus, Plato, Herodian, and Lucian.  Students will be introduced to critical issues in ancient historiography and with tools of textual study, e.g., concordance and lexical aids. 

 The class stresses volume and comprehension in reading, vocabulary building, and sight-reading, along with grammatical review and syntactic analysis.  All students are expected to prepare specified portions of Greek on a daily basis, to be translated and analyzed in class for grammar, forms, and syntax. There will be regular quizzes over subsections of the reading, plus a mid-term (cumulative) and final examination (comprehensive).   Students will prepare a final translation project.

 For those taking the course for graduate credit, there will be supplemental reading and translation in Greek comparanda plus a written paper comparing features of Acts with contemporary Hellenistic prose. 

Grading                                                 328                       386L

Class preparation:  reading/analysis                        20%                                             20%        

Quiz average                                                     20%                                             20%

Mid-term Exam                 20%                                             20%                                           

Final Exam                                                         20%                                             20%

Translation/Paper                                                  20%                                             20%

 

Textbooks

Novum Testamentum Graece, ed. by Nestle & Aland, et al.   (27th edition revised; Stuttgart:    Deutsche Biblegesellschaft, 2001).

H. Schmoller, Handkonkordanz sum Neuen Testament (revised  ed.; Stuttgart:  Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 1994).

C.F.D. Moule, An Idiom Book of  New Testament Greek  (2nd ed.; Cambridge:  Cambridge Univ. Press, 1960).

An Intermediate Greek-English Lexicon founded upon the 7th edition of Liddell and Scott’s Greek English Lexicon  (Oxford:  Clarendon, 1889; repr. 1997).

Other Greek readings will be provided by the professor.

C C 318 • The Rise Of Christianity

33320 • Spring 2011
Meets MWF 1100am-1200pm JES A121A
(also listed as J S 311, R S 318 )
show description

An introduction to the origins and development of Christianity from the earliest days of the Jesus sect in first century Judea through the second century, when it emerged as a religion of the Roman empire. The course is designed to acquaint students with the sources, issues, and methods of studying this historical development, primarily as reflected in the New Testament and contemporaneous literature. Special attention will be given to the social, political, and religious backgrounds within the development of early Judaism and in the larger Græco-Roman environment. The study will focus on reconstruction of the religious beliefs, practices, and social organization of the early Christian movements and on critical examination of the New Testament documents in order to place them in their proper historical context. Lectures will be supplemented with archaeological evidence relevant to the historical and cultural setting. In addition to secondary readings in historical backgrounds and critical analysis, the primary sources for the course will be the New Testament writings themselves. Students will be expected to have a good modern translation of the New Testament and preferably the entire Bible with the Apocrypha. The format of the course will be primarily lecture, but it will also encourage discussion.

Texts:

Texts Bible with Apocrypha (recommended: Harper Collins Study Bible, student edition) L. M. White, From Jesus to Christianity
W.A. Meeks, The Moral World of the First Christians
A.F. Segal, Rebecca's Children: Judaism & Christianity in Roman World
A Reading Packet.

Grading:

Three quizzes (in class): 20% Each
Final exam: 40%

C C 348 • Paul And His Social World

33365 • Spring 2011
Meets TTH 930am-1100am JES A209A
(also listed as R S 353 )
show description

Perhaps as much as any other single figure in the earliest days of the Christian movement, the apostle Paul has been viewed as the "second founder" of Christianity. Yet, Paul was a Diaspora Jew from Tarsus and never thought of himself in any other way, even after he became an ardent follower of the Jesus movement. His principal areas of missionary work were in Antioch and in the major cities of the Aegean Rim. This course will examine the historical issues in understanding Paul's career and conversion, the social organization of his churches, form and function of letters, and key issues in his thought. We will look at the legacy of Paul and how his thought transformed in later tradition. This is a Substantial Writing Component course. There are no prerequisites and all work will be based on the English text of the New Testament. Students who wish to incorporate work in the Greek New Testament may consult with the instructor. The course will combine lecture and discussion format and students will be expected to participate actively.

Number and Description of writing assignments:

There will be three short (5-6 pages each) analytical essays. Each student will write a final research paper (10-12 pages), using standard conventions of style and referencing. The topic and research design will be developed by each student in consultation with the instructor based on individual topics of interest related to the course materials and methods. Use of incremental drafts in the writing is encouraged.

Percent of course grade determined by writing assignments: 100% Breakdown of grading: 3 short essasy (20% each) Final paper (40%)

C C 348 • Jesus In History And Tradition

32255 • Fall 2010
Meets TTH 200pm-330pm GAR 2.128
(also listed as R S 335 )
show description

This course will address two basic questions of historical inquiry:  What can we know about the historical figure of Jesus? and How did the gospels tradition develop in the first century of the Christian movement?  The course is designed to acquaint students with the major critical issues, scholarly debates, and historical methods in studying the development of the Christian tradition regarding the figure of Jesus.  Historical backgrounds regarding prevailing religious beliefs and expectations within first century Jewish and Graeco-Roman religious cultures will establish the context for understanding the stories about Jesus.

The course will focus on literary- and historical-critical methods of analyzing the Christian gospels in the New Testament and related materials, including the apocryphal gospels and comparable sources . Special attention will be paid to pathways of literary and theological development from the earliest oral transmission to more elaborated forms of expression in various early Christian communities and traditions in order to understand how they came to present the story of Jesus.

There are no prerequisites, but CC/RS 318 is highly recommended. All work will be based on the English text of the New Testament. Students who wish to incorporate work in the Greek New Testament may consult with the instructor.  The course will combine lecture and discussion format and students will be expected to participate actively.

This is a Substantial Writing Component Course:  There will be three short (5-6 pages each) analytical essays.  Each essay will analyze selected passages from the gospels using critical tools learned in the course.

Each student will also write a final research paper (10-12 pages), using standard conventions of style and referencing.  The topic and research design will be developed by each student in consultation with the instructor based on individual topics of interest related to the course materials and methods.  Use of incremental drafts in the writing is encouraged.

Grading:  3 short essays:   60% (20% each);  Final paper:  40%.

GK 328 • Pauline Epistles

32400 • Fall 2010
Meets TTH 1100am-1230pm WAG 208
show description

This course is designed to give intermediate and advance students experience and facility with elements of koine (or Hellenistic) Greek as employed in the earliest Christian literature, the letters of Paul. For those at the intermediate level (GK 328)the class will focus on reading and translating the Greek of Paul's letters with grammatical and syntactic analysis. Readings will survey the range of Pauls letters from earlier to later periods. Some will be read as a whole; others only in part to sample the flavor of language and composition. In addition students will be introduced to critical issues in Pauline letter formation and the tools for study of Pauline language and context, e.g., concordance and lexical aids. In addition to regular readings and quizzes, students will be expected to complete one essay project analyzing language of Pauls letters.

All students are expected to be prepared for daily readings in class of assigned sections of text. The schedule of readings plus additional readings and preparation will be given at the beginning of the semester.

C C 318 • The Rise Of Christianity

32505 • Spring 2010
Meets MWF 1100-1200 JES A121A
(also listed as J S 311, R S 318 )
show description

Syllabus attached (pdf).

C C 383 • Mystery Cults In Greece & Rome

32630 • Spring 2010
Meets TH 200pm-500pm GAR 0.132
(also listed as R S 383 )
show description

Studies in various aspects of Greek and Roman literature, history, and culture.

C C 348 • Jesus In Hist & Tradition-W

32695 • Fall 2009
Meets TTH 200pm-330pm WAG 10
show description

The development and progress of ancient civilization, including history, philosophy, literature, and culture. No knowledge of Greek or Latin is required.

 

GK 328 • Biblical Gk: Acts

32855 • Fall 2009
Meets TTH 1100-1230pm WAG 208
show description

Reading and analysis of selections from the New Testament, the Septuagint, and related writings.

Prerequisites: Greek 312K or 312L (or 322) with a grade of at least C; or Greek 412 with a grade of at least A-, and consent of the undergraduate adviser.

C C 318 • The Rise Of Christianity

32020 • Spring 2009
Meets MWF 1100-1200 JES A121A
(also listed as J S 311, R S 318 )
show description

An introduction to the origins and development of Christianity from the earliest days of the Jesus sect in first century Judea through the second century, when it emerged as a religion of the Roman empire.

The course is designed to acquaint students with the sources, issues, and methods of studying this historical development, primarily as reflected in the New Testament and contemporaneous literature.

Special attention will be given to the social, political, and religious backgrounds within the development of early Judaism and in the larger Graeco-Roman environment.  The study will focus on reconstruction of the religious beliefs, practices, and social organization of the early Christian movements and on critical examination of the New Testament documents in order to place them in their proper historical context.  Lectures will be supplemented with archeological evidence relevant to the historical and cultural setting.

In addition to secondary readings in historical backgrounds and critical analysis, the primary sources for the course will be the New Testament writings themselves.  Students will be expected to have a good modern translation of the New Testament and preferably the entire Bible with the Apocrypha.  The format of the course will be primarily lecture, but it will also encourage discussion.

There are no prerequisites for this course, and a firsthand knowledge of biblical materials or traditions is not assumed.

Grading:

  • three quizzes (in class): 20% each
  • final exam: 40 %

C C 348 • Jesus In Hist & Tradition-W

32079 • Spring 2009
Meets MWF 900-1000 JES A203A
show description

The development and progress of ancient civilization, including history, philosophy, literature, and culture. No knowledge of Greek or Latin is required.

 

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