Gospel Doctrine New Testament Midterm and Final

We’re nearing the end of our New Testament study for the year; what have we learned? Shall we assess?

Back in 2006, when I was still engaged in my Sisyphian PhD pursuit, I taught an Honors Acts-Revelation class at BYU, which was a lot of fun. We learned a little Greek, read some introductory scholarship, and the New Testament in two translations. Students had an outside assignment each week, and a reading assignment for each class period on top of the New Testament passages. Generally speaking, students responded very positively. On the very first day, we learned the Greek alphabet, and they got a Greek assignment, in order to filter out the purely devotional, Seminary-type students who wouldn’t fit the class profile or rank me highly. Student reviews are king at The BYU, especially in the Religious Education department.

Below are the midterm and final I gave. The midterm was take-home and open scripture, though I warned them it wouldn’t help. The final was given in class. Now, five years on, I would reword, reframe, or rethink some of these questions, they’re certainly not immune to criticism. But looking at them again, I think we struck a good balance between, faith, devotion, critical thinking, and introduction to scholarship. Enjoy.


Don’t Panic!


As you go through, please write neatly and clearly! I can’t grade what I can’t read. Flip the test over, and write your name neatly on the back of the last sheet. Remember to support your answers, be as specific as you can, and write clearly, Take note of the time you start and finish the exam, and indicate how long it took you to complete.

Lastly, have fun.

  1. In the New Testament, what is an ? (Handout, class discussion.4 pts) [Greek font not enabled]
  2. Explain the primary scriptural reason why Paul’s preaching of “Christ and him crucified” was a stumbling-block to the Jews. (Class discussion. 6 pts.)
  3. (Short answer) According to Acts, how did the earliest Christians refer to themselves?How did Paul refer to them in his letters? (Class discussion. 2 pts.)
  4. Explain the cultural background of the meat-sacrificed-to-idols controversy (in Acts and Corinthians), and how that cultural background helps us understand the issue. (Secondary reading. 6 points)
  5. Why is Stephen’s vision of Christ standing on the right hand of God not a good argument against the classical definition of the trinity? (Handout, class discussion.4 pts.)
  6. Was the apostasy internal or external, and how quickly was apostasy present among the early Christians? Support your answer with whatever relevant scriptures, Greek, logic, etc. (Reading, 5 pts)
  7. What is the Gospel, as preached in the New Testament? (Class discussion, 3 pts)
  8.  Part of critical thinking is becoming aware of your own assumptions. We have discussed several different ways our assumptions can mislead us when reading the New Testament. What assumptions, practices, or ideas do we typically bring to our reading of the New Testament that cause us to misread it? Discuss three. (Reading, class discussions. 6 points)
  9.  Give a rough summary of 1-2 Thessalonians- Date of writing, what they were struggling with, how Paul responded, etc.  (6 points)
  10. Why don’t LDS strictly follow everything the Bible says? (Class discussion, 4 pts.)

 Extra credit:

Which Bible translation did Joseph Smith say was the most accurate? (1 pt)

Where was Paul born? (1 pt)


FINAL (This was open-scripture, but in-class with a time limit)

  1. What does the word  mean? (class discussion, 2pts)
  2. What is the Greek word behind “earnest” in Eph.1:14, and in that light, what does the passage mean? (class discussion, assignment, 3 points. This question tested students understanding and usage of Strong’s Lexicon, which had been their first assignment. I brought in several to class, and they took turns coming up to consult it to answer this question.)
  3. After “the spirit,”according to Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, and Brother Spackman, what is the one most important thing to aid one in understanding a passage? (2 pts)
  4. Based on the dates given by Richard L. Anderson in Understanding Paul (and not consulting the Bible Dictionary), list Paul’s letters in order of writing, from earliest to latest.
  5. With regards to Christ, what is the general theme of Hebrews? (Hint: The chapter headings won’t help you.)(3 pts.)
  6. What relevance or implications does the date of 1 Thessalonians have for the doctrine of the apostasy? (3 pts)
  7. When you encounter something in the scriptures that is odd, contrary to LDS thought or doctrine, how do you react in terms of dealing, accommodating, understanding, and/or reconciling it to your beliefs and/or the doctrines of the Church? 4 points
  8. a. Were Peter James and John “ignorant and unlearned” peasants (Acts 4:13), and how do we know? Support your answer
    • b. Why does the answer matter? (Secondary reading. 5 pts.)
  9. According to the Hebrew meaning of the word and Paul’s explanation in Hebrews 11, what is faith? How does this compare with Alma 32? (Class discussion. 4 pts)
  10. With regards to the Epistle of James and Paul’s letters in general, what do they mean when they say “works”? Why do they differ? (Class discussion, 4 pts)
  11. 1Explain (using examples if possible) how Paul ranks the relative strength and merits of intellect vs. spiritual understanding. How do Paul’s own experiences play into this question? (4 pts)
  12. How much of the reading did you do for this class? Indicate a percentage (multiples of 5 please ).

Thought question if you have time: Statistically speaking (and my experience bears this out), boys speak up in class with comments, questions, discussion etc., about 4x as often as girls. Why is this?

24 comments for “Gospel Doctrine New Testament Midterm and Final

  1. “(Hint: The chapter headings won’t help you.)”


    “Statistically speaking (and my experience bears this out), boys speak up in class with comments, questions, discussion etc., about 4x as often as girls. Why is this?”

    I’d be curious to know what kinds of answers you got to this question, as well as what you think the answer might be. It is generally my impression that my male students speak more than my female students, and that’s with a female teacher!

  2. I think I’ll use this for my Gospel Doctrine final next Sunday. (I kid, I kid.)

    Actually, I’m done with the NT. I combined the two Revelation lessons into one yesterday, and we’re going to have a Christmas lesson this Sunday.

  3. (Your comment password system stinks, by the way. I typed out a long comment reporting what Laurel Thatcher Ulrich said last night about the achievements of women in many facets of social, political and religious life, which had significant bearing on the class participation question here — but I forgot to paste in the password and got told to click back, where pasting in the password didn’t work, so I copied my comment onto the clipboard and refreshed the screen to get a new password, but lost my comment when I — duh — copied and pasted the new password … and so you get this nonsense rather than the brilliant and relevant comment you should have gotten. Do you really have such a problem with spam that you have to use this stinky smelly awful password system? Really?)

  4. I was fortunate enough to be in this class, and it was possibly the most influential class I took at BYU. It got me hooked on spending hours in the library poring over the TDNT as well as the texts themselves, and to an extent drove me to major in ancient Near Eastern studies and emphasize in the Greek New Testament. Going over these test questions has been fun, and I agree that the course struck a good balance. I will say that test prep was more intense than any other Rel Ed course I ever took, but it was also more enjoyable. Thanks for posting!

  5. Nice tests, Ben.

    I hope the answer to your bonus question of why 4X more guys speak out in your class than girls, is not because you are a misogynist….

  6. Ben, what was your preferred answer to Midterm #6, or at least one correct answer?

    Also, what Ardis said. Can we fix the comment system? Please?

  7. I’d be very interested in the list of secondary reading assignments that were assigned, if you don’t mind sharing.

  8. Okay, I just tried installing a Math-Captcha plug-in. It’s a little slower, but it should be easier to use. (Knock on wood.) I’m trying it out now (from a google-incognito window, so it sees me as a random reader, not a blog admin). If this comment posts, then it is working.

  9. I echo the requests for the syllabus and additional readings. Also, have I transliterated correctly: “apostolos” and “apokalypsis”?

  10. Kaimi: Thanks for fixing the spam test. Maybe you could modify it depending on the topic of the particular blog post, e.g. for this one, the question would be written in Greek script! ;-)

  11. Rob, you’ve got it on the transliteration.

    Here’s the syllabus (minus my contact info), but it doesn’t have the assignments or secondary reading list. I’ll post those when I find them.

    As I recall, there was some LDS scholarship, some Luke Timothy Johnson, some Bible Review articles, something about women in early Christianity from Theology Today (I think Julie recommended that one to me.)

    The very first assignment involved Greek, learning the alphabet, and some resources.

    The second involved geography.

    The third involved commentaries.

    Answers to the last question varied wildly. As I recall, the class was split down the middle gender-wise, and mixed in terms of stage of college. One said she simply wasn’t confident expressing her knowledge or views because of so many RMs in the room who (she assumed) knew much more than she did. Another said (tongue-in-cheek, I hope), that knowledge seemed like more of a priesthood/man thing. There really wasn’t a consensus, and it was clear most of them hadn’t noticed. I should also point out, the student who asked the most questions was female and a freshman, and ended up transferring to Harvard.

    I suspect it has something to do with a mix of LDS culture in which authority tends to be male, coupled with general differences in male and female communication strategies and values. (See Deborah Tannen)

    And FWIW, here are my unedited answers. Most students did fairly well, a few made comments about how the structure of the exams, though difficult, had been a good learning experience.
    Final- http://cl.ly/40222226173Q2p132J1t

    I can’t locate my Midterm answers, but for Jonathon, #6 was drawing on our discussion of apostasy meaning something like rebellion or mutiny, and various passages like 3 John 9-10, which suggest internal problems as opposed to destruction by outside forces.Basically, if they could make a good argument, show they were thinking about the data, they did well.

  12. I can’t believe I have to do math to comment on this blog!

    I’m not sure what article that would have been . . .

    I’m curious why, on the 3rd assignment, One-Volume Bible Commentary has Pres. Hinckley in parentheses afterwards.

    It was fun to read those assignments. I may steal them. But I’m pretty sure I’d bomb that blank-map geography quiz. Always been a weak spot for me.

  13. President Hinckley said he’d had a copy of it on his mission and found it helpful. I’ve never been able to find the reference again, though.

  14. Last night in response to a question, Laurel Thatcher Ulrich described how as far back, at least, as the Revolutionary era, she had noticed that when men and women occupied separate spheres, women’s opportunities and achievements were outstanding: As examples she talked about the number of women doctors there were who studied at women’s medical colleges, the successes of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union, the Relief Society’s involvement in publications, medical training, building hospitals, attacking social issues, the number of women studying at Radcliffe and their scholarship. But all through the years, whenever men and women became more or less equal, sharing the same sphere, women’s achievements dropped drastically: the number of female doctors dropped precipitously, the women’s voices formerly so prominent in the Woman’s Exponent and RS Magazine largely disappeared in the Ensign, women’s voices and even existence disappeared from Relief Society when the RS and PH began using the same study manuals; she said something about Radcliffe and Harvard that I didn’t catch. I hope I’ve represented her fairly — she ticked the examples off one after another and seemed very sure of herself.

    And we’ve talked at T&S before (at least a few years ago when I was here) about the disparity of commenting in church classes. I’ve watched occasions in my ward (sometimes with me teaching both lessons on the same day, which ought to control for teaching style!) women who were very vocal and willing to discuss a RS lesson become much quieter in the Sunday School class only a few minutes later. We reserve time for testimony bearing on Fast Sunday in RS, because there are women who simply cannot or will not speak in a mixed-gender meeting. *I* am far less likely to speak up as a class member in a mixed-gender setting. So I’m not surprised that Ben noticed that in his classroom.

    Why? There are exceptions, but with me it’s because men never seem to listen to me as a class member (they do just fine when I’m the teacher, though). There’s that weird phenomenon of a woman expressing an idea in class and getting no response from teacher or class; a man speaks up only seconds later and says virtually the same thing, the teacher acknowledges what an important idea has been expressed and a lively discussion ensues. I’ve seen that time and time again.

    I’ve had that problem at work, too, but it’s more pronounced at church.

    I don’t know whether it’s communication style or something else, but it’s very difficult to cope with. Unless something really and truly matters, you (many women) simply stop making the effort to speak up in mixed groups.

  15. So what is the answer to:

    Why is Stephen’s vision of Christ standing on the right hand of God not a good argument against the classical definition of the trinity?

    Is it that (for some Trinitarians) the Father and the Son really are separate PERSONS (they just share the same SUBSTANCE)?

    As for the last question, it is a general pattern that males speak up more in class than females, so I doubt that the explanation is Mormon culture specific.

  16. I feel so fortunate that the one religion class I ever took at BYU in the one brief summer term I was there just happened to be the one class you taught there, Ben (Brother Spackman). It was a deeply influential class for me as well.

    Five years out, the thing that stands out most to me from your class is the readings that were assigned prior to the beginning of class. (This was about a month after I had graduated from high school and so, babe that I was, I actually did all or most of the readings in my classes, including the prep readings.) Those readings focused on the need to balance between critical inquiry and faithful testimony, or on the potential for those two to be mutually reinforcing. Those readings and our discussion of them opened an entirely new world to me and provided me with the spiritual/intellectual preparation I needed to attend Harvard the following fall term and cope with the questions and challenges to my testimony that would confront me then and now. Thanks, Bro. Spackman.

  17. Rachel, thanks for chiming in :)

    Nate R, exactly. As formally defined, classical trinitarianism posits three personages (who are “consubstantial” but that doesn’t mean one body/personage.) Unfortunately, at the lay level, many people understand or at least explain the trinity in “modalistic” terms, that is, one personage who manifests in three different ways. We spent some time in class on it. This is also, btw, why the First Vision doesn’t disprove classical trinitarianism, nor (since there was no touching involved), did it disprove the idea of non-corporeal deity.

  18. Ben, I’ve had some similar ideas about trinitarianism for some time. Understood in the context I’ve gathered that the creeds are written in, it seems to me that Mormons and trad Christians are using different language to attempt to describe the same thing. A couple of Evangelicals I’ve talked to appreciate an appreciation of the idea, even if one is not fully on board. Even an understanding that it’s not modalism evokes gratitude.

    Having said that, though, doesn’t the “handle me and see” disprove the idea of non-corporeal deity?

  19. “Having said that, though, doesn’t the “handle me and see” disprove the idea of non-corporeal deity?”

    Sure, but that wasn’t part of the First Vision, which is sometimes held up as disproving a lot of things it doesn’t actually disprove.

  20. Nice point about the classical creedal meaning of the Trinity, versus the modalism that most Evangelicals seem to believe in (a view that was in fact a heresy that the creeds were targeted against). Indeed, in every Evangelical attack on Mormons over our different views on the Trinity/Godhead, the Evangelical claim has been that the First vision depiction of the Father and Son as separate Persons is contrary to the classical creeds of Christendom, when (as you have pointed out) that is simply wrong. After all, if the Trinity could be in three separate locations at the time of Christ’s baptism, they could do the same thing at Stephen’s martyrdom and Joseph’s First vision.

    The Evangelical attack on Mormon views of the Trinity also ignores the fact that social Trinitarianism is an initerpretation held ot by a number of Protestant theologians, in particular by those who are advocates of the Open God idea, that God is NOT lacking in “passions” but that it is more true to the scriptures to say that God is the epitome of the emotion of love because the Father and Son love each other in a unifying way that is the archtype for our love for God and our neighbors. Of course, when those theologians express these thoughts, the first thing that happens is they are attacked for being “incipient Mormons”. Same thing happens to the Protestants who take seriously the statements in I Peter about salvation for the dead, or who teach the clear Bible doctrine that the resurrection will be physical and that the resurrected will literally inherit the physical earth.

    On the male-to-female ratios on oral participation in college classes, my recollection is that, in the primary grades, the ratio of male-to-female participation is reversed. Girls are more temperamentally suited to sitting still in a single class and participating in a mass process of lecture and answering or asking questions. Indeed, a number of proposals to improve public school education for boys have specifically sought to segregate youth by gender so each can participate more freely in class without the tensions created by different expectations and roles of the two genders, and the intergender tensions that come from wanting to impress a potential boy friend or girlfriend. Obviously some people would claim that “separate is inherently unequal”, keying on the outlawing of racial discrimination in Brown v. Board of Education.

    The court in Brown was unanimous because Chief Justice Earl Warren was a politician who crafted an opinion that all the members of the Court could get behind. The rationale they adopted was that empirical evidence showed that racial segregation inevitably produced inferior education for blacks. In point of fact, that was not the case in all black schools that were adequatley funded and staffed, such as those that were set up in Washington DC by New Englanders who applied the same standards they expected of Northern students on the children of freed slaves. The main thrust of the argument was that segregated schools led to unequal financial support that led to poor education. The corollary drawn from Brown was that somehow black children needed to sit in a classroom with white children in order to get a good education, which led to all the crazy forced busing cases, in which an elusive “racial balance” in the classroom was put ahead of funding for teachers and books, time for studying, and the involvement of parents in neighborhood schools, and imposed decades of racial busing even as demographic patterns changed, so that black children were being bused long distances into predominantly black schools in the DC suburbs, to make the NAACP happy.

    What makes racially segregated schools “unequal” is the fact that the race in power is telling the other race where they can go to school, and how much funding they can have. On the other hand, a school that happens to have a student body that is 90% one race (whether white, black, Hispanic or Asian) is inherently no less likely to give a good education than one where no one race has more than 30% of the student population, as long as it gets equal funding. After all, public schools in Japan have almost no racial diversity at all, but the education they provide is well regarded. it weould be ludicrous to tell Nigerian schools that the most important thing they can do to improve education is to import some white kids form South Africa.

    So there is no logical reason why public schools should not be segregated by gender. After all, the parents are of both sexes, and have children of both sexes. They cannot be suspected of favoring one sex or the other. At the very least, why not allow charter schools to try it out as an experiment, and collect data over several years, and see whether it benefits both boys and girls, as many suspect it will, based on historical experience.

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