Personal Learning Statement - CF102 The Gospels

1. What do you think you have gained from the course?

This term I completed the unit, The Gospels (CF102). I feel like I learnt so much in such a very short space of time (circa 2 months of continuous study, several hours per day on average). I have attempted to document this end-to-end learning journey on my personal web site. These snippets include, my notes from the lectures, sources for my essay on parables, key definitions I thought I should document over time, key software and online systems to help with studying the Bible and much more.

The two main things I gained from this course are:

a. Knowledge of The Gospels and their contents, especially how the background setting of each evangelist may have affected how they wrote their gospel for their specific outreach communities (e.g. Matthew for outreach to the Jewish community, often quoting from the Old Testament). Also the difference between the Synoptic Gospels and the Gospel of John in style (Jesus teaches the crowds using parables in the Synoptic Gospels, and Saint John instead provides accounts of where Jesus meets individuals one-to-one, i.e., universal typologies), the role of miracles in the early church, and the introduction of the hypostatic paradigm, and the device of antinomy and paradox throughout the Gospels. I enjoyed the focus on each Gospel and corresponding evangelist, and then several weeks on John the evangelist, christology, the person and finally anthropological aspects. I especially appreciated understanding more about the way that modern scholars conduct biblical criticism as opposed to the way the Early Church Fathers focus more on content of the Scriptures than form.

b. Even greater faith in the Euaggelion as the inspired word of God. In studying, for instance, the Parables, I see how unique Christ's teachings are, in form, in content, in layered meaning- literal, moral and spiritual. I have found myself in continual amazement over God's gifts to us. I have wanted so much, especially in the morning and before going to sleep, to consider Christ, and to pray to Him as the living God, even more convinced of His eternal presence. I have also come to a closer more intimate awareness through the Gospel of John of Trinitarian theology and can better detect passages that signify intercommunion between the divine members of the Holy Trinity.

2. Please comment on any unanticipated outcomes of the course.

I have persistently been challenged by this course- yes, knowledge is important, but of greater importance is a stable prayer life, and acquiring the mindfulness of the Fathers. As I researched deeply into the topic I had chosen to be assessed in, I realised how much more important the acquisition of spiritual lessons embedded in our life is (e.g. the lessons of the parables) beyond creating an exhaustive library of reference citations for my essay in a worldly sense. The continual challenge for me personally will be to excel in my studies at IOC but at the same time to strive to cultivate harmony in all other aspects of my life to the best of my ability. It is perhaps why I so much appreciated the 10 lectures delivered by Rev. Dr. Nikolai Sakharov. He struck a fine balance between the content we should be introduced to given our candidature and the required knowledge to understand various approaches to the Bible WITH beautiful stories from the Fathers and Mothers of our Church. This was exactly what I looked forward to while I listened to the lectures again and again -- hardcore content of biblical studies, intermingled with learnings from stories that have been passed down from generation to generation and documented in the lives of the Saints. 

3. Did your course change your view of the topic, and if so, in what way?

I did not exactly understand the place of the "person" prior to this course as I had not really thought about it too carefully, outside a human rights context.

I also came to a better understanding on the structure of the Gospels, whereas previously I would not query for instance, why accounts differed one to the other, and why one Gospel included more detail than the other.

I thought the discussion on the formation of the Canon was also critical. In addition, the importance of interpreting Scripture using the consensus patrum and not one's own ideas.

4. Please use this space if you wish to comment further on the academic experience of your course

This course is set out so well using the online learning platform. The lectures by Rev. Dr. Nikolai are treasures. He makes such complex things so simple to understand, is so thorough, and a pleasure to listen and learn from. A lot of material is covered in a single lecture. I found the weekly meetings with Rev. Dr. Alexander Tefft to be highly complementary to my learning- he was a wonderful guide and every interaction on group chat was something I looked forward to at 6am. The materials provided of required reading and recommended reading links were excellent. I found myself more comfortable with the intensive mode of delivery, going through the lectures back to back, and then re-playing them again. This experience has been such a positive start that I cannot wait for the next course to begin.