Course syllabus


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Course description

Why is Jesus always played by white actors in Jesus movies? Why is the Bible so popular in contemporary advertising? Who is the new messiah – Harry Potter or LeBron James? Does Beyonce think she's the Virgin Mary? Why are filmmakers so obsessed with the end of the world? What do Winston Peters and Donald Trump know about the Bible? And why should we care?

This course introduces you to the various ways that biblical themes, images and characters have an enduring presence and influence within contemporary popular culture. By learning to analyse religious and biblical references found in music, film, TV, art, advertising and the media, you will discover that, even in today’s increasingly secular world, the Bible continues to both influence and be influenced by our cultural, political, and religious landscapes.

Some of the cultural texts we'll be studying will include:

  • Movies such as Samson and Delilah, Son of God, 2012, and Harry Potter.
  • Political rhetoric, including analysis of politicians such as Winston Peters, Hillary Clinton, and Donald Trump.
  • Social media sites, including popular blogs, vlogs, Twitter, and FB.
  • Musicians and celebrities such as Beyonce, Harry Styles, and Bob Marley.
  • TV shows such as The West Wing and Lucifer. 
  • Video games, including Assassin's Creed, Mass Effect, and Bioshock.
  • Visual arts and advertising images that depict biblical themes and characters.

The class will interest you regardless of your knowledge of the Bible. Any student can study the Bible whether they are of the Jewish or Christian faith, another faith, or of no religious faith at all. The Bible is explored as a cultural text in this course and all we require from students is a desire to learn more about significance and influence of the Bible in contemporary cultures, both national and global. 

Your lecturer for this course is Dr Caroline Blyth: 


Course syllabus: 2019 THEOREL 101G course outline.pdf


 Topics covered in this course will include:

  • Week 1: Introducing the study of religion in popular culture
  • Week 2: Studying the Bible as a cultural text 
  • Week 3: Biblical characters and their cultural afterlives
  • Week 4: Jesus of Hollywood - how is the biblical Jesus portrayed in visual form?
  • Week 5: The messiah, or "supersaviour", in the Bible and popular culture; including "popular messiahs" such as Harry Potter, Kendrick Lamarr, Beyonce and LeBron James.
  • Week 6: Prophecy in the Bible and popular culture - who were the biblical prophets, and who fills this prophetic role in contemporary culture?  
  • Week 7: Apocalypse and the end of the world. What cultural function do apocalyptic stories serve, both in the Bible and pop culture? 
  • Week 8: The Bible in contemporary politics and the media: how is the Bible used and misued in contemporary politics? Why do politicians quote the bible, or insist that it is their "favourite book"? We consider the continuing political power of this ancient text. 
  • Week 9: Biblical violence in popular culture: is the Bible a violent book? What forms of violence does it contain? And does it have the potential to inspire contemporary forms of violence, including gender violence, racism, homophobia and transphobia?  
  • Week 10: Satan in the Bible and pop culture.
  • Week 11: The Gendered Bible . How are gender and sexuality depicted in the Bible? And how is biblical gender and sexuality represented 'queerly' in both the Bible and pop culture? 

Course availability 2019

Semester 2

Lecture times and locations: check on SSO

Tutorial Times (please check the venue on SSO in case of last-minute room changes)

1. T01C: Thursdays 9-10am - 114-G01 (Commerce A, Room G01) - Harriet Winn
2. T13C: Thursday 9-10am  - 206-215 (Arts 1, Room 215) - Caroline Blyth
3. T02C: Thursdays 12-1pm - 114-G18 (Commerce A, Room G18) - Harriet Winn
4. T06C: Thursdays 3-4pm - 206-215 (Arts 1, Room 215) - David Tuipulotu-Tuinukuafe
5. T07C: Thursdays 4-5pm - 114-G18 (Commerce A, Room G18) - David Tuipulotu-Tuinukuafe
6. T08C: Thursdays 5-6pm - 114-G18 (Commerce A, Room G18) - David Tuipulotu-Tuinukuafe
7. T10C: Fridays 9-10am - 114-G01 (Commerce A, Room G01) - Harriet Winn
8. T03C: Fridays 10-11am - 114-G18 (Commerce A, Room G18) - Harriet Winn
9. T04C: Fridays 11am-12pm - 114-G01 (Commerce A, Room G01) - Marina Pasichnik
10. T12C: Fridays 11am-12pm - 114-G18 (Commerce A, Room G18) - David Tuipulotu-Tuinukuafe
11. T05C: Fridays 1-2pm - 206-215 (Arts 1, Room 215) - Marina Pasichnik
12. T09C: Fridays 2-3pm - 114-G18 (Commerce A, Room G18) - Marina Pasichnik
13. T11C: Fridays 3-4pm - 114-G01 (Commerce A, Room G01) - Marina Pasichnik

Tutor contact details and office hours

Harriet Winn: Office hours:  Thursdays, 10am-12pm, Humanities Building (aka Arts 1, Building 206), room 305. 

David Tuipulotu-Tuinukuafe: Office hours: Mondays 12-1pm and Wednesdays 2-3pm. Humanities Building (aka Arts 1, building 206), room 306. 

Marina Pasichnik: Office hours: Fridays 10-11am and 12-1pm. Humanities Building (aka Arts 1, building 206), room 306. 


Learning outcomes:

Upon completion of this course, students should:

  1. Have learned basic theories of analyzing popular culture and be able to apply these to cultural texts, including those encountered in class;
  2. Be able to explain how the Bible influences popular culture and how popular culture influences interpretations of the biblical texts;
  3. Be familiar with the ways in which the Bible functions as a cultural resource in a wide variety of contemporary contexts and cultures;
  4. Be able to identify some significant Biblical themes and characters as they appear in popular culture texts, including film, music, art, advertising, television and the media;
  5. Have learned the skills of writing an engaging and well-written essay, which others will want to read.


There is no textbook for the course, readings are listed and available on Canvas under the Reading List. Students need to have access to a Bible, either hard copy or online. A good online Bible can be found here


Short discussions - 15%

Essay proposal - 10%

Essay - 25% (see essay help module here)

Final exam - 2 hours; 50%


15.0 points


THEOLOGY 101, 101G


Course summary:

Date Details