Course syllabus


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Course description

Does the Bible get used to incite violence and intolerance? Why is Jesus always played by white actors in Jesus movies? Why is the Bible so popular in contemporary advertising? Who might we think of as a modern messiah – Harry Potter? Stormzy? Jacinda Ardern? Why is Beyonce dressed up as the Virgin Mary? Are Greta Thunberg and #BlackLivesMatter fulfilling the role of contemporary prophets? What on earth does 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 discussing will include:

  • Movies such as Samson and Delilah, Son of God, and 2012
  • Political rhetoric, including analysis of politicians such as Winston Peters and Donald Trump.
  • Social media sites, including popular blogs, vlogs, Twitter, and FB.
  • Musicians and celebrities such as Beyonce, Stormzy, and Kendrick Lamarr.
  • TV shows such as Messiah, Dr Who, and Daredevil. 
  • 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. 

Course syllabus: 2020 THEOREL 101G course outline.pdf


Your lecturer for this course is  Dr Caroline Blyth: 

Office hours for Caroline: Thursdays 1-2pm, in my office (206-402); and Fridays 1-2pm on Zoom:


Tutorial Times and venues

  • Mondays 9-10am, 206-210 (Humanities Bldg, Room 210) - Charlie 
  • Mondays 3-4pm, 206-215 (Humanities Bldg, Room 215) - Charlie 
  • Mondays 4-5pm, 114-G14 (Commerce A, Room G14) - Charlie 
  • Tuesdays 9-10am, 114-G18 (Commerce A, Room G18) - Charlie 
  • Tuesdays 12-1pm, 114-G01 (Commerce A, Room G01) - Christian
  • Tuesdays 3-4pm, 273-107 (Fale - Office Building,Rm 107) - David
  • Tuesdays 4-5pm, 114-G18 (Commerce A, Room G18)  - Christian
  • Wednesdays 9-10am, 273-107 (Fale - Office Building,Rm 107) - David
  • Wednesdays 10-11am, 273-107 (Fale - Office Building,Rm 107) - David
  • Wednesdays 12-1pm, 206-215 (Humanities Bldg, Room 215) - Christian
  • Wednesdays 1-2pm, 273-107 (Fale - Office Building,Rm 107)- David
  • Wednesdays 3-4pm, 206-210 (Humanities Bldg, Room 210) - Christian


Tutor contact details and office hours (currently via Zoom)

David Tuipulotu-Tuinukuafe: - office hours: Mondays, 12:00 pm - 2:00 pm, Humanities building room 306 (206-306). Office hours zoom link:

Charlie Winn:  - office hours:  Tuesdays, 1.30-3.30 pm, Humanities building room 306 (206-306). 

Christian Parker: - office hours: Wednesdays, 10 am-12 pm, Humanities building room 303 (206-303). Office hours zoom link:


 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: The end of the world? Apocalyptic themes in popular 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: The Gendered Bible. How are gender and sexuality depicted in the Bible? And how is biblical gender and sexuality (and also race and class) 'queered' in both the Bible and pop culture? 
  • Week 11: The Bible and Advertising
  • Week 12: Exam revision


Tuākana information

Tutor: William Naidu

–Workshop: Monday 11am-1pm (Arts1 206-612)

–Office hours: Thurs & Fri 4pm-5pm (Arts1 206-308)



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 weekly 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 Due