THEOREL 101G The Bible in Popular Culture

THEOREL 101G | Open schedule | Semester Two 2018 | City Campus


Why did Kanye West invite Jesus on stage during his Yeezus tour? Who is the new messiah – Harry Potter or Harry Styles? Why are Adam and Eve so popular in contemporary advertising? 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.

Learning outcomes

After finishing the course, you should:

  • Be familiar with the basic theories of analysing popular culture and be able to apply these to cultural texts, including those encountered in class.
  • Be able to explain how the Bible influences and is influenced by popular culture.
  • Be able to explain how the Bible influences popular culture and how popular culture influences interpretations of the biblical texts.
  • Be familiar with the ways in which the Bible functions as a cultural resource (or "prop") in a wide variety of contemporary contexts and cultures.
  • Be able to identify some significant Biblical themes and characters as they appear in popular culture texts, including film, music, art, advertising, and television.
  • Demonstrate an ability to access library and electronic resources that relate to the course content and use these to complete course assessments successfully (ie, to learn some basic research skills).

Topics covered

  • Introducing theories for studying popular culture
  • The Bible: Fact or fiction? Approaching the Bible as a cultural text
  • Methods for studying the Bible in popular culture
  • Gender, sexuality and biblical afterlives – how are biblical men and women depicted in popular culture? What assumptions about gender and sexuality are given voice here?
  • Biblical prophets and contemporary prophets in popular culture, including Harvey Milk, Martin Luther King, Russell Brand, and Aung San Suu Kyi
  • The messiah, or "supersaviour", in the Bible and popular culture; including "popular messiahs" such as Harry Potter, Sherlock, Harry Styles, and "sporting messiahs" such as David Beckham, Richie McCaw, and Wayne Rooney
  • Biblical violence in popular culture – how the Bible is used in crime fiction, film, and television, including The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and Daredevil
  • The Bible in contemporary politics and the media
  • Commodifying the sacred: The Jesus industry
  • Selling power: The Bible in postfeminist advertising


Online quiz (15%)
Essay proposal (10%)
Essay (25%)
Two-hour examination (50%)

Student feedback on course

"The lecturer’s passion and approach to the material were beyond inspiring and really helped me grasp the information…This should be taken by every student."

"I loved this paper and would thoroughly recommend it. It has made me want to take THEOREL as a minor in my BA. My expectations were high but this paper surpassed all of them. A great lecturer who presented fascinating course material in an interesting way."

"One of the most enthusiastic and approachable lecturers I’ve ever had. It was always very clear what we’d be learning about and what was expected of us – this was very valuable."

"As someone who’s (almost) never picked up a Bible, I’m surprised by how much I enjoyed this course…This will definitely be helpful for my degree (MFTVS and English).”

"This course was amazing! I loved it! It was so thought-provoking, enjoyable, and an interesting experience".

"This was the best course I have ever done, and if I wasn’t in my last semester I would definitely have switched to a THEOREL major."

"This was an excellent General Education course that I would highly recommend."

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