1) What will this course be about? Paul as a historical figure, Paul's theology, Paul's letters, all of these?This kind of question depends a bit on what the course is called, and how it is advertised. The course I inherited from EPS was called "The Life and Letters of Paul", and I am happy to say that that gives me a good deal of freedom to explore, well, Paul's life and letters. So I feel happy about dealing with all of those things Joel mentions, Paul as a historical figure, his theology, his letters. And I like to work through all the key methodological issues, Paul and Acts, Pauline chronology, the authenticity and integrity of the epistles and so on. The issue for me is focused by the fact that while some of my students will have taken my New Testament Introduction class, some will not, and so I have to factor in some introductory discussion without the introduction getting dull for those who have taken New Testament Introduction. (This is not ideal, but it is a quirk of the system here that we can't introduce prerequisites).
2) What is essential and palatable for undergraduates? Complicated discussions about Paul and the Law will be way over their heads.There's no question but that you must do Paul and the Law if you are devoting a whole term to Paul; it is too important not to cover. And it is one of those great challenges for the teacher to find ways of teaching the more complex topics. What I like about those challenges is that they often provide the best research opportunities, because it is in thinking through the topic in question afresh that one gains fresh insights. In any case, though, I'd say students struggle more with Pauline chronology than they do with Paul and the Law.
3) What about exegetical method for reading Paul? Should I introduce and have them practice exegeting Pauline texts?I think I'd be inclined to avoid talking too much about "exegesis" because it tends to make the students think of the text as a kind of code that needs to be cracked, and that can only be cracked if you learn about this mysterious thing called "exegesis". I talk about reading and interpreting the text, and these sound much less threatening and mysterious. But yes, one should definitely get the students stuck into the text. I set students one piece of reading from Paul before every class, and one piece of scholarship. And we also do extensive reading from the text in class. On the general question of text and theme, I try to build from the first half of the course, where I introduce the methods and the texts, to the second half of the course where we go thematic. The value of this, I think, is that it provides the proper basis for the students to understand properly things like Paul's soteriology, realizing that discussion of it is grounded in contextually specific letters; it discourages the kind of proof-texting approach that inevitably happens if one leaps straight into themes at the beginning. I like the students to get to know Paul, his personality and his life's battles before they start saying anything about his views on ethics (and so on).
4) What should I use for textbooks? Is there a good accessible primer on Paul? (Of course when Mike's book comes out this will be the class text)I have previously commented here on my distaste for the American style textbook culture. University education, at least in the humanities, should be about critical engagement with the literature and it is difficult for students to do this if they have a central textbook that is their guide for the whole. It encourages a fact-based, accumulation of knowledge model of teaching that is condescending to university students who have come to develop their abilities to engage in intellectual exchange. Having said that, it can be useful to have a couple of good starting points for a given course. Last time around, I recommended two books as good starters for the Life and Letters of Paul, David Horrell's Introduction to the Study of Paul and E. P. Sanders's Paul: A Very Short Introduction. But they are only starter texts, and the key is to encourage students to read as widely as possible. For that, there are dozens of useful texts available on the internet, and I supplement those with one or two extras on Blackboard, as well as setting a research paper that encourages them to read more widely still.
I'll be teaching Paul again in the autumn (the fall, as it's called here) and I look forward to comparing notes with Joel and perhaps others too.