St. Symeon the Stylite
from a 10th cent manuscript
321: The History of Christianity
: Ancient Christianities
|Professor: Dr. Stephen Shoemaker
sshoemak (at) uoregon (dot) edu
Office: 813 PLC
Office Hours: TR 4-5
(or by appointment)
Internet Resources of General Use:
If you have a general question about a particular person, concept, etc.,
you might try these resources first to find an answer.
Schedule of Assignments and Suggested Internet Resources
Description and Objectives
course is designed to introduce various aspects of Christianity during the first
seven centuries of its existence. Although
this course focuses to a certain extent on the development of what would later
become “orthodox” Christianity within the bounds of the Roman Empire, this
is not to the exclusion of rival forms of early Christianity. Considerable attention will also be given to the spread of
Christianity along the fringes and outside the borders of the Roman Empire.
We will concentrate especially on the historical diversity of the early
Christian tradition, in an effort to understand better its contemporary
complexity. In the course of the term, students will read and write
reflective essays on several primary sources, each selected to represent the
historical and confessional diversity of Christian traditions, as well as to
present certain basic problems from the history of Christianity. We will
conclude in the middle of the seventh century, a period often considered
"the end of antiquity," and while this periodization is not
unproblematic, the Arab conquests of the eastern Mediterranean that would follow
indeed mark a significant historical change.
H. Lynch, Early Christianity: A Brief
(Oxford; ISBN: 0195138039)
T. Irvin & Scott W. Sunquist, History of the World Christian Movement,
vol. 1, Earliest Christianity to 1453 (Orbis; ISBN: 1-57075-396-2) =
(for specific paper assignment - see below)
other items are to be found on the internet, as
from the New Testament may also be done from an NRSV, RSV, REB, NAB, or
Jerusalem version - do not use Living Bible, Bible in Today's English, NIV,
KJV, etc. If you have questions about another version, please ask the
good resources to learn more about a particular topic (with bibliography for
further reading) include:
Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church: Knight Library Reference,
Anchor Bible Dictionary: Knight Library Reference, BS440
.A54 1992 (good for first 2 centuries)
of General Use
Encyclopedia Although this is an older edition (1907-12), there
are many excellent articles on many of the key people, events, concepts,
etc. covered in this class, particularly in the early and medieval periods.
The articles naturally reflect a particularly Roman Catholic point of view,
making it a rich source for information on this tradition. The articles
are often lengthy, but are usually worth the read.
of Theological Terms This glossary, taken from Alister McGrath's Christian
Theology (2nd edition) published by Blackwell Publishers, provides
succinct definitions for a number of theological technical terms..
The Ecole Initiative
This site's Glossary
has brief descriptions of several hundred topics (mostly people). The site also has a number
of texts, images, and articles relevant to this period.
Ancient History Sourcebook Many of the items used in this class, along with a
number of other historical documents, maps, etc., are to be found here
and at the related The Internet Medieval
Wikipedia: The Free
Encyclopedia This is very often a good place to start if you need general information on
a variety of topics: brief explanations of many people, places, etc.
at all class sessions is expected. Since
class sessions will involve a fair amount of student discussion, students should
read all the assignments carefully before coming to class.
Assignments will generally involve about 100 pages of reading per week.
Everyone should be prepared to contribute both ideas and questions to the
class discussions. Assignments and
grading are as follows:
Two exams 10/27 and 8:00 Thursday,
December 8 (50%)
Class attendance and participation (20%)
5-6 page (double-spaced: approx. 1500 words) essay (30%), chosen
from the following options:
Due 10/18. Read the The
Gospel of Thomas and the Gospel according to Luke and answer the following questions:
“What is similar about these two gospels, and what is different?
Are they more different than similar?
What things are similar and different in their depiction of Jesus?
How do they represent similar and/or different understandings of the
Christian faith? What, in your view, is the significance of the relationship
between these two early gospels for understanding the early history of Christian
Due 11/8. Read Origen’s On
First Principles, Book IV and answer the
following questions: “How does Origen believe the Scriptures are to be
interpreted? What reasons does he give for adopting this approach?
Do you think that this is an appropriate way to interpret the Scriptures?
What are its strengths and its shortcomings? What do you think about the
fact that this was the dominant method of reading the Scriptures in both the
early and medieval periods?”
Due 11/15. Read Athanasius' Life
of Antony and answer the following questions: "In what ways is
Antony's life a fulfillment of the Christian ideal reflected in the life and
teachings of Jesus and his apostles? In what ways might it seem to fall
short of this? To what extent do the demons confronted by Antony represent
an internal struggle within himself? To what extent do the demons seem
'real'? What sorts of strategies does Antony adopt to overcome these
demons? What sort of miraculous powers are attributed to Antony?
What is their source? Why does he have them?"
Due 11/29. Read Clark, St. Augustine on Marriage and Sexuality,
42-105 together with 1
Corinthians 7, and answer the following questions: "What is
Augustine's view of Christian marriage, and how is it related to celibacy
(continence/virginity)? What the good things does he find in each? What is
Augustine's view of human sexuality? What is the purpose of marriage? What do you think of his
understandings of marriage, virginity, and sexuality, and how do they compare to
Paul's view? How does he reconcile his views with the the Hebrew Bible's
(the Old Testament) view of marriage?"
Format of Essays:
In answering the questions, first of all, briefly
summarize the contents of the text(s) regarding the questions asked: what do
the texts say? Then, take a clear position in response to the texts
and defend it: imagine that your reader believes the opposite and that you
are trying to persuade him or her. Your assignment for this paper is
to write from a perspective outside of the Christian tradition in question.
Do not make the mistake of giving a spiritual autobiography or a narrative
of how this text relates to your own personal spiritual life and faith.
Do not make the mistake of just dismissing the ideas of a text because you
have different religious beliefs: if you disagree, give convincing reasons
why. In all instances, strive for an impersonal and objective tone:
you need to represent the contents of the text(s) fairly and accurately and
give thoughtful reasons for your response.
goal for this assignment is to approach and consider these religious
traditions as objects of study from the outside, NOT from the
perspective of an insider, legitimate as this perspective is in other
contexts. Even if one is a
believer in a particular tradition, the purpose of taking this class is to
learn how to see and study the same phenomena from a perspective outside of
the tradition. In general, it is good to avoid using "I,"
"me," "my," "we," "our,"
"you", "your" (except in quotations of course); you
should give your opinions, but write them using the third person.
Also, while you should cite examples from the texts, be sure to explain and
contextualize any quotations made, and be sure that your own voice is not
lost in a sea of quotations. All quotations must be identified as such, and
references to the text should be given parenthetically either as a page
number or section number, as appropriate. Take care to write correctly
and well: you will be graded for grammar and style as well as content.
Finally, please number your pages. For extra help and advice on
writing your paper, the University
Teaching and Learning Center in the basement of PLC is an invaluable resource.
Expectations and Regulations
1. Preparation: You are expected to come
to class having completed the reading assignments for that session. You
should be prepared to discuss and ask questions about the assignments.
Note also that some material from the readings that is not covered in class
may be included on the examinations.
2. Participation and Class Attendance: You should come
to class prepared to ask questions and to discuss the readings for that
session. Regular class attendance is required, and attendance will
be taken. If you expect to miss class doe to illness, observance
of religious holy days, or other extenuating circumstances, please notify
the instructor in advance after class or by email.
3. Late Papers: Unless an extension has been arranged in
advance, late papers will be marked down one full letter grade for each
day after the due date. Late papers will not be accepted more than
three days after the due date.
4. Make-up or Early Exams: will be allowed only
in truly exceptional circumstances, in the case of unforeseeable
events beyond the student’s control.
5. Plagiarism or Cheating: Students caught plagiarizing
or cheating on any assignment will be reported to the Student Conduct
Coordinator in the Office of the Dean of Students. Students who
are aware of cheating or plagiarism are encouraged to inform the instructor.
If you are uncertain as to what constitutes plagiarism (or other forms of
academic dishonesty), please consult this helpful guide from the UO library
as well as the UO's Policy
on Academic Dishonesty.
6. Completion of Assignments: Completion of all required
assignments (2 Exams, 1 Paper) is necessary to pass and receive
credit for the course. Incompletes will be granted only at the discretion
of the instructor and only in case of circumstances beyond the student's
7. Special Needs: Students with special needs requiring
academic accommodations should 1) register with and provide documentation
to Disability Services; 2) bring a letter to
the instructor from the SSD indicating that you need academic accommodations,
and we will arrange to meet them.
This should be done during the first week of class.
From Jesus to the Church
The Gospel according to Mark, 13-16.8 (web)
Gospel according to Matthew, 5-7 (web)
Gospel according to John, 1 (web)
The Epistle of Paul to the Galatians
Didache (selections; web)
Antioch, Letter to the Magnesians (web)
& Letter to the Trallians (web)
Resource Pages for
Biblical Studies A huge site with links to information on the web about
the New Testament and its historical background. Also links to many
on-line translations of the Biblical texts.
Clement Clement of Rome's letter to the Corinthian Church.
Orthodoxy and Heresy
57-65; 86-91; 115-26
Gospel of Thomas (web)
Reality of the Rulers (Hypostasis of the Archons) (web)
You will likely find this last item extremely difficult. Don't
get bogged down in trying to understand every detail of it - just read through it and
appreciate how different it is)
Problem Extensive treatment of the literary relationships between the
first three gospels, with discussions of alternative theories and links
to other sites.
The Gospel of Thomas Home
brief essays on the Gospel of Thomas
The Gnosis Archive This website includes a collection of web links to sites dealing with gnosticism,
broadly defined, from antiquity until the present. There is enormous
collection of gnostic texts, and the site also has lots of lectures and articles, as well as information on
the Ecclesia Gnostica, a contemporary gnostic church. It is maintained by the Gnostic Society, a group of contemporary
gnostics, who have a church in Portland.
More on contemporary
gnostic denominations can be found here.
Center for Marcionite Research A collection of texts relevant to Marcionite
The Development of the New
Testament Canon A excellent site with lots of charts and other information
chronicling the development of the NT canon. See especially the Cross
Reference Table, which gives a quick overview of which books, both
canonical and apocryphal, different early Christian writers considered
a part of the NT canon. Also good brief summaries of a number of apocryphal
The Noncanonical Hompage
A good collection many early Christian writings that were excluded from
the NT (and OT/HB) canon.
Christianity and the Roman Empire
Ignatius of Antioch, Letter
to the Romans (web)
Letters of Pliny and Trajan (web)
Justin Martyr, Second Apology (web)
Tertullian, Montanism, and Early Christology
Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History,
Ignatius of Antioch, Letter to the Smyrneans (web)
Origen of Alexandria
Imperial Persecution, the Conversion of Constantine, and the Problem of the “Lapsed”
Arius, the Council Nicea, and the Doctrine of the Trinity
The Councils of Constantinople and the End of Arianism
of Caesarea, Letter 52 (web)
of Nestorius and Cyril of Alexandria & Cyril’s 12 Anathemas (web)
Map of the
Roman Empire ca. 395.
Monasticism, Saints, and Relics
Women in Early Christianity: Apostles(?), Ascetics, and Patrons
Augustine of Hippo
A web page devoted to Augustine
of Hippo, complete with texts, images, and links to other sites, including
the following items:.
"Christ and the
Soul" Chapter 4 of James J. O'Donnell's Augustine, an introduction
to Augustine's writings against the Pelagians.
Africa A collection of detailed maps of Roman Africa in Augustine's
Augustine's account of his conversion from his Confessions.
The Virgin Mary and the Council of Ephesus
The Council of Chalcedon
Constantinople and surroundings, including Chalcedon.
Incarnation: This is a fairly clear explanation of the development of
orthodox Christology at the ecumenical council from the Orthodox
Church in America's web site.
After Chalcedon: Christianity in the Early Byzantine Empire
No Class - Instructor attending AAR/SBL conference
11/24 No Class – Thanksgiving
The “Fall of Rome” and the Rise of the Papacy
Maps of the Roman Empire and the Mediterranean world in 476,
The progressive impact of the Barbarian invasions is clearly seen.
of Rome just before its fall, according to Ammianus Marcellinus.
sack of Rome in 410, according to Procopius.
Early Christianity outside the Roman Empire
92-5, 195-208, 214-19, 248-54, 305-22
Life of St. Shushanik (web)
(St.) Narsai, An Exposition of the Mysteries (web)
EXAM: 8:00 Thursday, December 8