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RELI 0030 The Early Church

By the time of Council of Chalcedon in 451 the followers of Jesus of Nazareth, initially a small Jewish sect confined to the Middle East, had been transformed into a ‘Catholic Church’ which spanned the Roman world, with other believers spread far beyond.  The process which created a recognisable Church with a distinctive order and the beginnings of an agreed doctrine was far from straightforward or neat; many died, many were excluded, and even those who remained in the fold were transformed for ever.  As the key texts of the era are available in translation, students are able to explore these issues for themselves, with the aid of a lively modern historiography.

Sample Syllabus

  • Making a Church: Questions of Order
  • Confessors, Martyrs and the ‘Seed of the Church’
  • Secret or Open? The Challenge of Gnosticism
  • ‘Folly to the Greeks’? The Alexandrian School
  • ‘In this sign shall you conquer’: the ‘Conversion’ of the Empire
  • ‘Unhappy exiles from social life’? Monks and Nuns
  • ‘The pre-eminence of the Apostolic See’: the Growth of a Papacy
  • Of which City? The Church and the State


Introductory Reading

  • Chadwick, H., The Early Church. London: Penguin, rev’d edn, 1993
  • Freeman, C., A New History of Early Christianity. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2009
  • Chadwick, H. The Church in Ancient Society. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001
  • Brown, P., The Rise of Western Christendom. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 2nd edn, 2002
  • Bettenson, H. and Maunder, C. (eds), Documents of the Christian Church. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 4th edn, 2011, Part I
  • Stevenson, J. with Frend, W.H.C. (eds), A New Eusebius: Documents Illustrating the History of the Church to A.D. 337. London: SPCK, rev’d edn, 1987
  • Stevenson, J. with Frend, W.H.C. (eds), Creeds, Councils and Controversies; Documents Illustrating the History of the Church, A.D. 337-461. London: SPCK, rev’d edn, 1989
One Semester... not nearly enough
After only one semester at CMRS I found I hadn’t had nearly enough.  The academic experience itself was incredibly engaging and I felt like my wri...
Mrig Mehra, Spring Semester 2012, Middlebury College