Academic Programs 

The Early Church   (HI-550)
Fall 2008

The course will trace the growth and development of Christianity from its earliest beginnings in the first century to the great councils of the fourth and fifth centuries, stopping en route to examine selected texts from the New Testament, early Christian and Roman documents, the writings of the Fathers, and the earliest creeds, ranging from the Gospels and St. Paul, to Ignatius, Justin, Origen, Basil, Augustine, and Nicea. The course will focus on emergent Christian thought on the nature of God and Christ, the Bible, Church and sacraments, sin, grace, salvation, the relation of church and state, and the Christian way of life, toward the end of keener insight into issues of religion and faith today.

Meeting Day, Time and Dates:
Thursdays from 7 to 9:20 p.m., beginning Sept. 11

Wayne Rollins
Adjunct Professor of Biblical Studies

Contact Information:
(860) 509-9500


Course Syllabus

Thoughts on History, Church, and Us

. "There are many sheep without, many wolves within." --St. Augustine of Hippo

. "The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church." -- Tertullian

. "Do not be like those people who think they are inaugurating a new era, as if before they came along there had been nothing but emptiness or chaos. Before we came there were our parents, and they were the latest link of a long and sacred chain. The generations which went before us left such wonderful proofs of their noble victories in the cause of truth and goodness that we fear we may never equal them in merit and glory. It would be a meritorious thing for us all frankly to admit that we should still be very wretched indeed, and hardly out of the phase of barbarism, if the civilization of past centuries had not seen to our baptism." -- Pope John XXIII

. “I accented the historicity of the Church, showing that it does evolve and change through the centuries. If it freezes, it ceases to be alive. It needs to speak to the problems of the day.”
- Avery Dulles

. "Christian life is the life of Christ in man and man in Christ." -Romano Guardini

I. Books for Purchase
. Ehrman, Bart. After the New Testament: A Reader in Early Christianity. New York: Oxford University Press, 1998 [= EHRMAN] (Bookstore recommends Amazon for more reasonable pricing)

.Stark, Rodney. The Rise of Christianity. How the Obscure, Marginal Jesus Movement Became the Dominant Religious Force in the Western World in a Few Centuries. San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1997 [=STARK]

. Hinson, Glenn. The Early Church : Origins to the Dawn of the Middle Ages. Nashville: Abingdon, 1996. [=HINSON]

Additional Texts on Permanent Reserve
. Fitzmyer, Joseph, S. J. A Christological Catechism: New Testament Answers (Paulist) [=CC]

. Hazlett, Ian, ed. Early Christianity: Origins and Evolution to A.D. 600 (Abingdon) [=EC]

. McKinion, Steven, Life and Practice in the Early Church: A Documentary Reader (2001) [=L&P]

.Richardson, Cyril, ed. Early Christian Fathers. New York: Collier/ Macmillan, 1970.[= ECF]

. Wiles, Maurice and Santer, Mark, eds. Documents in Early Christian Thought (Cambridge University Press) [=W&S]


  1. Weekly readings, class participation, regular attendance. Classroom exchange is as important as the reading. (Each absence = reduction of one letter attendance grade; consistent tardiness also reduces the grade. See instructor for makeup in case of an emergency). [1/6 of grade]
  2. *One class report, chosen from the topics asterisked in the syllabus, presented orally to the class (ten minutes maximum, plus discussion), and submitted in written form (5 type-written pages maximum) to the instructor no later than the week following the oral presentation. :
    a. Begin by telling us why this topic interested you.
    b. The body of the report should consist of an orderly overview of the topic, elaborating on five to ten facts that caught your attention, explaining why.
    c. Conclude with an observation on how this topic illumines our understanding of the subject matter of this course (e.g., morally, historically, spiritually, literarily, personally).
    d. Feel free to use visuals, a handout, etc.
    d. The written version should Include a brief bibliography (including web sources, if used).
    The grade will be based primarily on the written version (clarity, organization, thoughtfulness, breadth of reading, and range of issues and applications considered). [2/6of grade]
  3. *A Final Research Project (15 pages maximum plus bibliography), due December 11 (barring extreme circumstances that would warrant an extension). Notify instructor of your choice of topic by November 6, indicating a tentative title, a descriptive paragraph on the purpose, focus, rationale and scope of the paper, and a brief preliminary bibliography. The project must include an epilogue as follows: (a) a paragraph on the significance of the paper for you, e.g. has it changed your thinking?; (b) a paragraph on its significance for the study of the early church. [3/6 of grade].

*All academic papers are to conform to conventional technical, grammatical and stylistic standards referred to in the Hartford Seminary General Guidelines for a Research Paper. The Hartford Seminary Grading Guidelines will be the standard of evaluation for work in the course

Course Objectives

  1. .To provide opportunity for critical reflection on the diverse factors (historical, social, economic, artistic, theological, economic, liturgical, religious, ecclesiastical, and psycho-spiritual) at work in the emergence of the early church, --- toward an enriched understanding of the church today and issues of religion and faith in our own time.
  2. To develop a more sure-footed sense of the contributions of Roman, Hellenistic (Greek), and Jewish religion, philosophy, politics, and culture to the development and formation of Christian thought and practice.
    3. To have in your head a brief chronology of early church history, its “main events”, persons, and literature.
  3. To become familiar with the story and thought of key figures that have led to new insight into the nature and meaning of Christian faith and practice, from Paul and other New Testament writers, to Ignatius, Polycarp, Justin Martyr, Tertullian, Irenaeus, Origen, Eusebius, Gregory of Nyssa, Jerome, Cyprian, John Chrysostom, and Augustine.
  4. To appreciate the role of theology as a way of wrestling with the recurrent issues, questions, and potentialities of life, and to identify the key theological formulations that develop in the early church, with special emphasis on the doctrines (=teaching) about God, the Trinity, Christ, the Holy Spirit, sin and grace, tradition and scripture, church and sacraments, Christian living, church and society, and the final goal of life.
  5. To identify and reflect on the evolution of the concepts of orthodoxy and heresy, with special emphasis the virtues as well as the “vices” of Christian Gnosticism,
  6. .To identify those ideas, themes, and realities in the Early Church you regard as indispensable for humankind and yourself.

Syllabus [Asterisked items indicate topics available for reports. ]

Sept. 11 Prospectus

Part I. The Earliest Church and Its New Testament Evidence

Sept. 18 The Synoptic Gospels: Jesus of History and Christ of Faith
Read: (1) Special handout, "Who Wrote the Bible." Spend no more than 5 min. reading each of the 8 sections of the article. Summarize each section in one clear, informative sentence. (2) Special assignment on Jesus and the Synoptic Gospels.
Supplementary Reading: HINSON, chapters 1 and 3 (pp. 15-21 and 29-39)
*Fitzmyer, [CC] "What do we know about Jesus?" 11-17, and "What is to be said of the titles of Jesus?", 84-89
*Peter in the Early Church *Crucifixion in antiquity
*The Gospel of Mark and his Theology
*The Gospel of Matthew and his Theology

Sept. 25 The Acts of the Apostles: Signs of Diversity and Conflict
Read: Special handout assignment
Supplementary Reading: HINSON, chapter 4, (pp. 40-47)
*Fitzmyer, CC "Are there different interpretations of Jesus (or different Christologies in the New Testament?", 81-85; and "Did Jesus Clearly Claim to be God?" pp. 97-100.
*The Ascension tradition in the early church *Mary in the early Church
*The Theological perspective of Luke-Acts *Jerusalem before and after 70 A.D. *Miracles in the EC and in Classical Antiquity

Oct. 2 St. Paul: The Earliest Christian Writer and First Great Theologian, and the Gospel According to John, the Johannine Epistles, and Revelation
Read: Special handout assignments on Paul and Johannine literature
Supplementary Reading: HINSON chapters 5 and 6 (pp. 48-68)
*Paul's Travels *Paul's Letters: An Overview and Digest
*Paul’s Message: Key Themes (cf. IDB, vol. K-Q, 690-704)
* The Gospel According to John: Its Special Nature and Message
* Numbers Symbolism and 666 in Revelation 13:18
* The Content and Purpose of the Book of Revelation

Part II. A Geographical, Cultural, and Chronological Overview

Oct. 9 The Geographical Overview: The Roman Empire & Mediterranean Basin
Read: Special handout assignment sheet.
Also. Stark, “Epidemics, Network, and Conversion, “ 73-94; and
Stark, “Urban Chaos and Crisis: The Case of Antioch”, 147-62
Supplementary Reading: HINSON, chapter 2 (pp. 22-28)
* EC, 17-27, "The World of the Roman Empire" (see next page)
* The City of Rome and the Church in Rome * The catacombs
*Ephesus * Mystery religions
* Travels of Egeria (cf. bibliography under “Egeria”)

Oct. 16 The Chronological Overview: From Augustus to Constantine and Beyond:
63.C. to A.D. 451

Read: Special handout. Pencil-check every date/event/person that strikes you as especially significant. For class, prepare your list of the 10 items you judge to be the most significant for the development of the EC. Read: Stark, “The Class Basis of Christianity,” 29-47. Supplementary Reading: HINSON, chapter 13 (pp. 134-143).
*Augustus Caesar *Emperor worship and Roman Religion
*Jerome *Eusebius. the primordial church historian
*The Emperors, from Augustus to Domitian, 31 BC to AD 96: A thumbnail sketch
*Augustine, the premier theologian in the first thousand years of Christianity

Part III. The Post-Apostolic Age and the Emergence of the Creeds

Oct. 23 The Didache: Life and Order in A Jewish-Christian Community
Read "The Didache" in Ehrman in the following sequence:
Didache cc. 1-5, Ehrman 385-87; cc. 7-10, 346-47; cc. 11-15, , 323-25
Read: Stark, “The Mission to the Jews: Why It Probably Succeeded,” 49-72
Read: Ehrman, “Jewish Christian Texts, 134-45.
Supplementary l Reading: HINSON, chapter 8 (pp. 77-87)
*Jewish Christianity *Fasting in world religions and in the Early Church
*Apostolic Fathers *Shepherd of Hermas
*EC "The Jewish Dimension," 40-51
* Ehrman: “Anti-Jewish Polemic, The Opposition to Jews in Early Christianity,”

Oct. 30 Attack on Christianity: The Martyrs
Read: “Martyrdom of Polycarp, Ehrman, 30-35. Answer four questions: (1) Who was Polycarp? (2) What are his dates? (3) Why is this document of special importance? (4) Does it teach us anything today?
Read. Stark: Chap. 8. “The Martyrs: Sacrifice as Rational Choice,” 163-89
Read. Letter to Diognetus, Ehrman, 72-75
Read: The Letter of Ignatius to the Romans, Ehrman, 28-30
Supplementary Reading: HINSON, chapters 7, 11, and 12 (pp. 69-76, 107-118, 119-133)
*Roman Persecution of Christians, AD 65-325
*Ehrman, Three documents on early Christian Martyrdom, 35-50
* Ignatius, His life, Letters, and Contribution to our Knowledge of the EC
* EC, 231-43. “Pagan Perceptions of Christianity”
* The origin, meaning, and use of the term “Catholic” in Church History

Nov. 6 The Defense of Christianity: The Apologists
Read. Justin , First Apology, Ehrman 57-65. List at least 10 items of defense of early Christian belief and practice that Justin brings to Roman attention to counter the 5 Roman charges that Christians are (1) atheistic, (2) immoral, (3) unpatriotic, (4) of lower social status, (5) uneducated and ignorant. (See next page)

Read: Stark, 95-128, “The Role of Women in Christian Growth”
Read: Minucius Felix, Ehrman, 54-57 and Athenagoras, 65-70
Supplementary Reading: HINSON, chapters 10 and 15 ( Pp. 97-106 and 158-169)
* Tertullian, The Life and Writings of the First Latin Father
* Origen: The Life and Writings of an Eminent and Controversial Biblical Scholar
* The Role and Position of Women in the EC

Nov. 13 The Riddle of Heresy and Orthodoxy: Lost Strains of Christianity: The Gnostics, Montanists, and Manichaeans
Read: Special handout on Gnosticism
Read: Irenaeus, Against the Heresies, in Ehrman , 196-211
Read the following Gnostic texts in Ehrman:
. Intro. to Gnosticism, 144-45
. The Secret Book of John, 146-154
. The Gospel of Truth, 160-165
. Ptolemy’s Letter to Flora (on scripture), 166-70
. The Treatise on the Resurrection, 182-84
Read: the following Non-Canonical Gospels in Ehrman:
. The Gospel of Thomas, 237-44
. The Infancy Gospel of Thomas, 255-59.
Optional Reading: HINSON, chapter 9, (pp. 88-96)
*New Testament Apocryphal Writings
*Irenaeus, The First Great “Catholic” Theologian.
* The Protevangelium of James (Ehrman, 247-55)
* Marcion *Montanism *Manichaeism.

Nov. 20 The Emergence of Creeds: Constantine, Nicea, and Chalcedon
Read: Special handout on the Nicene Creed.
Read: Special handout by Elizabeth Johnson on five stages of development in Christology from the EC to the present
Read: Ehrman, 405-436, “The Emergence of Orthodoxy: Theological Writings of Proto-Orthodox Christians”
Supplementary Reading: HINSON, chapters 18 and 19 (pp. 197-240)
* Constantine the Great, as Emperor and Patron of the Christian movement
* The Apostle’s Creed * The Council and Creed of Nicea
* W&S, “Trinity” (readings from Origen, Athanasius, Gregory of Nyssa, and Augustine), 22-42
* W&S, “God” (readings from Clement of Alexandria, Origen, Basil, Gregory of Nyssa, and Augustine), 3-21.
* Pelagius and Pelagianism *Arius and Arianism

Dec. 4 Developing Church Structures and Scriptures in the EC
Read: Ehrman, 317-342, “The Structure of Early Christianity The Development of Church Offices”
Read: Ehrman, 309-317, “The New Scriptures: Canonical Lists in Early Christianity”
Read: Stark, “Opportunity and Organization,” 191-208.
Supplementary Reading: HINSON chapters 16 and 17 (pp. 170-196)
* Origin of the priesthood * Celibacy in Christian history and practice
* Bishops, Deacons, and Elders in the Early Church (see next page)
* Sunday as the Lord’s Day
* W&S, “Tradition and Scripture” (readings), 127-158.

Dec. 11 Growth of Liturgy and a Christian Way of Life
Read: Ehrman, 343-60, “The Development of Liturgy: Ritual Practices in Early Christianity”
Read: Ehrman, 387-404, “Leading the Upright Life: Role of Ethics in Early Xty”
Read: Stark, “A Brief Reflection on Virtue,” 209-215
Supplementary Reading: HINSON, chapters 22-23 (pp. 241-269)
*Eucharist in the EC *Emergence of the cult of the saints
*Baptism in the EC *Jewish Origins of Christian Liturgy
* EC, 256-66, “Christian Attitudes Toward Poverty and Wealth”
* Origins of the Monastic Movement in the EC
*Augustine: Life, Writings, and Key Themes
* Mysticism in the EC *Christian ethics of sexuality
* Gregory of Nyssa
* W&S, 172-201, “Sacraments” (readings from Tertullian, Cyril of Jerusalem, Irenaeus, Gregory of Nyssa, John Chrysostom)
*W&S, “Christian Living” (readings from Clement of Alexandria, Hippolytus, Cyprian, Basil, John Chrysostom) 202-223


NEW TESTAMENT : Research Resources in the Reference Room
- Rand McNally Bible Atlas BS630 K855
- Macmillan Bible Atlas BS630 Ah15
General Commentaries
- Anchor Bible Commentary 192.2 A1 1964
- The New Interpreter’s Bible (12 vols.) BS491.2 N484 1994
- Women’s Bible Commentary BS 491.2 W66 1992
- Anchor Bible Dictionary (6 vols.) BS 440 A54 1992
- Dictionary of Biblical Interpretation (2 vols.) BS500 D5 1999
- Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels (IVP) BS2555.2 D53 1992
- Encyclopedia of Biblical Theology BS 440 B46713 1981
- Exegetical Dictionary of the NT (3 vols.) (Grk) BS2312 E913 1990
- Harper’s Bible Dictionary 1985
- Hawthorne, G.F. and R. P. Martin, Paul and His Letters (IVP) BS 2650.2 D53 1993
- Illustrated Dictionary and Concordance of the Bible BS440. I36 1986
- Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible (5 vols.) BS444 IN85
- New Interpreter’s Dictionary of OT Theology and Exegesis (3 vols.) BS440 N438 1997
- New Interpreter’s Dictionary of NT Theology (3 vols.) BS2397 N48
- Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament (10 vols.) BS440 B5713
- Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (10 vols.) BS 2312 T4713
- Analytical Concordance of the RSV of the New Testament BS2305 M67
- Eerdman’s Analytic Concordance (RSV) BS425 1989
- Nelson’s Complete Concordance (RSV) BS425 E4 1984
- The New RSV Concordance (John Kohlenberger III, ed.) BS425 K545 1991
- Whittaker, Analytical Concordance to the RSV Bible (1991) B S425 W48
- Young’s Analytical Concordance BS425 Y7 1970

Specialized Concordances
- Greek English Concordance to the NT (Smith) BS2302 SM 61 1955
- Harper’s Topical Concordance BS432 H37 1976
- Moulton and Geden, A Concordance to the Greek NT BS2302 M862 1963
- Concordancia Completa de la Santa Biblia BS 428 S65 1979

EARLY CHURCH: Research Resources in the Reference Room

- Chadwick, H. & Evans, G. R., eds. Atlas of the Christian Church BR98 .A74 1987
Dictionaries and Encyclopedias
- Clifton, C. S., ed. Encyclopedia of Heretics and Heresies BT1315.2 .C55 1992
- The Coptic Encyclopedia BX 130.5 .C66 1991 vols. 1-7
- Cornmire and Klezzner, eds., Women in World History HQ 1115 .W6 1995 vols. 1-11
- Cross, F. L., and Livingstone, E. A., eds., The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church (3rd edit.) BR95 .O8 1997
- Dictionary of the Apostolic Church BS 440 .H279.4 vols. 1-2
- Döpp, S. and Geerlings, W., eds. Dictionary of Early Christian Literature BR 66.5 .L4813 2000
- Encyclopedia of the Early Church BR66.5 .D5813 1992 vols. 1-2
- Fahlbusch, Pelikan, et al. , eds., The Encyclopedia of Christianity BR95 .E8913 1999 vols. 1-2 (to date; A-I)
- Ferguson, E., ed. Encyclopedia of Early Christianity BR 162.2 .E53 1997 vols. 1-2
- Harper Collins Dictionary of Religion BL31 .H37 1995
- Hart, T. A., Gen. ed., Dictionary of Historical Theology BT 21.2 .D53 2000
- Hastings, J., Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics BL31 .En19 vols. 1-13
- Martin, R.P. and Davids, P. H., editors, Dictionary of the Later New Testament and its Development BS2625.5 .D5
- McKim, D., Westminster Dictionary of Theological Terms BR95 .M378 1996
- New Catholic Encyclopedia BX841 .N42

Special Resources
- Schiffman, L. H. & VanderKam, J.C., eds. Encyclopedia of the Dead Sea Scrolls BM487 .E53 2000 vols. 1-2
- Schneemelcher, NT Apocrypha, (2 vols.) BS2832 .S3 1991
- -Quasten, Johannes, Patrology BW205 .Q28 vols. 1-3
- Robinson, James, The Nag Hammadi Library BT1391 .A3 1986
- Robinson, T. A., The Early Church: An Annotated Bibliography on Literature in English BR 162.2 .R63 1993

Online Resources
Consult with librarians Marie Rovero or Steven Blackburn on how to access Hartford Seminary religion database using keywords for bibliography or topics.
. Website: and of course, Google.

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