Religious Studies 135: CHRISTIAN ORIGINS
227 Logan Hall (215 898-5827); firstname.lastname@example.org
LECTURE OUTLINE & ASSIGNMENTS (Fall 2002)
This course deals with the origins of "Christianity" in general, to about the
year 200 ce,
with particular reference to the various
writings preserved from early Christians, including the "New
Testament" anthology. The primary goal of the course is to understand
what took place in this complex period, without consciously importing later
ideas or imposing later value judgments upon the materials. It is thus concerned
more with history and the history of ideas than with today's religious perspectives
as such, although the study can have great relevance for understanding certain
attitudes in modern circles interested in Christian and Jewish heritages. Grasp
of METHOD of historical investigation is of primary importance.
Evaluation of student performance for grading purposes will rest on several
factors, but especially the following:
- informed class participation (do the readings beforehand!),
- a major research
paper due at the end of classes (topics
- a comprehensive final
review (written and/or oral).
Every student will be expected to have a computer account on the Internet and
to keep in regular contact with the instructor by that means. Students are encouraged
to join or monitor at least one academic
discussion group (IOUDAIOS-L,
ELENCHUS, or EccHst-L
are recommended) and to learn to access other relevant materials linked from
the instructor's home
page and elsewhere (learn to search the net with google.com and similar
There are various resources
from which the pertinent information may be gathered, and students are encouraged
to explore a wide range of modern treatments and interpretations. The assignments
will be based on the following books that have been ordered in the Penn Bookstore,
but it is possible to cover the same material from other books and resources
as well, in accord with the stated topics. Of the modern "secondary" works,
Ehrman (also Tyson) is written for college level classes such as this; Koester
is more advanced (graduate level), and may prove to be more challenging, but
hopefully no less rewarding! Note that individual students may choose the specific
"track" by which they acquire information, all the way from using the Internet,
and the library resources, to using
a fixed body of "textbooks."
Recommended Secondary Overviews
Bart D. EHRMAN,
Historical Introduction to the Early Christian Writings (Oxford 2000 [1997\1])
-- [see also
Joseph TYSON, The New Testament and Early Christianity,] OR
Helmut KOESTER, Introduction to the New Testament (2 vol); also
Keith HOPKINS, A World Full of Gods: The Strange Triumph of
Christianity (Free Press 2000 ) for a quite different, supplementary, treatment.
Recommended Collections of Primary Sources
C. K. BARRETT, New Testament Backgrounds (Harper & Row 1987\2)
-- [OR Howard C. KEE, The New Testament in Context: Sources and Documents
(Prentice Hall 1984)].
EHRMAN ["red"], The New Testament and Other Early Christian Writings: a Reader
EHRMAN ["green"], After the New Testament: A Reader in Early Christianity
The New Oxford Annotated Bible with Apocrypha, ed. B. M. Metzger;
J. K. ELLIOTT (ed), The Apocryphal New Testament,
-- [OR HENNECKE - SCHNEEMELCHER - WILSON, NT Apocrypha (2 vol)];
J. STEVENSON and W. H. C. FREND, A New Eusebius.
Sequence of Foci (Course Outline and Topical Assignments)
1. ESTABLISHING A BASIS FOR APPROACHING THE MATERIALS
For this part of the course, read introductory sections that deal with "methodological"
and background issues, as in EHRMAN
chs 1+14+29 [or TYSON] and BARRETT (Intro and Sources), or KOESTER 2 ch 7. A
general encyclopedia article on the sweep of Christian history would also be
1.0 Definitions and Distinctions
primary/secondary sources; history/tradition; "Christianity"; "Judaism"; orthodoxy/heresy/heterodoxy;
1.1 The Surviving Communities and their Voices
How has Christianity's early period been valued?
1.2 The Filters of Classical Christian "Orthodoxy"
canon, creed, heresy; see Eusebius, Church
1.3 The Filters of Classical Jewish "Orthodoxy"
torah, canon, authoritative tradition, purity.
1.4 Moving Behind the Filters to the Earliest Recoverable Materials
purposeful memory, ambiguous clues, and historical occurrence
1.4.1 Archaeology and Art
1.4.2 Inscriptions & Manuscripts -- Preservation and Study
1.4.3 Historical-Critical Analysis
the search for "objectivity" and "controls"
1.4.4 Imaginative Reconstruction
moving in spirals, using analogy, searching for patterns
2. THE WORLD(S) IN WHICH EARLY CHRISTIANITY DEVELOPED
For this section, read about the "backgrounds" of early Christianity (EHRMAN
ch 2 [or TYSON, part 1]; KOESTER 1 entire), see HOPKINS chs 1 & 5 ("time
travel to Pompeii," etc.), and sample the primary sources collected in BARRETT.
2.0 Definitions and Distinctions
geography, politics, language, culture, thought, community and individuality
2.1 Greco-Roman (Hellenistic) History, Culture, and Thought
from Alexander the Great to Constantine the Great
BARRETT ## 1-19, 21-48, 49-57, 58-93, 106-115
2.2 Judaism(s) in the Greco-Roman World(s)
Philo, Alexandrian Judaism, and "the diaspora"
BARRETT 148-152, 225-237, 252-253
See also HOPKINS ch 2 and RelSt 525 (Kraft)
2.3 The Palestinian Scene at the Time of Jesus and Beyond
from the Maccabees to Roman Aelia Capitolina & Bar Kochba
BARRETT 116-147, 210-224
2.4 The Roman Empire and its "Religions"
collegia, colosseum, catacombs, churches
3. JESUS AND THE TRADITIONS ABOUT HIM (died ca 30 ce)
Along with the syntheses such as in EHRMAN
[or TYSON] & KOESTER 2, sample sections of the NT Gospels (synoptics
and John; see Gospel Parallels
as a convenient tool) and the "apocryphal Gospels" (e.g. in
EHRMAN Red & Green ch 8). See also HOPKINS chs 4 & 8, and RelSt 435 (Kraft).
3.1 The Sources and their Relative Value
searching for solid ground on which to build
BARRETT 11 again (Tacitus),
Christian sources: "canonical"
and "extra-canonical" "gospels," etc.
3.2 Reconstructing Jesus' Life and Career
the narrative outline in G.Mark and similar materials
3.3 Recapturing Jesus' Message(s)
collections of sayings in "Q" and G.Thomas, etc.
EHRMAN Red & Green ch 8; STEVENSON 82 (G.Thomas)
the efforts of "the Jesus
Seminar"; study of the sayings Gospel of Thomas
3.4 The Fate of the Jesus Traditions in Early Christianity
Jesus as healer, wise one, righteous, revealer, savior, etc.
see also HOPKINS ch 8
4. EARLIEST CHRISTIANITY (to about 70 ce)
Paul and the NT book of Acts are the dominant subjects in this section; read
about them (e.g. EHRMAN
Intro chs 9 & 18-24), and read them. Also sample the "apocryphal" Acts and non-canonical Pauline materials
(EHRMAN Red & Green ch 8). See also RelSt 436 (Kraft).
4.1 The Sources and their Relative Value
what did Paul really write? can we trust Acts?
4.2 Jesus' Palestinian Companions and their Work
searching for the twelve disciples/apostles, and others
4.3 Christianity in the Greco-Roman World at Large
why did Christianity expand, and by what agencies?
BARRETT 11-14 again (Nero's persecution)
4.4 Paul, "Apostle to the Gentiles," his Career and Opponents
squeezing our earliest witness for all he can supply!
4.5 The Crisis Years in the Roman World (64-73 ce)
Josephus, a Jewish reporter on the
(BARRETT 138-144 again); STEVENSON 4-5
4.6 Christianity beyond the borders of Rome
the Thomas/India traditions,
and similar hints
5. THE SEARCH FOR IDENTITY, RECOGNITION & CONSOLIDATION
Everything else from the first 150 years or so of Christian existence fits
here, rather loosely. Read the secondary treatments for attempts at synthetic
reconstruction (e.g. EHRMAN
chs 25-28, HOPKINS chs 3 & 6-7), and explore the various primary sources
listed below (see EHRMAN Red and Green, and the
"Noncanonical Homepage"). See also RelSt 535 (Kraft).
5.1 Early Christianity and Early Judaism
See also HOPKINS ch 2
5.1.1 Development of Mutual Hostility
BARRETT 199-200; (Diognetus);
(Tertullian); see also EHRMAN Green
5.1.2 Christianity's Apocalyptic Jewish Heritage
BARRETT 260-280; Revelation
16 (see EHRMAN Red; compare EHRMAN Green ##49-50)
5.1.3 Christian Adaptation of Jewish Lifestyle Traditions
1 Peter (NT);
James (NT); EHRMAN
Red & Green also have Didache 1-6 // Barnabas
5.1.4 Christian Approaches to Jewish Scriptures & Authorities
Hebrews (NT); Barnabas 1-17 (EHRMAN Red & Green ch 5); BARRETT 230-231,
5.2 The Battle Within -- Tensions in Early Christianity
5.2.1 Problem of Allegiance -- Who is to be Worshipped?
STEVENSON 60 (Justin), 42-80 (Gnostics, Marcion), 110 (see also EHRMAN Green,
5.2.2 Problem of Authority -- Pneumatic vs Transmitted
1-3 John (NT); STEVENSON 7-15 (1 Clement, Didache, Ignatius; also in EHRMAN
Red & Green), 84-90 (Montanism), 106-107 (Peregrinus); see also EHRMAN Green
5.2.3 Problem of Community -- Institutionalized Forms/Rules
Pauline "Pastorals" (NT); STEVENSON 8 (Didache 7-10; also in EHRMAN Red, &
Green # 56); EHRMAN Green ch 11
5.2.4 Problem of Conformity -- Orthodoxy and Heterodoxy
EHRMAN Green, ch 7 (& 6) Jude // 2 Peter (NT); STEVENSON 91-101 (Irenaeus,
5.3 The Struggle for Public Recognition
5.3.1 Survival in the Roman World -- "Delay of the Parousia"
(2 Peter 3 [NT]); STEVENSON 16-25, 32 (Diognetus; also in EHRMAN Green #12)
5.3.2 Responses to Persecution
-- Christian Apologists
EHRMAN Green, ch 4; STEVENSON 31 (Aristides), 33-41 (Justin, etc.)