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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Divinity : Divinity

Undergraduate Course: Early Christian Writers (DIVI10022)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Divinity CollegeCollege of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 10 (Year 3 Undergraduate) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryA study of some of the most influential early Christian writers from the second to the fifth centuries in their historical contexts.
Course description Academic Description:
This course looks at the major works of some of Christianity's most influential writers of both East and West in the period between the New Testament and the end of the fourth century, from a theological, historical and literary perspective. Great rhetoricians such as Tertullian and John Chrysostom will be studied, alongside two of the great early theological works on the Incarnation and the Resurrection, Irenaeus' Against the Gnostics and Athanasius' On the Incarnation, as well as Origen's famous work of speculative theology, On First Principles, Eusebius of Caesarea's accounts of the martyrdoms of the Great Persecution, Egeria's account of her pilgrimage to the Holy Land in the late fourth century, Gregory Nazianzen's Trinitarian classic the Five Theological Orations, and the Lives of the Desert Monks, which deals with the quest for holiness by the hermits of the desert of both sexes in the face of the growing political struggles within the churches of the great cities. Politics, theology, and the clash of cultures provide the backdrop.

Syllabus/Outline Content:
After an introductory week putting the writers in context, the course covers ten different works or groups of works, one per week: The Letters of Ignatius of Antioch, Irenaeus' Against the Gnostics, Tertullian's Apology, Origen's On First Principles, The General Persecutions in Eusebius of Caesarea's Church History (books 7-9), Athanasius' On the Incarnation, Egeria's Travels, Gregory of Nazianzus' Theological Orations, John Chrysostom's sermons on Paul's letters, and the Lives and Sayings of the Desert Fathers and Mothers.

Student Learning Experience Information:
Classes will consist of a lecture on the background to each author and a group discussion of the text for the week on the basis of the students' wikis, which will be posted beforehand. Although the class will cover all of the works, students will be expected to concentrate on a deeper study of three of them in particular. They will choose to comment for their wikis on one aspect of each of the three authors chosen, whether historical context, literary approach or theological approach, as their contribution to the building up of a picture of each author by the class as a whole.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Students MUST NOT also be taking Early Christian Writers 3/4 (ECHS10014)
Other requirements Students who have previously taken the following course MUST NOT enroll: Early Christian Writers 3/4 (ECHS10014)
Information for Visiting Students
Pre-requisitesVisiting students should have at least 3 Divinity/Religious Studies courses at grade B or above (or be predicted to obtain this). We will only consider University/College level courses.
High Demand Course? Yes
Course Delivery Information
Not being delivered
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Comment intelligently on the historical and theological significance of some of the most influential early Christian writings.
  2. Analyse and criticise key primary source materials.
  3. Engage in close reading of texts.
  4. Display enhanced skills of oral and literary communication.
Reading List
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills - Capacity for reflexive learning
- Capacity to modify, suspend or otherwise change position when warranted
- Ability to gather, evaluate and synthesise different types of information
- Presentation skills, both oral and written, supported by appropriate technologies
Course organiserDr Sara Parvis
Tel: (0131 6)50 8907
Course secretaryMiss Rachel Dutton
Tel: (0131 6)50 7227
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