Fall 2009: Survey of Early and Medieval Christian History

The last class I took in Fall 2009 long term was Early to Medieval Christian History (CH1100).  Princeton Theological Seminary requires 12 credit hours (or 4 3 credit courses) in Christian history in order to graduate with a M.Div.  One course is required in each of the following categories: Early & Medieval Christian History, Reformation History, Modern History and Mission, Ecumenics, History of Religions, or Sociology of Religion. It should be said that not all history classes offered meet these requirements so you’ll want to pay close attention to the Course Schedule as it specifically indicates which ones do meet the requirements.

The plenary (lecture) portion of this class met twice a week for an hour.  There was an hour designated for precepts to meet.  The course was taught by Professor Kathleen McVey and though at first I thought I would not like her lecture style, she is a wonderful person and I grew to appreciate her.

The course syllabus spelled out that it “is designed to give you an overview of the history of the Christian movement from its beginnings through the mid 15th c.   It covers and integrates major aspects of the church’s institutional history and doctrinal development with its cultural and geographical diversity.”  There were two main texts used in this course:   Dale T. Irvin and Scott Sunquist, History of the World Christian Movement, volume I and John Coakley and Andrea Sterk, Readings in World Christian History, Vol I: Earliest Christianity to 1453. There were also various essays made available on Blackboard.  We also read portions of Augustine’s Confessions and The Rule of St. Benedict in its entirety.  The lecture schedule was as follows:

Sept. 22 Introductions to Survey of Early and Medieval Church History and to CH 1100

Sept. 24 Biblical Religion in a Culturally Diverse World

Sept. 29 Persecutions, Apologists, and Martyrs

Oct 1 Orthodoxy and Heresy

Oct. 6 Origen of Alexandria and the Interpretation of Scripture

Oct. 8 The Constantinian Transformation

Oct. 13 Trinitarian Disputes (4th c.)

Oct. 15 Christological Controversies (5th c. onward)

Oct. 20 Augustine

Oct. 22 Mothers and Fathers of the Desert

Oct. 26 – Oct. 30: Reading Week

Nov. 3 Benedict’s Rule and Western Monasticism

Nov. 5 Mid-Term Examination

Nov. 10 Byzantium, Iconoclasm and the Conversion of the Slavs

Nov. 12 Islam and the Initial Christian Response

Nov. 17 Medieval Western Christianity and the Problem of Violence

Nov. 19 Christians of Mideast, Asia, Africa

Dec. 1 Mysticism

Dec. 3 Scholasticism and Thomas Aquinas

Dec. 8 Late Medieval Trends

The precept periods were reserved for discussion of the primary source materials from that weeks reading as well as discussion of papers.  There were two 5 page papers due during the semester that are “designed to help you analyze primary sources from church history.”  The papers were organized in three sections: context, main issues, and reaction.  In order to spread out the topics (and the grading) there were three cycles.  So basically there was a sign up sheet and you signed up for a cycle and wrote your two papers at the same time as everyone else in that cycle.  These papers were 40% of the final grade.  I wrote my papers on Origen on biblical interpretation as presented in a portion of his On First Principles and St. John of Damascus On the Divine Images.  The other topics were: The Rule of Benedict, Urban II’s “Speech at the Council of Clermont,” The Martyrdom of Perpetua and Felicity, and Augustine’s Confessions. I will post my papers separately following this post.

The mid-term exam was 20% of the grade and the final exam was cumulative and as such was worth 40%.  Both the midterm and final were difficult but fair.

I learned a tremendous amount in this class.  While quite a few of my peers have commented that they find it ridiculous to have to take so many history courses, I do not feel the same way.  Let me confess though, that I do not like history courses.  I find it very difficult to learn pieces of a story and then put them all together and it is difficult for me to organize information in history classes.  That said, though I don’t remember much from the history classes I took in middle or high school, one of my teachers, Mr. Taylor, had a quote on his wall that I will never forget: “Those who forget the past are doomed to relive it.” – George Satayana

As I read for this class and listened to lecture, it was amazing to me the various ways that I could see the ancient debates we discussed playing out in present day.  I will say, however, that as a survey class, this course is not for the faint at heart.  It is a tremendous amount of information and it is hard to gauge how much depth to attempt with such a large breadth of information.  I do not regret taking it by any means, but I do not intend to take any additional survey courses if I can help it.


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One Response to “Fall 2009: Survey of Early and Medieval Christian History”

  1. Divine Images in Scripture and Tradition « Says:

    […] Images in Scripture and Tradition By Sara J. Green This is the second paper I wrote for my Early to Medieval Christian history class.  I did fairly well on this paper as […]

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