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Christian Origins: from Jesus to the Early Church

Module titleChristian Origins: from Jesus to the Early Church
Module codeTHE1102
Academic year2019/0
Module staff

Professor David Horrell (Convenor)

Professor Morwenna Ludlow (Convenor)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks


Number students taking module (anticipated)


Description - summary of the module content

Module description

This module will give you an introduction to the emergence of Christianity, in its diverse and varied forms, through the first six centuries of its existence. It will give you a sense of the context in which these developments took place, the historical sources at our disposal, the debates and divisions that occurred, and the diversity of modern scholarly approaches and perspectives. As such, it will introduce you to the scholarly disciplines of New Testament Studies and Patristics.

No prior knowledge is assumed and the module is suitable for anyone with an interest in the topic, particularly those working from historical or literary perspectives in disciplines such as History, Classics/Ancient History, Liberal Arts, as well as in Theology and Religion.

Module aims - intentions of the module

This module aims to:

  • Introduce you to the historical context in which Christianity developed
  • Introduce you to the main (Christian) sources from this period of Christian origins
  • Introduce you to the disciplines of New Testament Studies and Patristics
  • Outline some of the key theological ideas and debates that characterised the early Christian movement
  • Introduce some of the key figures in the history of Christianity’s development
  • Enable you to understand something of the diversity of the groups that were part of the early Christian movement(s)
  • Outline some of the main contours of scholarly discussion and debate, especially in the disciplines of New Testament studies and Patristics

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 1. Demonstrate knowledge of key aspects of the emergence of Christianity and its early formations
  • 2. Demonstrate awareness of key primary texts and issues in their interpretation

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 3. Demonstrate understanding of key features of the Christian religion, their diversity and complexity, in its period of origins
  • 4. Demonstrate awareness of the issues involved in using historical sources to understand religion

ILO: Personal and key skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 5. Communicate information about primary sources and their interpretation in writing
  • 6. Show sensitivity to the diversity of possible interpretations of religiously significant topics
  • 7. Work collaboratively as part of a group and present a group¬ís discussions fairly and concisely

Syllabus plan

Syllabus plan

Whilst the content may vary from year to year, it is envisioned that it will cover some or all of the following topics:

  • The nature of our earliest sources and the historical context
  • The Jesus movement within first-century Judaism
  • After Easter: mission and Gentile conversion – the contribution of Paul
  • Beyond the first generation: debate, diversity, consolidation and institutionalisation
  • Responding to challenges: Gnosticism, Judaisms, and ‘paganism’
  • Trying to understand the nature of God
  • Trying to understand humanity: an introduction to early Christian anthropology
  • Trying to understand the nature/s of Christ: debates about Christology
  • Divisions and developments: Christianity in West and East, monasticism and asceticism

Learning and teaching

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled learning and teaching22Lectures
Scheduled learning and teaching11Whole class group work sessions
Scheduled learning and teaching1Tutorials
Guided independent study116Private study and preparation


Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Group work and report back5 minutes2-4, 6-7Oral, after class
Tests on key facts4 x 5-minute tests1-2Test-papers returned

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Essay (text comment)501000 words2,4-6Written
Examination501 hour1, 3-6Written


Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
EssayEssay2, 4-6Referral/Deferral period
ExaminationExamination1, 3-6Referral/Deferral period

Re-assessment notes

Deferral – if you miss an assessment for certificated reasons judged acceptable by the Mitigation Committee, you will normally be either deferred in the assessment or an extension may be granted. The mark given for a re-assessment taken as a result of deferral will not be capped and will be treated as it would be if it were your first attempt at the assessment.

Referral – if you have failed the module overall (i.e. a final overall module mark of less than 40%) you will be required to submit a further assessment as necessary. If you are successful on referral, your overall module mark will be capped at 40%.


Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

  • M. Ludlow, The Early Church (London: I B Tauris, 2009)
  • C Rowland, Christian Origins (2nd edn; London: SPCK, 2002)

Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

Module has an active ELE page

Key words search

Hebrew, Bible

Credit value15
Module ECTS


Module pre-requisites


Module co-requisites


NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


Origin date

February 2014

Last revision date