This course investigates the development and growth of early Christianity, from its roots as a provincial sect in Judaea in the first century to its establishment as the official religion of the Roman world in 313. Emphasis will be on Christianity in its social context rather than on the complexities of theology; though we will consider different manifestations of Christianity, such as Gnosticism, when we look at how a particular form of Christianity eventually managed to emerge predominant.
A recurring focus through all the individual topics in the course will be the problems of using the available evidence: numerous texts provide evidence for early Christianity, but on important issues they are often inconsistent or inconclusive so that all students are forced to make decisions based on their own reading. The course will therefore develop skills in the attentive reading, assimilation, and analysis of historical evidence, in the perception of connections between problematic issues in different aspects of the subject, and in the presentation of conclusions in a clear and comprehensible manner.
The first term will examine the historical and social development as set out in the syllabus below. This will be based on primary sources: literary, documentary (e.g. papyri, tomb inscriptions), and archaeological.
Term 2 will continue this social analysis by looking in more depth at how Christianity transformed different aspects of the pagan world.