This course will examine the origins and development of Christianity in the first five centuries C.E., beginning in the period following the time of Jesus and the apostles. We will focus on primary (ancient) texts in order to understand the social, cultural, political and theological dynamics of this formative religion. We will pay special attention to the ways that difference is established, performed, and contested in the context of the Roman Empire. No previous knowledge of antiquity or Christianity is required or expected.


By the end of this course students will be able to:

1. Explain the multiple ways that "religious" distinctiveness can be enacted;
2. Place Christian ideas and practices in the distinct social, political, and cultural contexts of the Roman Empire;
3. Analyze modes of expression, debate, difference, and dissent in multiple written formats using examples from the first Christian centuries.


The following REQUIRED BOOKS should be available for sale or rental from the Huntley Bookstore (but you can get them wherever you want), and on reserve at Honnold-Mudd:

1. Bart D. Ehrman, After the New Testament, 100-300 C.E.: A Reader in Early Christianity, 2d ed. (New York: Oxford University Press, 2014)

2. Bart D. Ehrman and Andrew S. Jacobs, Christianity in Late Antiquity, 300-450 C.E.: A Reader (New York: Oxford University Press, 2003)

The following RECOMMENDED BOOK should also be available from the bookstore:

Robert Wilken, Christians as the Romans Saw Them, 2d ed. (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2003)
Additional readings can be found on electronic reserve through Sakai or directly on the course website, accessible through the Syllabus & Readings page.


1. Participation and attendance: 15%. You are required to attend class; more than four absences may result in a lowering of your participation grade. Because of the small size of this class, it will be conducted like a seminar: your conversations (supplemented with brief “mini-lectures” by the professor) will drive the class.

2. Written assignments (15% per assignment; 60% total). Full descriptions of each written assignment are found on the Written Assignments page, and will be discussed thoroughly in class before due dates. For each assignment you will have several choices, and you should be keeping these assignments in mind as you complete the readings each week. All written assignments will be turned in (and returned) through Drop Box on Sakai. Any written assignment that receives below a B+ can be revised and turned in for regrading. Students planning to revise papers should meet with the professor to discuss revisions. (Links below take you to full descriptions of the assignments.)

a. Directed Reading. In this assignment, you will closely read a primary text and trace its use of specific themes and ideas.

b. Creative Response. In this assignment, you will produce a creative text in the "voice" of an early Christian along the lines of a specific early Christian theme.

c. Argument Analysis. In this assignment, you will attempt to analyze and produce "counterarguments" to a specific argumentative primary text.

d. Film Analysis. In this assignment, you will analyze specific tropes and themes from the film Agora and contemplate the ongoing appeal of early Christian in modern popular culture.
3. Final exam: 25%. The final is cumulative (i.e., it covers the entire semester) and will ask you to explain significant persons, places, and ideas as well as discuss broader thematic questions in essay format. The final exam will be take home, and due on the scheduled day of the final exam (Monday, December 12, 2016), at 5pm (uploaded to the DropBox on Sakai).

Student accommodations: Students requiring academic accommodations should contact the appropriate person in their Dean of Students office in order to formalize accommodations (be ready to discuss appropriate accommodations and provide necessary documentation). Accommodations may not be provided for students who have not registered through their Dean of Students Office.

College accommodations contact information:
Scripps - Academic Resources and Services,
CMC - Julia Easley,
Pitzer- Jill Hawthorne,
Pomona - Dean of Students Office,
Harvey Mudd – Office of Disability Resources,

Scripps College’s policy on academic honesty: “Cheating and/or plagiarism seriously violate the principles of academic integrity that Scripps College expects its students to uphold. Academic dishonesty is not tolerated at Scripps and may result in suspension or expulsion from the College. (See the current Guide to Student Life, pp. 90-93.)”


Mark your calendars!
September 23: Directed Reading due by 5pm
October 21: Creative Response due by 5pm
November 11: Argument Analysis due by 5pm
December 5: Take-home final available to download from Sakai (12 noon)
December 9: Film Analysis due by 5pm (note new due date!)
December 12: Take-home final exam due (5pm)

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