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Instructor Class Description

Time Schedule:

Michael A Williams
JSIS B 408
Seattle Campus

The World of the Early Church

Early Christian church within the context of the Greco-Roman sociopolitical, philosophical, and religious environment. Covers the period from about AD 100 to 300. Christian thinkers and documents studied include both the classical "orthodox" and the "heretical." Recommended: either HIST 307, JSIS B 220, or JSIS D 328.

Class description

This course focuses on the history and literature of Christianity during the second and third centuries CE, and the relation between Christianity and the history and culture, especially religious culture, of the period. We will be reading examples of a wide variety of early Christian literature, from the more official to the more popular, from the more “orthodox” to the “heretical.” This is the period during which Christianity expanded numerically from a tiny minority movement to become the largest religious movement in the Roman Empire. The course gives attention to some of the factors and dynamics that account for this general success, while surveying the rich diversity in belief and practice attested during this period of development. The wide variety of “Christianities” from this period include some strikingly different interpretations of tradition, scripture, family, society, nature, life and death.

Students who have enrolled in the class should have access to the course web site at: Or, if there are problems accessing, can contact the instructor at

Student learning goals

Students should gain a foundational knowledge of processes and communities involved in the emergence of Christianity into a successful new religion. Knowledge of the origin and nature of significant early Christian doctrines, practices and institutions. Knowledge of some of the important diversity among forms of the Jesus movements, and disputes over various issues. Historical, political and social context in the Roman world.

Opportunities for exercising and developing writing stills

Opportunities for exercising and developing oral communication skills, and experience in organized discussion.

Greater understanding of the nature of religion and religious communities in general.

General method of instruction

Lecture and discussion

Recommended preparation

There are no formal prerequisites for the class. Students who have had other courses on early Christianity, ancient Judaism, or culture and history of the Roman Empire, will probably find that beneficial background. But experience has shown that the most important factors are good study habits, a willingness to read, attend seriously to material in lectures and engage in class discussion, and write, are the most important factors for success.

Class assignments and grading

Usually a series of 2-3 short essays (about 5 pages) on assigned topic or topic area, and one somewhat longer final paper on a topic selected by student from a wide range of options.

Quality of papers and class participation

The information above is intended to be helpful in choosing courses. Because the instructor may further develop his/her plans for this course, its characteristics are subject to change without notice. In most cases, the official course syllabus will be distributed on the first day of class.
Additional Information
Last Update by Michael A Williams
Date: 09/17/2012