Saint John the Evangelist Seminary

A Commitment of the Evangelical Catholic Church for Academic Formation

Est. 2006

















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Saint John the Evangelist Seminary


HST 500:  Patristic Church     3 Credit Hours

Course Syllabus



Instructor TBA



Course Overview

This course is an investigation of the main theological issues, theologians, and religious movements in the early church. It covers the period from the second to the fifth century, from Apostolic Fathers to Augustine, form Gnosticism to Pelagianism. It provides an initial answer to the question “How did we get this way?” and lays a foundation for understanding medieval and early modern Christian thought—and also for one’s self-understanding as a Christian in the 21st century.


Required Texts:

Hall, S. G. Doctrine and Practice in the Early Church. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1991.
McGuckin, J. A. The Westminster Handbook to Patristic Theology. Louisville:
Westminster John Knox, 2004.
Wilken, R. L. The Spirit of Early Christian Thought: Seeking the Face of God. New
Haven: Yale University Press, 2003.



1. Introduction: “What is Historical Theology?”

2. Apostolic Fathers and Apologists—(Hall 1, 3, 5; Wilken 1) TEXTS: Didache;
Justin Martyr First Apology 5-23.

3. Baptism—(Hall 2; Wilken 2) TEXT: Cyril of Jerusalem Cathecetical Lectures

4. “Heresies”—(Hall 4) TEXT: Gospel of Truth; (in class, Marcion Antitheses 4, 7-
12, 18, 24, 28; Eusebius Church History V.16).

5. Authority Controversy; Alexandrian Theology I (mystical theology)—(Hall 6,
7, 10, 17; Wilken 12) TEXT: Origen Prol. to the Commentary on the Song of
Songs; (in class, examples of the regula fidei; Origen Homily XXVII on Numbers

6. Alexandrian Theology II (systematic theology); Origen and Augustine on the
Scripture—(Hall 11, 18; Wilken 3) TEXTS: Origen Pref. to The First Principles,
and IV.1-3; Augustine On Christian Teaching 3.1.1-3.5.9.

7. Ecclesiological Controversy—(Hall 8, 9, 12) TEXTS: Augustine Ep. 185.6; The
Acts of Abitinian Martyrs; (in class, Cyprian of Carthage On the Unity of the
Catholic Church 4-6).

8. MIDTERM; Trinitarian Controversy I (Monarchianism, Arianism)—(Hall 13,
14) TEXTS: Arius Statement of Faith, excerpts from Thalia; Athanasius Against
Arians, Book I; (in class, Origen Dialogue with Heraclides 1-4, Hippolytus
Refutation 9.12).

9. Trinitarian Controversy II (Anomoeans, Cappadocian Fathers, Western
Trinitarian Theology)—(Hall 15, 16; Wilken 4) TEXTS: Eunomius Apology 8-19;
Basil On the Holy Spirit 6-11, 16-19; Augustine On the Trinity, Book IX;(in
class, Gregory of Nyssa On the Difference Between Ousia and Hypostasis 1-4 [cf.
Basil Ep. 38]).

10.The Seven Ecumenical Councils—(Handout: J. Pelikan, Credo, Ch. 13, and
14.3); (in class, Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed, Chalcedon’s Definition of

11. Christological Controversy I (Arianism, Apollinarianism, Nestorianism)—(Hall
20) TEXT: Cyril of Alexandria Explanation of the Twelve Chapters; (in class Acts
of John 97-104; Cyril Ep. 39.5; Formula of Reunion).

12. Christological Controversy II (Monophysitism, Neo-Chalcedonianism,
Monothelitism, Iconoclastic Controversy)—(Hall 21; Wilken 5, 10) TEXTS:
Maximus Opus. 3; Theodore of Studite On the Holy Icons 2.2-4; (in class,
Synodikon [sections on icons]).

13. Pelagianism and Augustinianism I (grace, free will, original sin)—(Hall 19)
TEXTS: Augustine On Free Choice of the Will, Book III; Id., Nature and Grace

14. Pelagianism and Augustinianism II (foreknowledge and predestination)—
TEXT: Augustine On the Gift of Perseverance 1-13.

15. FINAL EXAM; (Hall, 22)