When Orthodox Christians recite the Creed during the Divine Liturgy, they cross themselves at the words "Believe in One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church." The gesture is more than just a matter of ritual, for the significance of these words has to do with identity and with membership in the Kingdom of God. The Church is not just an institution, but a mode of life and a way of being in the world. As such, it has a history, which is often understood as the history of Christianity as a whole. Indeed, the foundation of the Church was laid by Jesus Christ Himself. Following His death and Resurrection, the Church evolved and grew into what we now call Orthodoxy. However, although Jesus founded only One Church, we now see a multitude of churches, all of which define themselves as Christian and successors of the Church established by Christ. Understanding the history of Christianity is therefore a critical element in understanding the role of Orthodoxy and the historical significance of the Holy Orthodox Church in both past and present times.
This course is designed as a chronological and topical introduction to the history of the Orthodox Church, from the beginning to the present. Since this is a survey, it is impossible to cover everything. Instead, the course will offer a selection of representative topics from a much larger possible list. We will examine some of the key concepts of theology that had historical significance, the political circumstances leading to the separation of various churches, and the main aspects of Orthodox Christian life throughout history. Our focus will be on Orthodoxy, but we will also take quick glimpses at some other churches, especially at the Roman-Catholic church. Anyone with enough curiosity and desire to learn is welcome. There are no pre-requisites and no special recommendations for this course.
There are numerous books about the history of Christianity, and even more literature on the history of the Church. Not all of them are available and even fewer can be used successfully in a survey course like this. There is a tendency in the literature published in English to shift the focus to the Roman-Catholic church after ca. 800 A.D., thus leaving out some of the most important developments in the history of Orthodoxy, which we will discuss in this course. Such books are therefore of little use to us, no matter how detailed or accurate their coverage of Western developments may be. During the last few years, there has been a resurgence of interest in the history of Byzantine Christianity and of the Eastern churches, in general. The choice of volume 5 of the Cambridge History of Christianity for this course is based on the concision of the presentatione. However, should you desire to broaden your knowledge of Christian Orthodoxy, you may find the list of recommended books useful. Irrespective of your choice, the teaching approach in this course will be broad enough to accommodate all learning skills and strategies. The format will be a combination of lectures and discussion and much of what we will read as "primary sources" will be available online, from the links indicated below.
- The Cambridge History of Christianity, vol. 5: Eastern Christianity. Edited by Michael Angold. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006 [hereafter Angold; on two-hour reserve in Library West]
- Readings in World Christian History, vol. 1: Earliest Christianity to 1453. Edited by John W. Coakley and Andrea Sterk. New York: Orbis Books, 2004 [hereafter Coakley; on two-hour reserve in Library West]
- Byzantium: Church, Society, and Civilization Seen Through Contemporary Eyes. Ed. by Deno John Geanakoplos. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1984 [hereafter Geanakoplos; on two-hour reserve in Library West]
- The Blackwell Companion to Eastern Christianity. Edited by Ken Parry. Malden: Blackwell, 2007.
- The Blackwell Dictionary of Eastern Christianity. Edited by Ken Parry. Malden: Blackwell, 1999 [available as e-book in Library West]
- John Binns. Introduction to the Christian Orthodox Churches. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002.
- John Meyendorff. The Orthodox Church. Its Past and Its Role in the World Today. 4th edition. Crestwood, N.J.: St. Vladimir's Seminar Press, 199
There is no attendance policy, but you are responsible for attending all lectures and reading the required texts. Class participation may be taken into account to determine the overall grade. The basis for evaluation of performance will be a reading journal and five in-class assignments. Below is a detailed description of these assignments and the corresponding percentages of your final grade. Extra-credit work will be accepted only for students with active participation in class discussions. If necessary, I will explain the format of the extra-credit option during regular office hours. You are otherwise encouraged to keep in touch with me by e-mail, if you have any questions: I check my mailbox regularly, and promise to answer quickly.
ASSIGNMENTS AND GRADING POLICIES
Reading journal. A quick glimpse at the list of weekly topics (see below) will no doubt convince you that this is a course with serious readings. You will be expected to digest a substantial amount of information in a fairly short period of time. The best way to do this is to keep a journal. Before every class meeting, you will post an e-mail message on my address (on top of this syllabus), in which you will discuss briefly the readings for the coming meeting, ask questions and/or make comments, raise issues that need clarification, etc. All e-mails should arrive at least 12 hours before class meetings. Be sure to keep your postings to a reasonable length (175 to 250 words long). I do not want you to spend too much time on them, but I expect you to give an articulate presentation of your thoughts. Needless to say, I also expect you to check on correct grammar and spelling before clicking on "Send." Because the journal is designed to demonstrate your efforts towards an initial understanding of the readings, I must have in time one report for each class meeting, every week. The reading journal represents seventy percent of your final grade, 2.33 percent for each entry. I will send written feed-back (via e-mail) on weekly entries midway through the term. Reading reports cannot be made up; you simply need to have a journal entry for every class meeting. Be aware that missed reports may result in a substantially lower grade.
In-class assignments. The remaining thirty percent of your final grade will be based on five short assignments in class. All five will consist of multiple-choice, map, matching, short-essay questions, or a combination thereof. Besides material covered in class lectures, the in-class assignments will focus primarily on primary source readings from the Coakley and Geanakoplos books. A careful study of those texts is necessary for a good performance at the test. Because in-class assignments are announced, I do not intend to grant any make-ups, except for emergencies (e.g., illness), in which case I may ask for official justification.Grades. The following scale will be used in determining your final grade
97-100 A 93-96 A- 88-92 B+ 81-87 B 75-80 B- 68-74 C+ 61-67 C 55-60 C- 48-54 D+ 41-47 D 35-40 D- under 35 E
Week 2 (January 13-17):
Persecutions, martyrdom, and saints. St. Constantine, Nicaea, and the
of the imperial church