Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Postgraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2007-2008 (archived)


Department: Theology and Religion


Type Open Level 4 Credits 30 Availability Available in 2007/08


  • None.


  • None.

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None.


  • To provide students with an awareness of the way in which early Christian theologians made use of biblical and philosophical resources to formulate their understanding of human nature.
  • To enable students to interpret patristic literature.
  • To provide students with an awareness of the thought-world of late-antiquity.


  • This module will explore the understanding of human nature and the human condition that lay behind the doctrinal controversies of the early Church but was only rarely explicitly articulated. Drawing on both biblical and philosophical sources, the theologians of the early Church developed an understanding of human nature as created in the image of God, and also functioning as a small model of the cosmos (microcosm) and mediating between the spiritual and material worlds to form a kind of 'bond of the cosmos'. This understanding of human nature and the human condition had profound implications for the early Christians' conception of the fallen human state and its restoration. The module will explore these ideas by concentrating on important fourth-century texts (in translation), such as Nemesios of Emesa's On human nature, Gregory of Nyssa's On the creation of human kind.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • Have a advanced understanding of the various ideas about human nature current in the world of late antiquity, from both biblical and philosophical sources.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • Be able to read and interpret intelligently philosophical and theological texts (in translation, though with reference to the original where possible and appropriate) of late antiquity.
Key Skills:
  • Be able to understand arguments, both philosophical and exegetical, and assess them.

Modes of Teaching, Learning and Assessment and how these contribute to the learning outcomes of the module

  • The seminars will enable students to develop advanced subject-specific knowledge and skills in the communication of ideas and critical interpretation of sources. This will be facilitated through peer-group discussion and selected key texts, moderated by the module leader.
  • The purpose of the formative essay is to encourage students to explore the subject-specific themes and theories covered by the module. The summtive essay is intended to assess both the students' comprehension of theoretical material (outcome 1), and capacity to apply this material to the discussion of texts and arguments (outcomes 2 and 3). Feedback on essay performance will be delivered via tutorials.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Lectures 4 weekly for 4 weeks in Michaelmas Term 1 hour 4
Tutorials 4 1 hour 4
Seminars 8 Fortnightly: 3 in Michaelmas Term, 5 in Epiphany Term 2 hours 16
Preparation and Reading 276
Total 300

Summative Assessment

Component: Essay Component Weighting: 100%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Essay 5000 words 100%

Formative Assessment:

One 5,000 word essay

Attendance at all activities marked with this symbol will be monitored. Students who fail to attend these activities, or to complete the summative or formative assessment specified above, will be subject to the procedures defined in the University's General Regulation V, and may be required to leave the University