Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Postgraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2020-2021 (archived)

Module THEO43330: Patristic Exegesis

Department: Theology and Religion

THEO43330: Patristic Exegesis

Type Open Level 4 Credits 30 Availability Not available in 2020/21


  • None


  • None

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None


  • To provide students with awareness of continuities and shifts during the foundational period of development in Christian exegesis, 100-500 CE;
  • To provide students with the knowledge and skills necessary for exploring the different traditions of classical literary analysis adapted by Christian exegetes;
  • To provide students with the knowledge and skills necessary for exploring ways in which textual exegesis and commentary shaped Christian thought and culture(s);
  • To provide students with a foundation upon which they can interpret current attempts to appropriate these exegetical practices for modern Christian thought.


  • This module will explore the development of early Christian exegesis roughly between 100 and 500 CE, between the period when the texts that became part of the canonical “New Testament” were composed, and the exegetes who wrote during the central period of Christian creedal formation. One of the main thematic foci of the course will be exploring how Christian exegetes in different periods adopted and/or adapted Greek and Latin non-Christian traditions of literary analysis (use of Jewish traditions will receive some treatment at the beginning of the course). To enable in-depth study the course will focus on three moments in this development: the emergence of Classical Christian exegesis between 150-250 CE; Gregory of Nyssa and Diodore of Tarsus (and associates) as representatives of different approaches to the allegorical in the late fourth century; Augustine of Hippo.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • An advanced understanding of the foundational period in early Christian exegesis, and of the traditions on which Christians drew.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • An ability to analyse and write about Christian practices of interpretation with intellectual rigor and historical depth.
  • A capacity to analyse relationships between Christian texts and ancient non-Christian traditions of literary commentary and analysis.
Key Skills:
  • An ability to read complex texts with intellectual nuance; research, presentation and writing skills; an ability to ask scholarly questions about sources and adaptation of sources.

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

  • Seminars (including seminar presentations) enhance subject-specific knowledge and understanding, promoting a conversation among differing viewpoints.
  • Teaching as a short “fat” module in Michaelmas enables immersion in the subject through a long weekly seminar, and provides extensive subsequent time for developing final project.
  • Summative essays assess subject-specific knowledge and understanding, along with student sills in research, analysis and argumentation.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Seminars 10 weekly 2.5 25
Preparation and Reading 275
Total 300

Summative Assessment

Component: Essay Component Weighting: 80%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Essay 5,000 words 80%
Component: Literature report and presentation Component Weighting: 20%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Literature report and presentation 500 words 20%

Formative Assessment:


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