Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Undergraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2023-2024 (archived)

Module THEO3911: Making Christians in the Early Church

Department: Theology and Religion

THEO3911: Making Christians in the Early Church

Type Open Level 3 Credits 20 Availability Available in 2023/24 Module Cap None. Location Durham


  • None


  • None

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None


  • Critical understanding of the thought-world of early Christianity and Christian formation within it.
  • Insightful critical engagement with particular ancient texts and genres.
  • Informed imaginative understanding of how ancient authors thought and worked.
  • Integration of creative and analytical, empathetic/mimetic and analytic modes in responding to ancient presentation of tradition


  • At the heart of this course is an attempt to understand how Christian formation worked in the early church, especially through the use of written texts and their place within wider liturgical and cultural life. Central to our mode of engaging with this is an attempt to complement and deepen the critical analysis of ancient sources with a component that involves creative imitation of an aspect of what the ancient authors modelled, alongside a critical analysis of the student's own mimetic performance qua mimesis.
  • The focus of the course may vary from year to year, but students can expect to study closely both particular texts from the early church in one or more selected genres (e.g., catechesis, epistle, homily, hagiography) and to study overarching patterns of form and meaning in how they construct Christian relationship to God and the practical and prayerful ways of entering into that (e.g., imagery, typology, different receptions of scripture, and ways of receiving and transforming Classical paideia). Some years we may also work more extensively with art/images alongside texts.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • Close knowledge of some early Christian texts/images.
  • Understanding of different aspects of those texts/images and their relation to the Christian life.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • Intelligent and sensitive interpretation of ancient Christian texts/images, attentive to the interplay of theology, cultural context, literary/visual form, and embodied human life.
  • Empathetic understanding of diversity in interpretations of Christian formation.
Key Skills:
  • Skills in the acquisition of information through reading and research, and in the structured presentation of information and arguments in written form.
  • Skills in analysing and interpreting ancient texts/images.
  • Skills in inhabiting the interface between informed, empathetic understanding, critical reflection, and creative response.

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

  • Weekly classes will combine lecture and seminar style teaching, and the balance will vary depending on how many are in the group. Lecture elements introduce key texts and themes, convey information, and exemplify an approach to the material. Seminar elements foster close critical reading of selected texts, and skills in dialogue and debate.
  • Formative presentations allow students to articulate their ideas and refine them through oral feedback and discussion. This encourages student involvement in their own project, and fosters supportive collaborative endeavour.
  • Formative written work affords an opportunity to practise the most novel element of written assessment on the course, to receive constructive critical feedback, and to develop their confidence and interest.
  • Summative written work assesses subject-specific knowledge, skills, and understanding, along with skills in the acquisition of information through reading and research, and in the structured presentation of information in written form.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Seminars (with lecture element) 20 Weekly 1.5 hours 20
Preparation and Reading 170
Total 200

Summative Assessment

Component: Creative Task & Critical Essay Component Weighting: 50%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Creative task + critical essay on the creative writing task 2000 words + 2000 words 100%
Component: Essay Component Weighting: 50%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Essay 3000 words 100%

Formative Assessment:

750 word creative writing exercise + 1000 word critical essay on the creative writing. 10 minute presentation on plan for summative assignment

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