Spring 2004

Early Christianity in Syria & Asia Minor
RL 299.01/499.01 V/W
Prerequisites: RL 101 & an inquiring mind
EN 103-112 or 111-112 or 114-116
Pre- or co-requisites: RL 205 or RL 220 or instructor permission
1 June 2003

Sheila E. McGinn, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Religious Studies
Office: B218 (second floor, AD bldg.)
E-mail: smcginn @
Hours: TBA
Telephone: 216-397-3087

See Syllabus


Session Date Topic & Assignments (additional readings may be assigned as needed)

Organize seminar and review syllabus
Review key events in early church history and their significance for our sites and texts
Workshop A: Biblical texts & Translations
Workshop B: Grasselli Library research tools presentation

#2   The Roman Cultural & Religious Context of Early Christianity
Workshop A: Developing a paper proposal.
Workshop B: Developing your thesis

The Church in Antioch and Early Christian Mission (Peter, Barnabas, Paul)
Read: Acts (entire); Brown & Meier, 1-89
Paper Proposal (with preliminary Bibliography) due.
Workshop A: How to read an exegetical article
Workshop B: How to write a critical review
How are we doing so far? Give the instructor some feedback on what is good or how to improve.

#4   The First-Century Churches in Cappadocia & Anatolia
Read: Galatians; Koester
Paper Proposal returned, with suggestions for further development
Workshop A: The process of exegesis -- who, what, when, where, how, why?
Workshop B: Textual Criticism

Ephesos, The Metropolis of Asia
Read: the Johannine corpus; Revelation; Koester
First Critical review due
Schedule class presentations of critical reviews and research papers
Workshop: How to write an annotated bibliography

#6   Philosophy and Theology in the Early Christian World: Gnosticism, Docetism, Middle and Neo-Platonism
Read: the Gospel of Mary; the Dialogues of the Savior, selections from Origen, Theodore of Mopsuestia, Epiphanius; Esler; Koester; (opt.) McGinn
Annotated Bibliography due
Workshop A: How to write an exegetical paper
Workshop B: Developing an outline

Prophecy in the Early Christian World
Read: the Didache; the letters of Ignatius of Antioch; the Acts of Thecla; Esler; Koester; (opt.) McGinn; Wire
Review annotated bibliographies from this seminar
Topic sentence outline of paper due
How are we doing now? Give the instructor some feedback on what is good or how to improve.

#8   Anchorites & Coenobites, Confessors & Martyrs
Read: the Martyrdom of Perpetua; selections from the Cappadocian Fathers
Topic sentence outline of paper returned, with suggestions for further development
Final deadline for Critical reviews

Developing Ecclesiastical Structures and Offices
Read: Didascalia; Apostolic Constitutions; Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History V; (opt.) McGinn
First draft of research paper due; NB: Be sure to use inclusive language, and remember to proofread it first!
Read critiques of articles from this seminar

#10   Christological Developments in the ante-Nicene Period
Read: Neuner & Dupuis, 95-100, 143-155; Norris; Kelly; handouts
First draft of research paper returned, with suggestions for further development
Workshop: How to give critical feedback on a colleague's paper. Please use Peer Review worksheet.
For one last time, could you give the instructor some feedback on what is good or how to improve?
#11   What Were They Thinking About the Trinity?
Read: Neuner & Dupuis; Rusch; handouts.
Second draft of paper due; please submit two copies, one for instructor and one for your colleague who will critique it.

The Theological Significance of the Historical Development of Dogma
Read: Kelly; Lonergan and Rahner handouts
Second draft of research paper returned, with suggestions for further development
Final Course Evaluation (in class)
Schedule project presentations--sign up with instructor


Final draft of papers due
Class presentation of research projects

Presenter Passage Respondent

Class presentation of research projects

Presenter Passage Respondent

FINAL CLASS SESSION: presentation of research projects

Presenter Passage Respondent

(optional) Travel Seminar: The Crossroads Colloquium on Ancient Syria, on site in Syria, Lebanon and eastern Turkey

Day 1 Arrival in Damascus, Syria's capital and largest city; historical survey of the city, which has been inhabited for five millennia.
Read Acts 9:1-30.
Day 2 Key Christian sites in Damascus: St. Ananias Chapel, St. Paul's Chapel, the Via Recta (see Acts 9:8-25); l
Lecture on the conversion of Paul, and the role of the Damascene church in the early Christian mission.
See treasures at The Syrian National Museum, including the synagogue from Dura Europos, finds from Apameia and Palmyra, as well as an extensive collection of Byzantine Christian art.
Day 3 Ezra'a has two of Syria's oldest, still functioning churches: the (Orthodox) St. George Basilica and the (Catholic) Church of St. Elias, both dating from the sixth century;
Lecture on the theological divides between Catholic and Orthodox.
Bosra's Roman theater, open-air museum, and extensive Roman site (including baths)
Day 4 Baalbek, Lebanon (Heliopolis).
The partial remains of the Roman Temple of Jupiter give an indication of its immense size, dwarfing the better-preserved Temple of Bacchus.
Visit the excellent archaeological museum on the site.
Lecture on the Roman cultural/religious context of early Christianity.
Day 5 Maalula: hear Aramaic still spoken
Visit the Monastery of St. Sergius and the Convent of St. Thecla built on the site of her shrine; m
Mini-lecture on Thecla.
Homs (Emesa): mini-lecture on Origen
Afamia (Apameia): mini-lecture on Neo-Platonism, a philosophic/ religious movement which both competed with and influenced Christian thought and practice.

Day 6

Aleppo: the Antiochian Cathedral.
Lunch with local Christian dignitaries.
Qualb Lozeh: the ancient church is one of the best preserved early examples of Syrian-Byzantine architecture (ca. 460 CE).
Deir Samaan (i.e., "Monastery of Simeon;" ancient Telanissos): ruins of a fifth-century monastery
Mini-lecture on early monasticism and Simeon Stylites
Day 7 Nabi Houri ( Cyrrhus):; mini-lecture on Theodoret of Cyrrhus
Anlurfa (Edessa), famous as the capital of an early Christian dynasty, one of whose kings, Abgar I, allegedly carried on a correspondence with Jesus
Mini-lecture on NT apocrypha, especially this letter.
Day 8 Anlurfa: see traditional sites associated with Abraham
Discussion of significance of Abraham and Job in early Christian thought.
For a change, visit the Rizvaniye Mosque, ninth-century castle, Han el-Ba'rur caravanserai, and the extensive covered bazaar.
Dinner at the governor's house.
Day 9 Harran, the place from which Abraham and his family left for Palestine. (Read Gen. 12)
Mardin, with its "golden stone" ancient mosques and churches.
The Syrian-Jacobite Monastery of Deyrul Zafarin, where Aramaic is still a living language and which used to be the official residence of the patriarch of the Syrian Orthodox Church."
Nusaybin (Nisibis): Christianity thrived here as early as the second century CE.
See the ancient monastery, Mor Jacob, including its fourth-century church and the sarcophagus of St. Jacob (Baradeus), the fifth-century Monophysite bishop of Edessa, who rejected the "Definition of Faith" formulated at the Council of Chalcedon (451) and after whom Syrian Orthodox Christians are frequently called "Jacobites."
Lecture on Christological development.
Day 10 Deir ez-Zur Museum to see the displayed findings from Dura Europos and Mari.
Dura Europos: see the sites of an early Jewish synagogue and of the earliest extant Christian "house church."
See the Mithraeum; a number of temples; the agora; and the residence of the commander of the Roman garrison.
Mini-lectures on early Christian worship and the Roman cult of Mithras.
Day 11 Palmyra: the "Hypogeum ("underground tomb") of the Three Brothers" (c.160 CE), the Tower Tomb of Elebel (c.103 CE), the Temple of Bel [= Ba'al] (c.32 CE), a Roman theatre, a small agora, and a great colonnade.
Departure for USA

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