HT602 Patristics Seminar

Course Description Readings in and discussion of primary sources in the development of Patristic theology. Fall semester. 2 credits.

—Academic Goals:

  • To enable the student to read well, i.e., thoughtfully, carefully, and accurately primary texts in patristic theology and to intereact intelligently with relevant secondary literature in the field.
  • The student “demonstrates understanding of the dogmatic (theological) development in the history of the church” (Source: WSC Student Learning Outcomes).

—Pastoral Goals:

    • The student “exhibits growing integrity, teachability/humility, perseverance, self-discipline” (Source: WSC Student Learning Outcomes).
    • The student “gives reasons for convictions rather than merely asserting them.” (Source:WSC Student Learning Outcomes).

Required Reading (see schedule below)

      1. Michael Holmes, Apostolic Fathers (Grand Rapids, Baker) (all)
      2. Tertullian, Against Marcion (ANF 3, 271–344)
      3. Tertullian, Against Praxeas (ANF 3, 597–627)
      4. Chrysostom, On Romans (NPNF, series 1, vol 11, 335–408)
      5. Gregory of Nazianzen, Oration on Holy Baptism (NPNF series 2 vol 7, 360–78)
      6. Athanasius, On the Incarnation of the Word (NPNF, series 2, vol 4, 36–67)
      7. Athanasius, Festal Letter 39 (NPNF, series 2, vol 4, 551–52)
      8. Augustine, De doctrina Christiana (NPNF, series 1, vol 2, 519–97)


Hour/Date Author/Topic Leader
1/Sep Historiography rsc
2/Sep Historiography rsc
3/Sep Ap Fathers, 33–131 (1 Clem) Student
4/Sep Ap Fathers, 132–65 (2 Clem) Student
5/Sep Ap Fathers, 166–271 (Ignatius 1) Student
6/Sep Ignatius (2) Student
7/Sep Ap Father, 272–343 (Polycarp 1) Student
8/Sep Polycarp (2) Student
9/Oct Polycarp (3) Student
10/Oct Ap Fathers, 334–69 (Didache) Student
11/Oct Ap Fathers, 370–441 (Barnabas) Student
12/Oct Barnabas (2) Student
13/Oct Ap Fathers 442–685 (Shepherd 1) Student
14/Oct Shepherd 2 Student
15/Oct Ap Fathers, 686–719 (Diognetus 1) Student
16/Oct Diognetus (2) Student
17/Nov Tertullian (Adv Marc) Student
18/Nov Tertullian, Adv Prax Student
19/Nov Chrysostom, Romans Student
20/Nov Gregory of Nazianzen (Oration) Student
21/Nov Athanasius (Incarnation/Canon) Student
22/Nov Augustine (De Doctrina) Student
23/Nov Augustine (2) Student
24-26/Nov Papers Student

Suggested Reading

    1. Irena Backus, The Reception of the Church Fathers in the West: From the Carolingians to the Maurists (Leiden: Brill, 1997), volume 2, part 3 (Renaissance, Reformation, Counter-Reformation).
    2. ——”Thomas Bradwardine (c. 1290–1349) and the Church Fathers” Studia patristica28 (1993): 161–68.
    3. —— “The Bible and the Fathers according to Abraham Scultetus (1566–1624) and Andre Rivet (1571/73–1651): The Case of Basil of Caesarea” Patristik in der Bibelexegese des 16. Jahrhunderts 231 (1999).
    4. —— “Irenaeus, Calvin and Calvinist Orthodoxy: The Patristic Manual of Abraham Scultetus (1598)” Reformation and Renaissance Review 1 (1999): 41–53.
    5. —— “Calvin and the Greek Fathers” Continuity and Change (Leiden: Brill, 2000), 253–276.
    6. Moreschini, Claudio and Enrico Norelli. Early Christian Greek and Latin Literature: a Literary History. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 2005.
    7. Drobner, Hubertus R. The Fathers of the Church: a Comprehensive Introduction. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 2007.

The class and paper schedule is distributed via populi

Course Structure

Each class session will involve discussion of the assigned readings for that week. Each week a student will be assigned to lead discussion. About midway through the semester students will begin presenting papers in the second hour of class.

Course Requirements:

  • It is impossible to benefit from or participate in this course without doing the reading.
  • After the initial orientation, each class session will be led by a student who shall have prepared a brief (limit 1,000 word) seminar paper analyzing an assigned reading or introducing an assigned author/reading. Every student shall produce an outline of the assigned reading for the class session. Each member must bring to class a hardcopy of the readings assigned for that session.
  • Each student will present a research paper to the seminar. Papers will be distributed to the seminar no later than 24 hours before the seminar in which the paper is to be read. Papers will be revised in light of comments and submitted to the instructor by 10AM on the last day of class. Papers must follow the requirements laid out in the Essay on the Writing of Essays.Word limit: 2500 words (of text, not including footnotes).Grades will be determined on the basis of class participation, seminar leadership, and the seminar paper.


  • Students who take class notes by computer tend to create a large, detailed transcript but they also tend not to analyze the information they are receiving. They hear the lecture but they do not listen to what is being said. In such a case, it is difficult to think about and interact with what is being said. As a consequence, students end the course with a large transcript of material with which they are not intimately familiar. This means that students have only reading week to master a large amount of relatively unfamilar class material for the final exam.
  • The student who takes notes by hand must synthesize and prioritize material. As a result, the student with handwritten notes has relatively less material to review before the exam. An informal survey of students with handwritten notes suggests that they felt better prepared for the final exam than they had with a large transcript.
  • It is not wise to rely on the class notes of others or upon study group (e.g., Google Doc) answers. You will be most successful if you do your own work.


Assertion of Intellectual Property Rights

The instructor holds the copyright to all course lectures and original course materials. This copyright extends to student notes and summaries that substantially reflect the lectures or original course materials. Course lectures and materials are made available for the personal use of students only and may not be recorded or otherwise distributed (including the publication of student notes or summaries on social media) in any way for commercial or non-commercial purposes without the express written permission of the instructor.