Religion & Philosophy at Lyon College

The syllabus is currently being revised. It will be available by Jan. 13.
The syllabus is subject to periodic revision during the semester. Students should regularly check the syllabus on-line
Early Church
RPH 329/HIS 329
Spring 2014
Tues/Thur 1:00-2:15 p.m.
Paul Custodio Bube, Ph.D.
Office Hours: Lyon 321
MWF: 10:00 a.m. - noon.

TR: 9:30-11:00 a.
or by appointment
Phone: 870-307-7351
Required Texts:

Justo Gonzalez

The Story of Christianity, vol. 1 (1984 edition)

Bart D. Ehrman

 Lost Christianities: The Battles for Scripture and the Faiths We Never Knew

Other primary source readings will be found on-line and can be accessed via the links under the schedule of assignments.

Description and Objectives of the Course:

The goal of this course is to familiarize students with the pivotal events and ideas in the evolution of Christianity from its inception to the early medieval period (around the 5th-6th century), to analyze in-depth some of the key writings that have shaped this evolution, and to reflect on what this history means for our understanding of Christianity today. Students will be reading about the major movements in the history of early Christianity as well as reading some of the documents that shaped that history. Some of the major issues that we will focus upon include the Christian church’s relationship to society, the evolving teachings on the nature of Christ, the problems associated with heresy (what is unorthodox doctrine?), and the roles of class and gender in the evolving church.

History allows for a variety of interpretations, consequently there are often strong differences of opinions about interpretation. Although I will present a particular set of perspectives, I hope that we would all respect each other’s perspectives where they differ. Even if I question a student’s views, I respect those views. We should all be open to having our perspectives questioned and challenged — that is not a lack of respect for differing views, but a means of trying to better understand others and, when done honestly, a way to pursue Truth.

Structure and Requirements of the Course:

Class sessions will integrate the material covered from both the primary and secondary readings. In order to facilitate that integration, students will be required to write regular 1-2 page papers discussing the primary readings in light of Gonzalez’s and Ehrman's accounts of the events contemporaneous with the primary readings. (Students will be provided with a question for each essay to help them focus their analysis of the contemporary readings). Because this course is more concerned about the development of ideas, institutions, and movements than in memorization of dates, 65% of the student grade will be based upon the essays, 10% will be based upon student-led discussions of the essay topics, and 15% will be based upon a final project (the other 10% will be based upon attendance and participation). .


All graded work in this class is to be pledged in accordance with the Lyon College Honor Code.



Leading/Teaching Class Session on an Essay




Final Project/Paper


Attendance — students are expected to attend each class and to actively participate in discussion of the material. Attendance and participation make up 10% of the course grade.

Leading Class Sessions Each student will sign up to lead/teach one of the class sessions marked below. The student needs to (1) provide a historical context for understanding the material assigned for that session (this involves doing research beyond our textbook and assigned reading); and (2) lead discussion over that material by highlighting key ideas and asking questions that explore key ideas. (Students will be graded on how well they accomplish these two goals and how well prepared they are, how well they engage their classmates in discussion, and how relevant the discussion is to the topic.)

Essays — the class will follow a seminar style where students write 1-2 page essays (double spaced) responding to issues raised in the readings and class. These essays and a final project will be the primary graded work students will do. Essays will be graded upon their thoughtfulness, clarity, accuracy in factual matters, pertinence to the question, and application of ideas and concepts presented in the readings and class. Students should bring a copy of their papers to class to use as a basis for discussion. Late essays are graded down 10 points (out of 100) for each calendar day they are late. Even if an essay is more than 10 days late it must be turned in or the student risks failing the entire class. The number of essays will range from 7-10, depending upon how class discussions go. In total, the essays will make up 65% of the course grade. Each essay will count the same percentage as the others. Thus, for example, if we write 10 essays, each essay will be worth 6.5% of the course grade. Students are welcome to talk with one another about how they might approach an essay topic in order to stimulate ideas and reflection. However, each student is responsible for writing her/his essay on her/his own in accordance with the Lyon College Honor Code. Any sources used, including the text books and assigned readings, need to be cited in an appropriate manner ( MLA). If students have questions about what constitutes plagiarism, they should read the MLA Handbook’s discussion of plagiarism and consult with someone in the writing lab or with me prior to turning in the paper.

Final Project —The final project is to write and present a biographical paper (15+ pages) on an individual in the early church. This paper should be distributed to the members of the class by e-mail before the scheduled date and time of the final exam (the paper is the final exam).  The topics for the biography must be approved by the instructor by class time, March 12. (E-mail me a Word Document indicating your proposed topic and why you chose it). A tentative bibliography  needs to be turned in by class time, April 15.

Papers will be graded according to how well they place the individual within his/her historical context (25%); how thorough the discussion of his/her life story is (given the limits of historical source material) (25%); how well their main ideas (or actions) are communicated in terms of their theological significance (20%); how well students engage their historical sources, e.g., discuss debates among historians about one's topic (15%); how organized and well written the paper is (10%); and how well the oral presentation is given (5%). Creativity is welcome in these papers (e.g., writing the biography as a letter or a dialogue or a play), and may add points to the paper if appropriate to the topic.


Although this is a cross-listed course with History, I would like you to create electronically (e.g., a folder on your I-drive) a portfolio in which you save your papers from this class and any other papers you may do in RPH courses. This will not be graded, but in the event you do take other RPH courses, Dr. Beck and I would like to be able to ‘see’ your progress and I hope you would want to reflect upon your work. Because RPH classes are so ‘holistic’ in their approach to human affairs, we both hope that what you write will be connected to your other academic work and to the choices you make in other dimensions of your lives. Those of you who are majoring and minoring in RPH are required to keep a portfolio. Making this a requirement in every class means that those of you who have not yet decided whether to major or minor will have the portfolios on-line and accessible, making it very easy to declare a major or minor (see catalog for requirements).

Lyon College Policy on Attendance:

Page 115 of the Lyon Catalog states: Students are expected to attend all class periods for the courses in which they are enrolled. They are responsible for conferring with individual professors regarding any missed assignments. Faculty members are to notify the Registrar when a student misses the equivalent of one, two, three, and four weeks of class periods in a single course. Under this policy, there is no distinction between “excused” and “unexcused” absences, except that a student may make up work missed during an excused absence. A reminder of the college’s attendance policy will be issued to the student at one week, a second reminder at two weeks, a warning at three weeks, and notification of administrative withdrawal and the assigning of an “F” grade at four weeks. Students who are administratively withdrawn from more than one course will be placed on probation or suspended (see Academic Probation and Academic Suspension).


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Please note: Students seeking reasonable accommodations based on documented learning disabilities should contact the Office of Academic Services at 307-7332.

Last day to drop with no record of the course is January 28
 Last day to drop with a W is March 24   


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Schedule of Assignments:

Jan. 14-16

Dr. Bube will be attending a conference this week. In lieu of meeting in class, students need to read the Gospel of Luke and the Book of Acts in the New Testament and e-mail the professor

Essay #1 on the following topic: Summarize the highlights of the story of Jesus and the early church. What "spin" does Luke seem to give to this story? What lesson/point does he want the reader to take away about the nature of the earliest church? This essay needs to be saved in a Word document and e-mailed to the professor by 11:59 p.m., January 16.

Jan. 21

Read chapters 1-2 in Gonzalez; Lecture/Discussion of story of Jesus

Jan. 23

Read the excerpts and commentary on Josephus's "Causes of the War Against the Romans" at


 Essay #2 (due Jan. 23--bring a copy to class; you may be called on to read it): Based on Gonzalez and the reading by/about Josephus, summarize the political and religious climate around the time that Jesus and his first followers came on the scene.

Jan. 28

Read  chs. 3-4 in Gonzalez

Jan. 30

Read  chs. 5-6 in Gonzalez

Feb. 4

Snow Day L

Feb. 6 Read ch. 7-8 in Gonzalez

Feb. 11

Read "The First Apology of Justin" at [Class Presentation -  ]

Feb. 13

Read ch. 8 in Ehrman

Essay #3 (due Feb. 11): Ehrman argues that the "classical view" of how orthodox Christianity emerged is problematic. Explain why, and discuss whether Gonzalez represents the classical view or some other view (if the latter, which view is he closest to and why).

Feb. 18

Read chs. 9-10 in Gonzalez; Read  pp. 91-157 & 181-202 in Ehrman

Feb. 20

Read Tertullian's Against Marcion at [Class Presentation - ]

Feb. 25

Essay #4 (due Feb. 25): What do you learn about those who opposed proto-orthodoxy from the apologists, and what do we learn about the apologists from those whom they opposed? Give specific examples to support your views.

Feb. 27

Read chs. 11-12 in Gonzalez


Mar. 4

Read The Didache at  [Class Presentation  ]

Mar. 6

Essay #5 (due Mar. 2): How does the advice in the Didache compare to how Christians today understand the church? [If you do not have a church background, interview friends you know who do.] Should Christians live more the way the Didache recommends? Why or Why not?

Mar. 10-14

Spring Break

Mar. 18

Read Origen's de Principiis (Preface and Book I) at [Class Presentation - ]

Topic for Final Project Due

Mar. 20

Read Irenaeus' The Demonstration of the Apostolic Preaching at [Class Presentation - ]

Mar. 25

Essay #6 (due Mar. 25: How do Origen and Irenaeus differ in their approaches to theology?

Mar. 27

Read chs. 13-14 in Gonzalez

Apr. 1

Read Eusebius' Life of Constantine, Book I at  [Class Presentation - ]

Apr. 3

Essay #7 (due Apr. 3): Based on what you read in Gonzalez and by Eusebius, do you think Constantine was good or bad for Christianity?

Apr. 8

Read chs. 15-16 in Gonzalez

Apr. 10

Read ch. 17 in Gonzalez and

Apr. 15

Essay #8 (due Apr. 15): Discuss the meaning of the Nicene Creed in light of the political and theological controversies of the 4th century.

Apr. 17

Read ch. 18 in Gonzalez; Read Excerpts about and from Julian at and  [Class Presentation - ]

Essay #9 (due Apr. 17): Defend Julian's view of religion. Then explain why you agree or disagree with it.

Bibliography for Final Project due


Apr. 18-21

Easter Break


Apr. 22

Read chs. 19-21 in Gonzalez

Apr. 24

We will not meet--Dr. Bube will be away at a conference

Apr. 29

Read chs. 22-26 in Gonzalez

Essay #10 (due Apr. 29) Two issues kept Augustine from embracing the Christian faith for much of his young adult life: the problem of evil and what he took to be the inferior thinking of the biblical texts. Explain how he finally resolved those problems. Do you find his resolutions compelling? Why or why not?

May 1

Read chs. 10-12 in Ehrman


Final Exam hours to be used for presentations of your final papers


 © 2012-14 Paul Custodio Bube