Religion & Philosophy at Lyon College

The syllabus is subject to periodic revision during the semester. Students should regularly check the syllabus on-line
Early Church
RPH 329/HIS 329
Fall 2016
Tues/Thur 1:00-2:15 p.m.
Paul Custodio Bube, Ph.D.
Office Hours: Lyon 321
MWF 10:00 a.m.-noon
TR 8:30-9:20 a.m.
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.



Honor Code

All graded work in this class is to be pledged in accordance with the Lyon College Honor Code. The use of a phone for any reason during the course of an exam is considered an honor code violation.


Class Attendance

Policy 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 Students who are administratively withdrawn from more than one course will be placed on probation or suspended. Attendance and participation are graded, and they will alsoenhance the student's ability to do well on exams. Late assignments, quizzes, and exams will be graded down five points for each calendar day late.



Students seeking reasonable accommodations based on documented learning disabilities must contact the Provost at 870-307-7332.


Harassment, Discrimination, and Sexual Misconduct

Title IX and Lyon’s policy prohibit harassment, discrimination and sexual misconduct. Lyon encourages anyone experiencing harassment, discrimination or sexual misconduct to talk to Clarinda Foote, Title IX Coordinator, or Patrick Mulick, Dean of Students and Title IX Investigator, about what happened so they can get the support they need and Lyon can respond appropriately. Lyon is legally obligated to respond to reports of sexual misconduct, and therefore we cannot guarantee the confidentiality of a report, unless made to a confidential resource (Chaplain, Counselor, or Nurse). As a faculty member, I am required to report possible Title IX violations and must provide our Title IX coordinator with all relevant details. I cannot, therefore, guarantee confidentiality.


Nature and Purpose of the Course:

This course is cross-listed with History and Religion & Philosophy. Understanding the history of early Christianity is an important foundation for understanding a religion that has shaped much of western history. This course is interested in examining the way Christianity emerged in its historical context, who some of its most influential thinkers and leaders were and how they were shaped by and in turn shaped the development of Christianity during the first four centuries of its existence. 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, in general, allows for a variety of interpretations of what happened and how events happened; consequently there can often be strong differences of opinions about interpretation. This course will present a particular set of perspectives found among highly respected historians. There are bound to different opinions among classmates about these perspectives. I hope that we would all respect each other’s perspectives when they differ and try to understand the reasons for differences. Even if I question a historian's or 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, lead us to greater Truth.

Learning Outcomes:

Upon successful completion of this course, the student will:

bullet Read secondary and primary documents relating to the emergence of early Christianity
bullet Become familar with pivotal events, people and ideas in the evolution of Christianity from its inception to the early medieval period (around the beginning of the fifth century)
bullet Demonstrate critical thinking, writing, and oral presentation skills by analyzing several key primary texts that have shaped this evolution by writing essays on those primary writings and discussing the essays in a seminar-style class setting
bullet Demonstrate inquiry, analysis, and writing skills by engaging in in-depth, critical research and writing a paper on a major figure in the development of early Christianity
bulletDemonstrate public speaking skills by making an oral presentation based upon the student's paper on a major historical figure in early Christianity  
bullet Take steps to integrate faith (broadly construed to include one's philosophy
of life) and reason by reflecting on what this history means for our understanding of Christianity today

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 texts in light of Gonzalez’s and Ehrman's accounts of the events contemporaneous with the primary texts. (Students will be provided with a question for each essay to help them focus their analysis of the primary texts). 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 10% will be based upon a final paper/project, 5% will be based upon an oral presentaton of what is covered in the paper/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 MLA format. 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, October 31. (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, Nov. 3.

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 (20%); how organized and well written the paper is (10%). Creativity is welcome in these papers and in the presentations (e.g., writing the biography as a letter or a dialogue or a play), and can add points to the paper if appropriate to the topic. [add guidelines about using MLA, etc.]


Although this is a freshman level course, I would like you to make use of the Portfolio feature in Schoology for all your written assignments done in RPH courses. This will not be graded as such, but in the event you do take other RPH courses, they will be important, Those of you who are considering a major or minor in RPH are required to keep a portfolio. Even if you are not going to major or minor in RPH, this is a convenient place to store your work. Also, those of you who do decide later 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). Dr. Beck and I would like to be able to ‘see’ your progress and will ask you to write a brief paper based on what is in the portfolio, reflecting upon your work and growth. 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 as well as to other dimensions of your lives.


Schedule of Assignments:

Aug. 16

Review of Gospels and Acts

Aug. 18 Read chapters 1-2 in Gonzalez; Discussion of story of Jesus

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 b
efore class on Friday. Bring a copy of the essay to class for discussion.

Aug. 23

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


 Essay #2 (due by class time Aug. 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.

Aug. 25

Read  chs. 3-4 in Gonzalez

Aug. 30

Read  chs. 5-6 in Gonzalez (Last day to drop with no record of the course is August 29)

Sep. 1

Read ch. 7-8 in Gonzalez

Sep. 6 Read "The First Apology of Justin" at [Class Presentation -  ]

Sep. 8

Read ch. 8 in Ehrman

Sep. 13

Essay #3 (due Sep. 13): 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).

Sep. 15

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

Sep. 20

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

Sep. 22

Essay #4 (due Sep. 22): 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.

Sep. 27

Read chs. 11-12 in Gonzalez

Sep. 29

Read The Didache at  [Class Presentation  ]

Oct. 4

Essay #5 (due Oct. 4): 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?

Oct. 6-11 Read Origen's de Principiis (Preface and Book I) at [Class Presentation on Oct. 11 - ]

Oct. 13-14

Fall Break

Oct. 18

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

Oct. 20

  Last day to drop with a W is October 22

Oct. 25

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

Oct. 27

Read chs. 13-14 in Gonzalez and Eusebius' Life of Constantine, Book I at  [Class Presentation - ]

Nov. 1

Essay #7 (due Nov. 1): Based on what you read in Gonzalez and by Eusebius, do you think Constantine was good or bad for Christianity?

Nov. 3

Read chs. 15-16 in Gonzalez (Bibliography for Final Project due)

Nov. 8

Read ch. 17 in Gonzalez and

Nov. 10

Essay #8 (due Nov. 10): Discuss the meaning of the Nicene Creed in light of the political and theological controversies of the 4th century.

Nov. 15

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

Nov. 17 Essay #9 (due Nov. 16): Defend Julian's view of religion. Then explain why you agree or disagree with it.

Nov. 22

Read chs. 19-21 in Gonzalez

Nov. 23-27

Thanksgiving Break

Nov. 29 Read chs. 22-26 in Gonzalez; Readings from Augustine [Class Presentation - ]

Nov. 29

Essay #10 (due Nov. 30) 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?
Dec. 1 Complete and turn in Final Paper

Dec. 6

8:00-10:00 a.m. and 1:00-3:00 p.m. pesentations of final papers

 © 2012-16 Paul Custodio Bube