This unit introduces students to key thinkers, doctrinal themes, and spiritual practices that characterise the so-called “patristic” period of Christian history. Students will investigate discrete doctrinal themes, attend to social, ecclesial and historical contexts within which leading Christian thinkers lived and worked as well as explore the tensions at play in the relations between orthodoxy and heresy, church and state, east and west, doctrine and practice and creative and inauthentic progress. Progressing historically, and preparing students for critical engagement in other systematic, historical and pastoral theological disciplines, the subject emphasises the Fathers’ commitment to the centrality of the incarnation for knowing the meaning of the universe, the decisive role of Christ’s humanity for creaturely participation in divine life and the primacy of the lived experience of prayer and liturgical communion for integral Christian existence.

Unit code: CT2015C

Unit status: Approved (New unit)

Points: 18.0

Unit level: Undergraduate Level 2

Unit discipline: Systematic Theology

Proposing College: Catholic Theological College

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Learning outcomes


Demonstrate basic facility with some of the skills needed to utilise key secondary research tools for studying the first five centuries of the Christian era.


Comprehend the dynamic relation between select Christian thinkers, doctrines and/or practices and their respective historical, intellectual and cultural contexts.


Elucidate the progressive character of patristic theology by attending to the ways certain words and concepts developed and changed according to context.


Learning tasks in this unit will consist in preparatory assisted reading with discussion questionnaires, guided classroom discussions, interactive lectures, and formative and summative written assessment tasks.

Indicative Bibliography

  • Burton-Christie, Douglas. The Word in the Desert: Scripture and the Quest for Holiness in Early Christian Monasticism. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1993.
  • Davis, Leo D. The First Seven Ecumenical Councils (325–787): Their History and Theology. Wilmington: Michael Glazier, 1987.
  • Di Berardino, Angelo, and Basil Studer. The Patristic Period. History of Theology 4. Collegeville: Liturgical Press, 1996.
  • Drobner, Hubertus R. The Fathers of the Church: A Comprehensive Introduction. Peabody: Hendrickson, 2007.
  • Fitzgerald, Allan, ed. Augustine Through the Ages. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1999.
  • Grillmeier, Aloys. Christ in Christian Tradition: From the Apostolic Age to Chalcedon (AD 451). 2nd rev. ed. London: Mowbrays, 1975.
  • Price, Richard and Michael Gaddis. The Acts of the Council of Chalcedon. Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2007.
  • Ramsey, Boniface. Beginning to Read the Fathers. New York: Paulist Press, 2012.
  • Studer, Basil. Trinity and Incarnation: The Faith of the Early Church. Collegeville: Liturgical Press, 1993.
  • Wilken, Robert L. The Spirit of Early Christian Thought: Seeking the Face of God. Yale: Yale University Press, 2003. (EBook available)


Type Description Word count Weight (%)

2500-word essay

0 60.0
Tutorial Paper/Seminar Paper

250-word tutorial paper

0 5.0
Tutorial Paper/Seminar Paper

250-word tutorial paper

0 5.0
Tutorial Paper/Seminar Paper

250-word tutorial paper

0 5.0
Tutorial Paper/Seminar Paper

250-word tutorial paper

0 5.0

1000-word essay

0 20.0

Unit approved for the University of Divinity by John Capper on 4 Sep, 2018

Unit record last updated: 2019-04-04 15:10:58 +1100