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, and 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: CT9015C (Approved)

Points: 24.0

Unit level: Postgraduate Elective

Unit discipline: Systematic Theology

Proposing College: Catholic Theological College

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Learning outcomes


Demonstrate advanced facility with the skills needed to utilise secondary research tools and to engage primary sources in translation for patristic research.


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


Critically elucidate the progressive character of patristic theology by demonstrating the ways certain Greek and/or Latin words and concepts developed and changed according to context.


Critically discuss and evaluate the abiding relevance of a discrete patristic practice or doctrinal theme in the context of a contemporary pastoral, dogmatic, or intellectual issue.

Unit sequence

CT8010C or equivalent CH8001C or equivalent


Learning tasks in this unit will consist in guided group discussions, interactive lectures, formative hurdle task, and summative written assessment.

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 (%)

Essay 6,000 words

6000 80.0
Document Study

Document study 1,000 words

1000 20.0

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

Unit record last updated: 2019-09-12 11:28:17 +1000