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From the Galilean Jesus to the Ends of the World. The Rise of Christianity and its Traditions


Admission requirements

The course is open for all students of history, (material) culture, languages etc. who are interested in exploring the origins and diversity of one of the most decisive cultural factors of the modern world. Apart from the necessary curiosity and a certain pleasure to read and leave old, trodden paths, no specific skills are required.


Christianity is a “latecomer” in the colourful world of ancient religions, and – next to Judaism – the virtually only larger religious tradition that has survived until today. Reason enough to “meet” early Christians in the villages of Jewish Galilee, in Jerusalem, in the cities of the Roman Empire and beyond, observe them copy texts, fight lions, celebrate in catacombs, proclaim their message and (yes!) march in the Roman army. We will see how much early Christianity owed to the cultures in which it existed, despite all differences and debates. And we will understand that “inculturation” never is a one-way-road.

Course objectives

The class will trace the first three, formative centuries of Christian history and culture from the beginnings as an obscure “sect” of believers in a crucified Jewish peasant from Galilee, through the era of growing urban communities and finally the last period of persecution just before Constantine. Next to being introduced to various phases, regions and forms of Christian history and culture, students will read key texts and “meet” key figures of early Christianity and its surrounding cultures. Students will understand early Christian history as part of the fundamental transformation of the ancient world.


See Time table

Mode of instruction

Seminar with lectures, discussion of prepared reading assignments and presentations

Course Load

The total course load will be 120 hours, 24 hours will be spent for class attendance, the rest for reading the primary and secondary literature (60 hrs.) and preparing the presentation (24) and the exam (12 hrs).

Assessment method

  • one short presentation in class (30 %) – one oral exam at the end of the class (50%) – active participation in class (20%)


Blackboard will be used as means of communication and to distribute study material.

Reading list

M. Humphreys, Early Christianity, London / New York 2006 (required reading)
Recommended are
A. Provoost, De eerste Christenen. Hun denken en doen, Leuven / Kampen 2009.
S.A. Harvey / D.G. Hunter (eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Eaerly Christian Studies, Oxford 2008.
R. MacMullen, The Second Church. Popular Christianity A.D. 200-400, Atlanta 2009 (for advanced readers).
R.M. Jensen, Understanding Early Christian Art, London / New York 2000.


Via uSis
In addition to the registration in uSis, students are also expected to self-enroll in Blackboard a few weeks before the course starts.

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Registration Studeren à la carte via:
Registration Contractonderwijs via:


Students who miss more than two sessions will have to repeat the course. Minimum attendance is 3 students.