: History of Eastern Christianity I: From Constantine to the Fall
|Professor: Stephen Shoemaker
sshoemak (at) uoregon (dot) edu
Office: 813 PLC
Office Hours: F 11-1
(or by appointment)
Virgin Mary and Saints
Internet Resources of General Use:
If you have a general question about a particular person, concept, etc.,
you might try these resources first to find an answer.
Schedule of Assignments and Suggested Internet Resources
Description and Objectives
covers the history of Eastern Christianity from the beginnings of the
Christian Roman Empire under Constantine to the Fall of Constantinople in
the 15th century. The course will focus on the eastern Mediterranean
but will also cover the history of Christianity in medieval Asia and Africa
and the missionary expansion of Christianity to the Slavic lands.
Students will learn to appreciate the diversity and importance of the
Eastern Christian tradition, and will write papers on various topics using
primary texts to investigate an issue central to understanding Eastern
Timothy E. Gregory, A History of Byzantium, 2nd
Dale T. Irvin & Scott W. Sunquist, History of the
World Christian Movement, vol. 1, Earliest Christianity to 1453
(Orbis; ISBN: 1-57075-396-2) = HWCM
John Meyendorff, St. Gregory Palamas and Orthodox
Spirituality, St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, ISBN 0913836117.
John Meyendorff, Byzantine Theology, 2nd ed.,
Fordham University Press, ISBN 0823209679
Optional (for various paper topics)
Palamas, The Triads, Paulist Press, ISBN 0-8091-2447-5.
addition, numerous items are to be found on the internet, as indicated
of General Use
The World Wide Encyclopedia of
Christianity. Links to a number of different sources available on the
web. Entries for just about everything.
Library. "A First Draft for a Living Encyclopædia of Orthodox
Christianity." Mostly links to an extraordinary number of primary
texts from the Eastern Christian traditions.
The Catholic Encyclopedia
Although this is an older edition (1907-12), there are many excellent articles
on many of the key people, events, concepts, etc. covered in this class,
particularly in the early and medieval periods. The articles naturally
reflect a particularly Roman Catholic point of view, making it a rich source for
information on this tradition. The articles are often lengthy, but are
usually worth the read.
of Theological Terms This glossary, taken from Alister McGrath's Christian
Theology (2nd edition) published by Blackwell Publishers, provides succinct
definitions for a number of theological technical terms.
The Internet Medieval
Sourcebook Many of the items used in this class, along with a number
of other historical documents, maps, etc., are to be found here and at the
Encarta Online Concise
Encyclopedia This is a good online source for general information on a
variety of topics: brief explanations of many people, places, etc.
Attendance at all class sessions is expected.
Since class sessions will involve a fair amount of student
discussion, students should read all the assignments carefully before
coming to class. Assignments
will generally involve about 100 pages of reading per week.
Everyone should be prepared to contribute both ideas and questions
to the class discussions. Assignments
and grading are as follows:
Two exams 2/11 & 10:15 Monday, March 18
Class attendance and participation (10%)
One 5-6 page (double-spaced: approx. 1500 words) essays (30%), chosen
from the following options.
Due 2/4. Read
the selected documents from the fifth-century Christological controversies
by Cyril of Alexandria, Theodoret of
Cyrrhus, and Leo of Rome and answer the
following questions: “Why is the unity of personality in Christ
important for Cyril’s theology? What
relation does this unity have to his understanding of human salvation?
How does Cyril explain the suffering of Christ in relation to his
humanity and divinity? Compare
Cyril’s views on these issues with those of Theodoret.
Is the Christology of Leo’s Tome closer to Cyril’s or
Theodoret’s? Which of the
three positions do you think offers the best explanation of the relation
between Christ’s humanity and divinity and why?”
Due 2/27. Read John
of Damascus, On the Divine Images and answer the following
questions: “What arguments does John of Damascus use to defend the
veneration of images? How does he distinguish this practice from idolatry?
Do you find his arguments convincing? Why or why not?”
Due 3/6. Read The
Monks of Kubla Khan and answer the following questions:
“What does this text tell us about the "global" nature of Christianity in
the middle ages? In what ways are the Mongolian Christians similar
to or different from the Christians that they encounter in the Near East
and Western Europe? What is Christianity's relationship with the secular
authorities in the various places that the monks traveled?
When one of the Chinese monks visits the Pope and the various kings
in Western Europe, what is the nature of their interaction: what are the
two parties interested in about one another; what do they find unusual or
different about each other; what do they find in common?”
Due 3/13. Read
Gregory Palamas, The Triads and answer the following questions:
“How does Gregory explain Christian mystical experience? What is its relation to rational/philosophical knowledge?
What roles do the human body and the incarnation of Christ play?
How does Gregory’s distinction between the ‘energies’ and
‘essence’ of God fit into his defense of mysticism? Do you find
Gregory or Barlaam more convincing?”
of Essay: In answering the questions, first of all,
briefly summarize the contents of the text(s) regarding the questions asked:
what do the texts say? Then, take a clear position in response to the
texts and defend it: imagine that your reader believes the opposite and that you
are trying to persuade him or her. Your assignment for this paper is to
write from a perspective outside of the traditions in question. Do not make the mistake of giving a
spiritual autobiography or a narrative of how this text relates to your own
personal spiritual life and faith. Do not make the mistake of just
dismissing the ideas of a text because you have different religious beliefs: if
you disagree, give convincing reasons why. In all instances, strive for an
impersonal and objective tone: you need to represent the contents of the text(s)
fairly and accurately and give thoughtful reasons for your response.
for this assignment is to approach and consider these religious traditions
as objects of study from the outside, NOT from the perspective of an insider,
legitimate as this perspective is in other contexts.
Even if one is a believer in a particular tradition, the purpose of
taking this class is to learn how to see and study the same phenomena from a
perspective outside of the tradition. In general, it is good to avoid
using "I," "me," "my," "we,"
"our," "you", "your" (except in quotations of
course); you should give your opinions, but write them using the third person.
Also, while you should cite examples from the texts, be sure to explain and
contextualize any quotations made, and be sure that your own voice is not lost
in a sea of quotations. All quotations must be identified as such, and
references to the text should be given parenthetically either as a page number
or section number, as appropriate. Take care to write correctly and well:
you will be graded for grammar and style as well as content. Finally,
please number your pages. For extra help and advice on writing your paper,
University Teaching and Learning Center in the basement of PLC is an invaluable
Expectations and Regulations
1. Preparation: You are expected to come
to class having completed the reading assignments for that session. You
should be prepared to discuss and ask questions about the assignments.
Note also that some material from the readings that is not covered in class
may be included on the examinations.
2. Participation and Class Attendance: You should come
to class prepared to ask questions and to discuss the readings for that
session. Regular class attendance is required, and attendance will
be taken. If you expect to miss class doe to illness, observance
of religious holy days, or other extenuating circumstances, please notify
the instructor in advance at sshoemak (at) uoregon (dot) edu.
3. Late Papers: Unless an extension has been arranged in
advance, late papers will be marked down one full letter grade for each
day after the due date. Late papers will not be accepted more than
three days after the due date.
4. Make-up or Early Exams: will be allowed only
in truly exceptional
circumstances, in the case of unforeseeable events beyond the
student’s control and must be approved by the instructor in advance.
5. Plagiarism or Cheating: Plagiarism or Cheating: Students caught plagiarizing
or cheating on any assignment will be reported to the Student Conduct
Coordinator in the Office of the Dean of Students. Students who
are aware of cheating or plagiarism are encouraged to inform the instructor.
If you are uncertain as to what constitutes plagiarism (or other forms of
academic dishonesty), please consult this helpful guide from the UO library
as well as the UO's Policy
on Academic Dishonesty.
6. Completion of Assignments: Completion of all required
assignments is necessary to pass and receive
credit for the course. Incompletes will be granted only at the discretion
of the instructor and only in case of circumstances beyond the student's
7. Special Needs: Students with special needs requiring
academic accommodations should 1) register with and provide documentation to Disability
Services; 2) bring a letter to
the instructor indicating that you need academic accommodations,
and we will arrange to meet them.
This should be done during the first week of class.
1/9 Constantine & The Christian
The Cappadocian Fathers
Forging an Imperial Orthodoxy: Controversies over the Person of Christ
Ludlow, "The Cappadocians," The First Christian
of Nyssa, Catachetical Oration
1/21 NO CLASS: Martin Luther King, Jr.
1/23 Asceticism & Monasticism
1/28 Justinian & the Early
1/30 Christianity in East Syria &
2/4 Heraclius, Monothelitism, & Maximus the Confessor
Meyendorff, Gregory Palamas,
P. Williams, "Maximus the Confessor" The First
Christian Theologians (Blackboard)
Maximus the Confessor,
Letter 2, "On Love" (Blackboard)
First Paper Due
2/6 Eastern Christianity and Islam
2/13 Medieval "Heresies":
Iconoclasm & Dualism (Handout
2/18 Monks and Scholars in the Middle
Meyendorff, Gregory Palamas,
Meyendorff, Byzantine Theology, 54-64,
the Studite, Two
Letters from Exile
2/20 Christianity in South and East Asia
2/25 Christianity East & West:
Great Schism & Crusades
Hesychasm & Gregory Palamas
Second Paper Due
Christianity in the Balkans:
Byzantines and Bogomils
The Fall of Constantinople & Christianity at the End of the
3/11 Early Russian Church
3/13 Moscow as the Third Rome
10:15 Monday, March 18: Exam 2