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THCT103 Christianity Established: From Sect to Society

Teaching organisation

This unit involves 150 hours of focused learning, or the equivalent of 10 hours per week for 15 weeks. The total includes formally structured learning activities such as lectures and tutorials, and may involve video-conferencing and online interaction. The remaining hours typically involve reading, research, and the preparation of tasks for assessment.

Unit rationale, description and aim

Christianity is the largest religion and one of the oldest in the world. It is important for students to have an appreciation of how Christianity went from an outlawed sect to an influential community and organisation with a coherent expression of faith. Moreover, Christianity has played a key role in developments within European society and beyond for over 2000 years.

This unit introduces students to the Christian world of the first six centuries. It examines the internal and external factors that were involved in the development of the Christian community. The survey of the social, political and cultural impact of early Christianity will provide the basis for subsequent study of the Christian Church in its later manifestations. The aim of this unit is to provide students with a broad and coherent knowledge of the history and development of the Christian faith.

Learning outcomes

To successfully complete this unit you will be able to demonstrate you have achieved the learning outcomes (LO) detailed in the below table.

Each outcome is informed by a number of graduate capabilities (GC) to ensure your work in this, and every unit, is part of a larger goal of graduating from ACU with the attributes of insight, empathy, imagination and impact.

Explore the graduate capabilities.

On successful completion of this unit, students should be able to:

LO1 - Identify and explain the main features of the emerging Christian community (GA4, GA5);

LO2 - Analyse the context within which Christianity developed and assess the impact of this on the development of the church (GA4, GA5, GA8);

LO3 - Evaluate factors in society and church that were to become significant for the future of Christianity (GA4, GA5, GA8).

Graduate attributes

GA4 - think critically and reflectively 

GA5 - demonstrate values, knowledge, skills and attitudes appropriate to the discipline and/or profession 

GA8 - locate, organise, analyse, synthesise and evaluate information 


Topics will include: 

  • Issues associated with the study of history, introduction of sources and discussion on their use; 
  • The emergence of Christianity in the Roman world in the context of the cultural, social and historical background; 
  • The spread of early Christian communities and their influence on and interaction with the non-Christian world; 
  • Key features in the life of the church: witness of martyrs, development of doctrine, church structure and ministry, liturgy and ethics; 
  • Controversies relating to doctrine and society and responses elicited by way of councils and imperial intervention; 
  • The rise of the Christian church to become a major institution in society and the impact of this over subsequent centuries to the papacy of Gregory the Great. 

Learning and teaching strategy and rationale

This unit involves 150 hours of focused learning, or the equivalent of 10 hours per week for 15 weeks. The total includes formally structured learning activities such as lectures and tutorials and may involve video-conferencing and online interaction. The remaining hours typically involve reading, research, and the preparation of tasks for assessment. 


This unit is normally offered in attendance or multi-mode with either synchronous online tutorials or face-to-face classes. In accordance with the student-centred “flipped classroom” model of teaching, students will be able to access most of the basic content of the unit in online modules in LEO. Class time will be used to extend and deepen learning. Primary source documents, the raw material of history, will be a particular focus of this unit, so that students will be able to develop skills in interpretation and analysis. Students will be encouraged to consider different interpretations of historical developments and will hone their ability to think critically and reflectively. In multi-mode offerings, students will also be introduced to the use of the relevant software program (Adobe Connect).

Assessment strategy and rationale

In order to pass this unit, students are required to attempt all assessment tasks and achieve an overall grade of Pass (50% or higher).


The assessment tasks for this unit are designed for students to demonstrate their achievement of each learning outcome.


The first task is designed as a low risk assignment in which students can test their understanding of the first two modules and their ability to articulate clearly knowledge, skills and attitudes appropriate to the discipline of history.


In the second task, students will analyse challenges which faced Christian communities in the first four centuries and the impact these had on the development of the church.


In the third task students will have an opportunity to explore in greater depth one legacy of the early Christian period.


The assessment strategy is also designed to encourage the development of academic skills in preparation for future units in the area of history.  Such skills include the ability to analyse historical sources and different interpretations of historical developments; to ask questions and explore possible answers; to concisely and fluently convey the results of research and reflection; and to develop and defend a valid argument.

Overview of assessments

Brief Description of Kind and Purpose of Assessment TasksWeightingLearning OutcomesGraduate Attributes

Short introductory written task: Requires student to explain the main features of the emergent Church.



GA4, GA5

Written task: Requires students to analyse the background and development of early Christianity



GA4, GA5, GA8

Extended written task: Requires students to evaluate legacies of early Christianity.



GA4, GA5, GA5

Representative texts and references

Ashbrook, S. and D. G. Harvey. The Oxford Handbook of Early Christian Studies. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010.

Bingham, D. J. ed. The Routledge Companion to Early Christian Thought. London: Routledge, 2010.

Casiday, Augustine, and Frederick W. Norris. Constantine to C. 600. The Cambridge History of

Christianity; v. 2. 2007.

Chadwick, Henry. The Church in Ancient Society from Galilee to Gregory the Great. Oxford History of

the Christian Church. Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2001.

Davidson, I. J. The Birth of the Church: From Jesus to Constantine AD 30-312. Oxford: Monarch Books, 2005.

Davidson, I. J. A Public Faith: From Constantine to the Medieval World AD 312-600. Oxford: Monarch Books, 2005.

Edwards, M. Catholicity and Heresy in the Early Church. Farnham: Ashgate, 2009.

MacMullen, R. The Second Church: Popular Christianity AD 200-400. Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2009.

Miller, P. C., ed. Women in Early Christianity: Translations from Greek Texts. Washington, DC: Catholic University of America, 2005.

Rousseau, P. The Early Christian Centuries. London: Longman, 2002.

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