Andrew Hofer Syllabus

THEO 60294. Early Church Christology (HC, ST)
3 credits, Andrew Hofer, OP
3:15-5:45 pm; MTWRF

University of Notre Dame
July 8 - July 26, 2013

Instructor’s email address:


This course examines texts from key figures of early Christianity whose thinking has profoundly influenced the way Christians believe in and celebrate the mystery of Jesus Christ. Such thinkers include Irenaeus, Athanasius, Gregory of Nazianzus, Augustine of Hippo, Cyril of Alexandria, Leo the Great, and Maximus the Confessor. Special attention will be given to the interpretation of Sacred Scripture within the Christological controversies, in the arguments of what should be considered heretical and what should be considered orthodox. The teachings of the ancient ecumenical councils on Christ are examined and considered for their significance today.


Two papers, each 4-6 double-spaced pages (40% of total course grade): Students will write brief papers on early Christology, relating Scripture to some theological text(s) studied that week, for an imagined audience of today, an audience not very well-informed in early Christian studies, as the readership. The papers are to be submitted electronically to the instructor ( by the following Monday at 8:30 a.m.

Class discussion and questions (20% of total course grade): Students must prepare the readings before the class of each day and be ready for a lecture and discussion of the materials. In preparation for class on Tuesday through Friday, students will write one short paragraph of no more than ten lines that identifies some difficulty in early Christology from that reading, and asks a discussion question. The discussion question is designed to help the student to think critically about the reading, assist the instructor in knowing what kinds of questions each student is asking, and may contribute to stimulate classroom discussion.

In-class final examination (40% of total course grade): The final examination will have two of the following three questions.

  1. Michael, a bright college sophomore eager to learn from history is taking an introduction to Christianity class, and he thinks that describing Jesus as “both God and human” settles the question about who Jesus is. Sketch the variety of ways for him that such a formulation could be interpreted in early Christianity. For example, what does God mean? What does human mean? How can one be two? Explore the growths of orthodoxy and heresy in the early Christological debates, giving special attention to the ecumenical councils. Do you think Michael is right or wrong or something in between?
  2. A friend by the name of Melissa teaches a course on Jesus to juniors at a Catholic high school. She knows that you’ve taken a course in Early Church Christology at Notre Dame. She has had a problem in trying to get her students to see the connections between Sacred Scripture and the debates of the early Church. She finds that her students get confused by Greek philosophical problems that seem so distant from the New Testament. From the course readings, lectures, and discussions, give an account of the importance of the Bible (through discussions on canon, traditions, theological interpretations, creedal formulations, and conciliar definitions) in early Christian understandings of the person and mission of Jesus.
  3. Dr. Mary Jones, a theologian specializing in the early Church, is very friendly and interested in your thoughts on the Christology of the period. Choose one figure in each of the three weeks that we have studied, and describe in some detail his Christology for Dr. Jones to hear. After describing each figure, ask one question to Dr. Jones that allows her to understand not only the depth of your knowledge, but also your desire to learn more about each person you choose to discuss.

The student will choose one of the two essays that will appear on the final exam. That essay will be 70% of the final exam grade. The other 30% will be an objective, short-answer section testing basic facts about the development of Christology in the early Church. There will be twelve questions, and the student will choose to answer ten out of the twelve. Handouts and emphases in class lecture will assist students in preparing for the objective, short-answer section.


Week One: Christology before Nicaea (325)

Monday, July 8: Introductions; Overview of Christology in the Early Church; Christ in Scripture and the Life of the Church. Reading: Brian E. Daley, S.J., “Christ and Christologies,” chap. 43 in The Oxford Handbook of Early Christian Studies,  pp. 886-905 (e-reserve); Isaiah 50:1-53:12; Mark 8:27-30; Luke 24:13-35; John 1:1-18, 18:1-21:25; 2 Corinthians 8:1-15, and Philippians 2:1-11 (from any standard Bible translation, such as RSV, NRSV, NAB, or NABRE).

Tuesday, July 9: Ignatius of Antioch: Reading: Ignatius of Antioch’s Letters to the Ephesians, Magnesians, Trallians, Romans, and Philadelphians. Reading: In Early Christian Writings, pp. 60-97 (e-reserve)

Wednesday, July 10: Gnostic Christologies. Reading: Secret Book according to John and Gospel of Truth in The Gnostic Scriptures (Layton), pp. 23-51 and pp. 250-64 (e-reserve).

Thursday, July 11: Melito of Sardis and Irenaeus of Lyons. Readings in The Christological Controversy (Norris), pp. 33-60.

Friday, July 12: Tertullian and Origen. Readings in The Christological Controversy (Norris), pp. 61-82.

Short paper due on Monday, July 15 by 8:30 a.m.

Week Two: Nicaea (325) to the eve of Chalcedon (451)

Monday, July 15: Arius, Council of Nicaea I (325), and Athanasius: Readings in Christology of the Later Fathers (Hardy), pp. 327-40; and in The Christological Controversy (Norris), pp. 83-102, and Tanner, Decrees of the Ecumenical Councils, vol. 1, pp. 5 and *5 (e-reserve).

Tuesday, July 16: Athanasius, On the Incarnation: Reading in Christology of the Later Fathers (Hardy), pp. 55-110.

Wednesday, July 17: Apollinarius of Laodicea, Gregory of Nazianzus and Constantinople I (381), Apollinarius’s On the Union in Christ and Fragments, Gregory’s Theological Epistles, and Summary of 381 from 382. Readings in The Christological Controversy (Norris), 103-11; Christology of the Later Fathers (Hardy), pp. 215-32 and 343-5, and Tanner, Decrees of the Ecumenical Councils, vol. 1, pp. 24-*30 (e-reserve).

Thursday, July 18: Gregory of Nyssa, An Address on Religious Instruction. Reading in Christology of the Later Fathers (Hardy), pp. 268-325.

Friday, July 19: Nestorius, Cyril of Alexandria, Ephesus (431), Formula of Union. Readings in Christology of the Later Fathers (Hardy), pp. 346-54, and Tanner, Decrees of the Ecumenical Councils, vol. 1, pp. 40-*50 (e-reserve).

Short paper due on Monday, July 22 by 8:30 a.m.

Week Three: Eve of Chalcedon (451) to Nicaea II (787)

Monday, July 22: Augustine, Leo, and Chalcedon (451): Augustine’s Ep. 137 to Volusianus; Leo’s Ep. 28, which is the Tome to Flavian; Chalcedonian Decree. Readings in Christology of the Later Fathers (Hardy), pp. 359-74 and Augustine: Works (English) on Notre Dame Library site for Ep. 137 (about 10 pages)—go to library website; go to databases, go to the letter “A”, go to Augustine: Works (English), type in your ID and password, go to Letters 100-155 (on lower left), go to Ep. 137.

Tuesday, July 23: Leontius of Byzantium and Constantinople II (553). Readings in Christology of the Later Fathers (Hardy), pp. 375-81 and Tanner, Decrees of the Ecumenical Councils, vol. 1, pp. 114-*122 (e-reserve).

Wednesday, July 24: Maximus the Confessor and Constantinople III (680-81). Readings in On the Cosmic Mystery of Jesus Christ, pp. 119-22 and 173-76 (e-reserve), and Tanner, Decrees of the Ecumenical Councils, vol. 1, pp. 124-*130 (e-reserve).

Thursday, July 25: John of Damascus and Nicaea II (787). Readings in St. John of Damascus: Writings, pp. 267-314, and Tanner, Decrees of the Ecumenical Councils, vol. 1, pp. 133-*138 (e-reserve).

Friday, July 26: Brief concluding lecture and in-class written final examination.


Bible. Any standard translation, such as the RSV, NRSV, NAB, or NABRE.

Hardy, Edward, ed. Christology of the Later Fathers. The Library of Christian Classics: Ichthus Edition. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 1954 (with reprints available). ISBN-10: 0664241522; ISBN-13: 978-0664241520.

Norris, Richard A., Jr., ed. The Christological Controversy. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1980. ISBN-10: 0800614119; ISBN-13: 978-0800614119.

Also, the Hesburgh Libraries website will be used for additional texts.


Laptops and other electronic devices are welcome in the classroom as long as they are being used solely for the purposes of the class. Any other use is strictly forbidden.