History of Christianity

The History of Christianity area focuses on one major western religious tradition, in itself and in its interactions with other religions and cultures across time.

Faculty: Curtis J. EvansKirsten Macfarlane, Margaret M. Mitchell, Willemien Otten, William SchultzErin Galgay Walsh

The area fosters knowledge of the range of communities claiming an identity as "Christian" from the first through the twenty-first centuries, as well as allowing for individual specialization in a particular movement or historical moment, including ancient Christianity (to Constantine), late antique and medieval Christianity, the Reformation and early modernity, the Puritan movement, and the broad range of American Christianity.

Coursework and guided research emphasize the acquisition of essential skills of documentary and artifactual interpretation, critical appraisal of a range of methodological approaches to the material, and a sophisticated appreciation of the tasks, goals and audiences of historiographical writing. The construction of this area is based on the assumption that there are major issues that apply and extend to all periods (such as forms of biblical interpretation, means of adjudicating "orthodoxy" and "heresy," the relationship between Christian communities and the social order, forms of institutional and personal piety), as well as particular expressions of those dynamics in different chronological and geographical settings. It also assumes the need for integration of intellectual, social, institutional and cultural histories for interpreting the body of existing evidence and adequately addressing most important questions about this particular religious tradition in its various manifestations. Students in the HC area are encouraged to formulate an interdisciplinary approach to their research, through coursework throughout the areas of the Divinity School and the University (including the Department of History).

Progress Conference format

The progress (or pre-exam) conference is normally held in the spring quarter of the second year, or the fall of the third year.  In History of Christianity, the progress conference is held with the student's panel of examiners for the qualifying examinations, and will normally include assessment of coursework to date, cogency of the course of study petition, readiness for qualifying examinations, and development of the dissertation project. A report from the advisor and a timeline for the qualifying examinations is submitted to the Dean of Students following the conference. 

Sample Courses
The Divinity School offers over one hundred courses in the academic study of religion every year. This is a small sample of recently offered courses.

  • HCHR 30100 - History of Christian Thought I – Otten
  • HCHR 30200 - History of Christian Thought II - Otten
  • HCHR 30900 - History of Christian Thought V: Modern Religious Thought – Hector
  • HCHR 50000 - Theological Criticism: Creation and Gender - Otten
  • HCHR 39300 - My Body, My Self: Asceticism and Subjectivity – Walsh and Taylor
  • HCHR 43200 - Colloquium: Ancient Christianity – Mitchell
  • HCHR 43959 - Varieties of Dominican Mysticism: Albert the Great, Meister Eckhart, and Catherine of Siena - Otten
  • HCHR 45200 - The Holy Land in the Middle Ages - Krause
  • HCHR 36916 - Reading Greek Literature in the Papyri – Torallas-Tovar
  • HCHR 45570 - Three Medieval Women: Fate and Voice in Heloise, Hildegard, and Hadewijch - Otten
  • HCHR 44004 - ​The Veneration of Icons in Byzantium: History, Theory and Practice – Krause
  • HCHR 50400 – Early Christian Rhetoric – Mitchell
  • HCHR 50500 – Origen’s Contra Celsum – Mitchell