The History of Christianity: From the Disciples to the Dawn of the Reformation

Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent course I thoroughly enjoyed this series of lectures. Dr. Johnson's knowledge of the subject is very apparent from the beginning and I really did value the abundance of the often meticulous data presented. I found most of it intriguing and quite captivating. I have a BA in history and I was pleased to expand my knowledge with this course. The material was very good. Bravo to Dr. Johnson. I much prefer his courses to Bart Ehrman's courses (I recently purchased one of Ehrman's Great Courses lecture-series on early Christianity and I found it to be not so much to my liking (for several reasons). Having said that, Dr. Johnson has a curious eccentricity: His proclivity for odd mispronunciations can at times be quite distracting. This peculiar quirk has a way of misdirecting the listener's focus away from the material and toward the mispronunciation. I still rate the course as excellent, because it delivers on so many levels; however, Dr. Johnson may want to address this mispronunciation quirk, because it does detract from his presentations.
Date published: 2019-08-03
Rated 3 out of 5 by from I have bought six courses by Professor Johnson. They all have the same flaw. Without a doubt he is a very learned religious historian. However, he would be so much more effective if he simplified his vocabulary to the level of normal readers. To really understand his complete message, one needs to keep a dictionary on hand and refer to it constantly. If he would simplify his vocabulary, he'd get 5 stars.
Date published: 2019-07-01
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Good But Not Great Prof. Johnson delivers a solid, if somewhat tedious, tour of Christianity from its beginnings to the Reformation. As others have noted, he is plodding and verbose, and his penchant for jargon, arcane vocabulary, and complex sentence structure can make his points hard to follow from time to time. That said, his selection of material is excellent, and the course coverage is exactly what you would expect from the title. I watched the video version of this course but the audio version would be entirely satisfactory. A worthwhile offering.
Date published: 2019-05-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Wonderfully informative. The lecturer is highly knowledgable and very engaging to listen to. I like that he is clearly a man of great faith, but open to a very wide range of interpretation and approaches to spirituality.
Date published: 2019-04-24
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Limited viewpoint, odd delivery I had great hopes for a fair-minded survey of early Christian history, but the professor is too dismissive of alternative viewpoints without explaining why, and his delivery—with odd pronunciations and stilted cadences—is distracting.
Date published: 2019-04-16
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent overview of Early Church History. Especially appreciated the presentations on the first and second centuries.
Date published: 2019-04-06
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Interesting, but pales in comparison with others This course is particularly good in doctrinal disputes, but is lacking in the kinds of compelling details that makes for great history. It frequently seems biased and overly defensive about Catholicism, rather than being purely historical. Johnson's speaking style is a little off-putting. He over enunciates many words, and drones on a bit. He often mispronounces words. Overall, this course lacks the questioning nature of good scholarship and the compelling descriptions of great historical writing.
Date published: 2019-03-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Luke timothy Johnson excels again with this course I really enjoy the perspectives on Christianity put forth by Luke Timothy Johnson. For anyone interested in the history of Christianity, I would recommend this course. It is very well presented and interesting.
Date published: 2019-02-18
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Extremely verbose, plodding, tedious course "History is better understood as a constructive activity in the present that is carried out by historians." That's a sample of Prof. Johnson's verbosity; he obviously enjoys expressing things in a complex, complicated, convoluted and s-l-o-w way; my grandmother would have said "long-winded". He uses MANY words to get a simple, basic idea across. His presentation is over-enunciated, plodding. I join the many other Great Courses reviewers in urging the return of the podium/lectern and paper notes (instead of a teleprompter). Dr. Johnson ambles around the set, hands and arms waving continually to emphasise his points, flipping his gaze as one camera takes over from another. "Great populations of over sixty million people with a thousand year tradition of religious observance, a tradition in fact shared even outside of the empire, do not swivel totally at a single emperor's desire." Hmmm... surely there's a less cumbersome way to express that thought? Or how about this: "The very term 'liturgy' derives from the Greek word for the public works such as sacrifices, festivals and processions that were sponsored by wealthy patrons in Greco-Roman civic religion as a way of enabling participation in divine benefits and constructing what was called the city of god and men." This sort of wordy prose is this man's speciality! Almost obfuscation. Sometimes I'm left perplexed, trying to figure out what he means... e.g. "Christianity had grown in its intellectual self-confidence, over the second and third centuries." His use of "ness" added to an adjective to form a noun is annoying... e.g. "aggressiveness" (AGGRESSION) and "attractiveness" (ATTRACTION). It surprises me that PhDs fall prey to this error; I have noted others doing it. Re the course contents, I found it increasingly difficult and tedious to stay with the lectures; it became a real unpleasant task instead of a pleasure. The 36 could and should have been condensed into 24. In many instances the detail was way beyond what was needed. Criticism of the Catholic church was absolutely minimal Dr. Johnson admits up-front his religious bias. He was a monk and priest but left the order, married a woman with children and went on to have a child with her. He comes across as confused about his Catholicism; he wants to pick'n'choose, alas. His belief that same-sex relations/marriages are acceptable and can in fact be holy, greatly disturbs me, for the bible, in both testaments, soundly and specifically condemns homosexuality. As a history course, this series has reasonable merit, but I cannot praise it highly. I find the lectures by Dr. Bart Ehrman to be of greater value, and easier to follow. Regrettably, I cannot recommend this series by Prof. Johnson.
Date published: 2019-01-10
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Covered so much that I heard about but didn't know My husband and I watched this and really enjoyed it. He has a Master's in Anglican Theology and found it very interesting too.
Date published: 2018-12-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from History of Christianity It is a very excellent great and wonderful course!
Date published: 2018-12-20
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Not Bad but Can't Say Very Good Either Not a bad course even if I found myself drifting through most lectures. There's something about the Professor's presentation style that makes it difficult for me to stay engaged. It could be his speaking cadence. He pronounces every syllable of most words and at times slows down his delivery of a sentence to the point that it's hard to understand what he is accenting/emphasizing in a specific sentence. But his points and messages are still comprehendible. It just takes some getting used to. My personal favorites were lectures 14 (early history of the church after Constantine converted), 23 (spread of Islam), and 31 (the Crusades). Really good historical narrative that drew me in. I'm fairly familiar with the subject content in this course so I didn't feel like I learned too much new but if you are new to this time period and topic this course does have alot of information that will help you understand the first century or so of Christianity.
Date published: 2018-12-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Enjoyable course. The lecturer is obviously devout but does not ignore the fact the some of the actions of the church are deeply troubling and contra to the views they claimed to hold. In all a good overview of the early & medieval church. I purchased the video version but I think the audio would be fine.
Date published: 2018-10-26
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Easy to listen to!! Fine lecture - explains it all. Different "look" at Christianity.
Date published: 2018-06-27
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Professor Johnson articulates and is articulate! I have been a Great Courses customer for so long my first courses were on cassette. I rate Professor Johnson's course as outstanding. His lectures are carefully articulated (enunciation carefully done) and well-scripted. Professor Johnson carefully discusses the limits of an historical approach to Christianity's history and the limits of his own knowledge of the topics addressed before beginning the series--a positive. But he is perhaps too modest, since I my strong impression is that Professor Johnson is highly knowledgeable. He is also fair. I did not detect any obvious bias in his treatment of the various early "Christianities" and their proponents, nor any glossing-over of the less edifying episodes in Christianity's history (e.g., the Crusades) or the weaknesses that finally led to the Reformation. I would definitely consider any future courses from Professor Johnson and am delighted I decided to purchase this one.
Date published: 2018-06-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A pastor's comment I purchased this course and have started it during the Triduum and Octave of Easter. Having only gotten through a few of the lectures, i can't comment on the whole course, however, I wanted to comment in particular to his comments on the early setting of Christianity. Hearing it, especially during this unique and important period of the Church's calendar, I wish I'd heard it a few weeks ago, when I was writing homilies for this season. I've been an ordained Lutheran Pastor for 40+ years; I've written who knows how many sermons on the Triduum and Easter seasons. His material on the context of Christianity, both in Palestine and the diaspora, and his discussion of the reception and evaluation of Jesus that both Jews and Greeks would have made are offered in a manner that provides great food for thought. As we are trying to preach the crucifixion and resurrection, which is the heart of the Christian gospel, in a manner which is fresh and new for our people, there is good material here that I believe is useful for the preacher working with the familiar texts of the season. I want to thank Professor Johnson, and it is in my calendar to review NEXT year, early enough to incorporate into the preaching that is part of pastoral ministry.
Date published: 2018-04-04
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Clear, excellent language and examples Very satisfying to have a good survey of Christianity's history. Dr Johnson is easy to follow and a good lecturer.
Date published: 2018-03-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Many thanks to Dr. Johnson! This is a great course. I recommend it highly. Deep, thoughtful, balanced scientific approach and great delivery. Thank you very much Dr. Johnson and The Teaching Company!
Date published: 2018-03-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Important Perspective of an Important Topic This course is recommended for anyone interested in a deeper understanding of Christianity or of Western civilization. The student can expect to benefit from understanding the development of Christianity and its interaction with the development of the European political system. Oddly, while Christianity is certainly one of the most important influences in the development of European culture, Dr. Johnson does not explicitly show that development. The Great Courses has published a follow-on the continue the history from the Protestant Reformation to the present. This course takes an historical perspective of the development of Christianity from the events depicted in the New Testament up to the Enlightenment just before the Protestant Reformation. Topics include consolidation of Christian orthodoxy in the first three centuries of the Common Era, the dominance of Christianity in the Roman Empire starting with Constantine, the debate among the patriarchies of Antioch, Alexandria, and later Constantinople, dealing with “heresies” such as Donatism, Pelagianism, Aryanism, monophysitism, and Nestorianism, the “Great Divorce” between Rome and Constantinople, and monasticism. Oddly, he crams the Black Death, the Babylonian Captivity, and the Inquisition into just one lecture. To reiterate, Dr. Johnson tries to take a historical view; this is not a case for Christianity. That said, Dr. Johnson’s biases (which he clearly states up front) do show through. He is a former Benedictine monk and he is still a staunch Catholic. Thus, for example, when he speaks of the Crusades, he says that the Crusaders “liberated” Jerusalem and omits any mention of the massacre of Muslims and Jews there. He paints a generally positive picture of monasticism, particularly of Benedictine monasticism. He glides past the Babylonian Captivity, an important development in medieval papal history, in just a few sentences. He addresses what he calls structural corruption of the Roman Catholic church in the late middle ages but he omits the personal corruption of its leaders, a factor that created a cynicism among the people and that contributed to the Protestant Reformation. His perspective is one that deserves to be heard, but the student must be aware that it is not absolutely objective. Dr. Johnson is an internal advocate for Christianity and Dr. Bart Ehrman is an external critic of Christianity; each deserves to be heard. Dr. Johnson is easy to listen to but one must always keep in mind his biases. He has also taught The Teaching Company courses Mystical Tradition: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam; Story of the Bible; Jesus and the Gospels; Great World Religions: Christianity; Practical Philosophy: The Greco-Roman Moralists; Early Christianity: The Experience of the Divine; and Apostle Paul. As a rule, I listen to as many of his courses and I can and I always benefit from them. I used the audio version of this course. It was completely adequate.
Date published: 2017-12-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great early overview Professor Johnson is probably the lecturer I like best on the Great Courses. His method of presentation, gestures, and expression helps make things enjoyable, enhances learning, and makes you want to continue with the lectures. You really get an impression the lesson are one-on-one, rather thana lecture hall approach. One element I especially appreciated was a presentation of his strengths and limitations relative to the course. Especially when discussing religious topics, the lecturers bias, history, and general thoughts are important. Prof. johnson lays those out in the first lecture. He uses those points toattempt to interject more objectivity. Going out of his way in some cases to bring out other views. Others have discussed the change in format, from using a podium to teleprompter. I like the podium best, adds to that personal touch, and better suited to make the presentation less formal. I label the teleprompter as "DCitis". Too formal and to DC centric, and makes things seem more artificial. Maybe both the Learning Company and myself are too close to the "Beltway" :). Saying that, Prof., Johnson does OK in the adaption to use of the teleprompter. The primarly distraction is that he seems to have to constantly be looking for the active camera. Distracts from that one-on-one perception. Again, overall outstanding.
Date published: 2017-06-19
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Too pro-church Johnson acknowledges he's a believer, and officially lays out the need to examine his material according to the principles of academic history--but in the end this comes across as a pro-church polemic. As such, it was deeply disappointing, and at times even offensive, as he seems to slide into a tacit assumption that his audience sees the church (and often we're talking the Catholic Church) in the same positive light he does. Not trustworthy or, ultimately, very interesting. Plus, his delivery grates--too much over-intonation and over-enunciation. Skip it.
Date published: 2017-04-23
Rated 4 out of 5 by from A careful liberal history - a bit too careful As someone who was really hooked by Luke Johnson's great course on the Greco-Roman moralists some years ago I've always made a point of getting his courses. This course again demonstrates Professor Johnson's fine intelligence and comprehnsive knowledge and careful scholarship. I certainly learnt a great deal from it. Notwithstanding my praise however I no longer share Professor Johnson's progressive - and apologetic - perspective on the history of Christianity. unlike him I know longer feel the adapatability - which he sees as Christianity's greatest asset as being the virtue he accords it. Although I am not a Christian I find Professor Johnson's constant apolgising for Catholicism to be increasingly ahistorical. Put simply, Johnson gives us his well argued historical narrative and analysis but it is a quite standard liberal interpretation of history. Put simply, Johnson doesn't give any evidence of giving any consideration to revisionist history in any era. The crusades were not simply instances of Catholic fanaticism against a benign Islam but must be seen in the context of Islam's earlier wars into Europe (Johnson does discuss these wars briefly but makes no connection with the later crusades). Likewise medieval Christian anti-Semisitism was not simply the irrational psychosis Johnson would apparently have us believe it was, but in fact was severely provoked in the 11th century by Christian discovery about anti-Christian doctrines in the Talmud (Johnson makes no mention of these. This is in keeping with Johnson's more general view made more explicitly in his lecture series 'Story of the Bible' whereby he sees no real break between The Talmud and Torah but rather a simple continuity. Many others, including non-orthodox Jews, disagree). In similar vein, we learn about the provocations of the selling of Catholic indulgences which led Luther to his 95 theses, and the subsequent explosion of Protestantism but, perhaps most surprisingly, Johnson does not detail any of the subsequent fanaticism of these outgrowths splintered from the Catholic Church. Somewhow the whole thing has been the fault of the Catholic Church which is only put right with its capitulation to the progressivism of Vatican 2. I note quite a few people who are fans of Professor Johnson's earlier courses like me have despaired at the loss of the lectern and the resulting lack of naturalness in his presentation. For those courses where audio is sufficient I've been opting more and more for the audio rather than the video for the very reason that this is true of many of the lecturers. I'm glad to say that the audio was free of such annoying distraction.
Date published: 2017-03-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from As usual, great lecture by L.T. Johnson Luke T. Johnson is my favorite lecturer. (I have taken a lot of other courses and really like most of the lecturers, but Johnson is the best.). His knowledge of his subject area is admirable. He brings a lot of insight and I can tell he has thoroughly studied all facets of the subject. I also admire his knowledge of a lot of the languages involved. I will continue to watch and enjoy any of Luke Johnson's courses offered by Great Courses. I think I have bought about 5 of his courses already.
Date published: 2016-12-05
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Outstanding and comprehensive! As a person of faith, and a student of history and religion as a societal force, it can be difficult to find a instructional perspective that respects both spirituality and intellectual and historical rigor. This course offers a calm balance of both, and a wealth of information and insight into perhaps the single most significant influence on Western civilization. It provides critical understanding for informed reflection on historical processes that continue to influence contemporary challenges and personal beliefs. It deepened my understanding of European and Christian history enormously, and brought coherence to the many other courses on these topics that I have enjoyed so much.
Date published: 2016-02-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Complex Task that was handled well. There are several long reviews. I am making mine short. While his speaking style takes time to get use to, he does present a scholarly presentation in a very careful fashion. I was so happy, when compared to some other professors that go beyond being skeptics and border on ridicule, that he treated the subject with respect. Perhaps some who are not believers have a valid point, but I thought it was done very scholarly. He included references to people not even mentioned in other courses. It is a complex and difficult subject to cover and I thought he did an excellent job of it. I got the DVD but you could probably do okay with the CD. I would only add that he took on the Crusades, which is courageous in this day and age, but wish that he would have emphasized that the Caliph prior to the first crusade destroyed the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.
Date published: 2015-02-23
Rated 5 out of 5 by from very understandable within historical context Large cast of complicated characters. I am struck with how these historic conflicts still continue today! Have referenced some of the material for sermons.
Date published: 2014-12-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The History of Christianity: From the Disciples to This was my first course from Great Courses. It was dynamic. All I knew about the past history of Christianity was what I learned at school, which I thought to be quite comprehensive, however, I learned a lot. It is regrettable that people today do not seem interested in or value Christianity, I believe the time is coming when we should be concerned about it. I have now listened to this presentation five times and it gets better each time. As a Brit, at first I was perturbed by the mispronunciations but got used to the presenter and thoroughly enjoyed listening. Thank you so much. I am looking forward to purchasing more courses, however, as an 80 year old I am on a very limited budget and must wait for the cut price courses. Thanks for the opportunity to comment.
Date published: 2014-10-03
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Bring back the lectern; lose the teleprompter I concur with earlier comments regarding the change in the form of presentation. I have viewed many other courses by Luke Johnson with great pleasure and profit. His ease at the lectern, with his notes and his live audience, is palpable and serves his obvious expertise and enthusiasm. The new format, with him pacing back and forth on that Oriental rug, flicking anxious glances at the camera and the teleprompter, actually undermines his presentation. We see an ill-at-ease, over-precise person talking too loudly, and this prevents us from seeing him as the learned scholar and outstanding teacher whom we have come to know and to expect. It is probably too much to expect that this material would be presented again in the old format, and that is too bad.
Date published: 2014-10-01
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Disappointing To his credit, LTJ, confessed in the beginning of these "lectures" that he was, like most teachers, influenced by his background, i.e., a former Roman Catholic priest and Benedictine Monk. Well, in this presentation he lived up to the former rather well. I have three problems with this series. Two are academic and the third is style. Let me address the last first. I purchased the CDs because I like to listen to teachings on my commute in the mornings and evenings. I could hardly get through this series because it was so obvious he was not lecturing; rather reading a script word-by-word. It was not the LTJ I have listened to in lectures previously. Now for content: I find it interesting that in three quarters of Church history the professor mentioned half of the Christian population less than a dozen times and they were all one line statements. His patriarchal perspective completely avoided mentioning the women in our history, let lone honor them. If I were a woman, I'd be insulted by this...and rightfully so. The second area that was disappointing was the absence of any criticism of the Roman Catholic Church outside of the sale of indulgences that brought on the Protestant Reformation. Dr. Johnson, you are a much better teacher than this. I have studied your work and this is not representative of the work you have done in the past.
Date published: 2014-06-29
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Presentation Flawed I don't like the new lecture format. He's much more engaging in previous courses where he is lecturing to real people rather than reading from a teleprompter (like he is forced to do in this course). He's wooden and obviously uncomfortable with switching from camera to camera/teleprompter to teleprompter. It's 100% easier to listen to than watch him in this course. I don't understand why The Great Courses discontinued his "Early Christianity: The Experience of the Divine" - a MUCH better course and presentation.
Date published: 2014-05-15
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The History of Christianity: From the Disciples to the Dawn of the Reformation
Course Trailer
The Historical Study of Christianity
1: The Historical Study of Christianity

Begin by contemplating the massive historical trajectory of Christianity, as well as contemporary ignorance of its past. Consider the value of historical study of Christianity for reassessing the past and charting a path to the future. Look also at the methods and role of the historian, and the sources and limitations of historical knowledge....

31 min
The First Cultural Context-Greece and Rome
2: The First Cultural Context-Greece and Rome

Understanding the cultural contexts of early Christianity is fundamental for grasping its history. Investigate the culture of the Mediterranean world in which Christianity was born, the legacy of Alexander, and the features of Greek politics, religion, and philosophy. Also learn about the nature of Roman rule and imperial order in the region....

28 min
The First Cultural Context-Judaism
3: The First Cultural Context-Judaism

Judaism is the most important cultural context for early Christianity. Contemplate the circumstances of Jewish life in ancient Palestine as well as in the Diaspora. In particular, examine cultural and ideological factors that divided the Jews, the tensions they faced between assimilation and separation, and their resistance to Greek culture and Roman rule....

30 min
The Jesus Movement and the Birth of Christianity
4: The Jesus Movement and the Birth of Christianity

Consider the resurrection as marking the birth of Christianity, as rooted in the claims of the first believers to an experience of ultimate power and transformation. Also assess the contradiction perceived by his contemporaries between Jesus as the source of divine life and the degrading manner of his death....

30 min
Paul and Christianity's First Expansion
5: Paul and Christianity's First Expansion

Christianity spread with amazing speed in the decades following Jesus's death. Begin by observing how this expansion happened and the broad adaptations Christianity made in a relatively short period. Then investigate the role of Paul's letters as a primary record of the convictions, culture, practices, and troubles of the early Christians....

31 min
The Diversity of Early Christianity
6: The Diversity of Early Christianity

This lecture notes influences in early Christianity beyond the pivotal figures of Jesus and Paul. In particular, investigate the differences in conviction and perspective in the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Compare the four Gospels' distinct interpretations of Jesus's role, as well as their convergence on the nature of his character....

30 min
The Unpopular Cult-Persecution
7: The Unpopular Cult-Persecution

In tracing the Christian "age of persecution," begin by examining the prior history of repression of both Jews and philosophers, and the problems posed by the Christians for the world around them. Study the evidence of early Christian persecution by the Jews, as well as the most significant persecutions by Rome....

30 min
Forms of Witness-Martyrdom and Apologetic
8: Forms of Witness-Martyrdom and Apologetic

In the 2nd and 3rd centuries, martyrdom and apologetic literature responded powerfully to the persecution of Christians. Investigate the phenomenon of martyrdom as the perfect form of discipleship, in the actions of martyrs who exalted in their sacrifice. See how apologetic literature created a reasoned case for Christianity in the wider world....

29 min
Extreme Christianity in the 2nd and 3rd Centuries
9: Extreme Christianity in the 2nd and 3rd Centuries

Radical forms of Christianity continued the movement's original diversity in even more dramatic ways. Trace early accounts of wonder-working, and Christian social behavior that upset traditional mores. Also learn about ecstatic experience and asceticism, and the dualistic rupture of matter and spirit in Marcionism and Gnosticism....

29 min
The Shaping of Orthodoxy
10: The Shaping of Orthodoxy

Here, identify the pivotal factors that secured the framework of Christianity, defining an orthodoxy based in tradition and reason. In particular, study the role of Irenaeus of Gaul in establishing the canonical scriptures, the rule of faith in one God, and the religious authority of the bishops....

30 min
Institutional Development before Constantine
11: Institutional Development before Constantine

Christianity's growth, accompanied by its development of solid social structures, finally positioned it as an irresistible force. First, trace the movement's broad geographic expansion and increase in numbers. Then learn about its hierarchical structure of clerical orders under the supreme authority of bishops, and regional spheres of influence within the religion....

29 min
The Beginnings of Christian Philosophy
12: The Beginnings of Christian Philosophy

Early Christian philosophy emphasized the religion as a way of moral transformation, and initiated a serious intellectual discourse with the wider world. In this lecture, grapple with Justin Martyr, Clement of Alexandria, and Origen, whose substantial writings and teachings gave birth to an authentically philosophical form of Christianity....

30 min
Imperial Politics and Religion
13: Imperial Politics and Religion

Christianity made a dramatic turn in the 4th century, becoming the established religion of the Roman Empire. Investigate the pivotal roles the emperors Diocletian and Constantine played in this; in particular, Diocletian's political reforms, which refashioned imperial authority, and Constantine's bold initiative to place imperial power behind the church....

29 min
Constantine and the Established Church
14: Constantine and the Established Church

This lecture follows the complex process of the "conversion" of the empire to Christianity. Track the bold actions of Constantine in his patronage of the new faith, as well as the definitive imposition of Christianity under Theodosius I. Then, examine the benefits and stresses of the faith's new role....

28 min
The Extension of Christian Culture
15: The Extension of Christian Culture

In the religion's new context, see how substantial territories became Christian through conversion under imperial authority. Then explore the church's expanding "liturgy" of public acts, incorporating architecture, art, ceremony, and pilgrimage, as well as the religious rituals of the sacraments and the celebration of the biblical past....

30 min
Monasticism as Radical Christianity
16: Monasticism as Radical Christianity

Monasticism exerted an enormous influence on Christianity from its inception. Trace its development in 3rd-century Egypt, and learn about the elements and principles of monastic life. Observe the appeal of this alternative culture that allowed Christians to express discipleship in a more radical, rigorous existence....

29 min
The Emergence of Patriarchal Centers
17: The Emergence of Patriarchal Centers

In the 4th and 5th centuries, prominent cities competed for authority within the imperial religion. Look first at the reasons for the early primacy of Rome, and Constantinople's later emergence as Rome's rival. Then study the rivalry of Antioch and Alexandria, and how they opposed each other in both intellectual and religious terms....

30 min
Theological Crisis and Council-The Trinity
18: Theological Crisis and Council-The Trinity

Complex doctrinal disputes divided Christians in the 4th through the 6th centuries. Here, track the 4th-century controversy over the divinity of Jesus and the resulting Councils of Nicaea and Constantinople, key events in establishing the orthodox view of the equality of the Father and Son, and the nature of the divine as Triune....

29 min
Theological Crisis and Council-Christology
19: Theological Crisis and Council-Christology

The controversy concerning the Trinity raged through the 5th and 6th centuries, now focused on the nature of Christ, the God-Man. Follow in detail the bitter opposition of two convictions-Christ's dual nature as both human and divine versus his singular divinity-leading to attempts to reach accord through imperial and papal intervention....

29 min
The Distinctive Issues of the Latin West
20: The Distinctive Issues of the Latin West

In grasping Christianity's development in the Western empire, investigate two major controversies, Donatism and Pelagianism, rooted in questions of moral rigor and personal holiness. Then, grapple with three religious leaders who shaped Latin Christianity: Ambrose of Milan, Jerome, and the monumental figure of Augustine of Hippo....

30 min
Expansion beyond the Boundaries of Empire
21: Expansion beyond the Boundaries of Empire

This lecture counters the tendency to think of Christianity as a European religion, charting its extensive geographical spread through the 6th century. Trace its Eastern expansion from Persia to Ethiopia, noting each region's rich and diverse Christian literature. Witness its historic encounter with Germanic tribes and extension to the British Isles....

31 min
The Court of Justinian and Byzantine Christianity
22: The Court of Justinian and Byzantine Christianity

Here, evaluate the extraordinary legacy of the emperor Justinian of Byzantium. Follow his conquests to restore the greatness of the empire, his economic and legal achievements and patronage of art. Also study his interventions in religious affairs and his role in the growing rift between the Chalcedonian (Western) and Monophysite (Eastern) churches....

29 min
The Rise of Islam and the Threat of Iconoclasm
23: The Rise of Islam and the Threat of Iconoclasm

In the 6th and 7th centuries, Byzantine Christianity faced both external and internal pressures. Track the dramatically rapid spread of Islam through military conquest and the threat it posed to the Byzantine Empire. Learn about the continuing theological controversy over Christ's nature, and the century-long battle over painted representations of Jesus....

30 min
Eastern Orthodoxy-Holy Tradition
24: Eastern Orthodoxy-Holy Tradition

This lecture uncovers the remarkable cultural riches of the Orthodox tradition. First, see how a 9th-century Byzantine mission established Christianity in Russia and Ukraine. Then, delve into the compelling Orthodox rituals of worship, Orthodoxy's deeply integral monastic tradition, and its distinct form of contemplative mysticism, known as "Hesychasm."...

30 min
From Roman Empire to Holy Roman Empire
25: From Roman Empire to Holy Roman Empire

Now follow the dramatic political events that marked the transition from imperial Christianity to medieval Christianity. Witness the rise of the Germanic people called the Franks, under a series of powerful rulers culminating in the pivotal figure of Charlemagne. Study the structure of a new form of society: feudalism....

30 min
Benedictine Monasticism and Its Influence
26: Benedictine Monasticism and Its Influence

Benedictine monasticism played a foundational role in the shaping of medieval Christianity, and it continues to thrive today. Take a deep look at Benedict of Nursia's Rule for Monks; its principles of obedience and humility and detailed prescriptions for monastic life, promoting monasteries as centers of both Christian discipleship and learning....

28 min
Evangelization of Western Europe
27: Evangelization of Western Europe

A spectrum of powerful figures fueled Christianity's expansion in the West. Reckon with the contributions of the popes Damasus I, Leo I, and Gregory "the Great" in strengthening the papacy and Latin Christianity. Also study the seminal work of the missionaries Saint Willibrord and Saint Boniface, and the monk-scholars Bede and Alcuin....

29 min
The Great Divorce between East and West
28: The Great Divorce between East and West

In the 11th century, relations between Orthodoxy (East) and Catholicism (West) were severed, a schism that has remained for more than a thousand years. Here, explore the intricate and complex contributing factors, including cultural distance, centuries of political-ecclesiastical rivalries, and the doctrinal disputes and power plays leading to the split....

31 min
Monastic Reform
29: Monastic Reform

Investigate the appeal of monasticism in the medieval world and why this dominant institution in the Catholic West required constant renewal. Look at three famous medieval monastic houses and the key reforms each implemented in their quest for a more complete realization of the ideals of the Rule of Benedict....

30 min
Cathedrals and Chapters
30: Cathedrals and Chapters

The majestic cathedrals of European Christendom are a key to medieval Catholic life. Study the two archetypal cathedral styles, Romanesque and Gothic; their iconic architectural features; and their symbolic structure. Learn about the rituals of worship, cathedral "chapters" (staff), and the multiple social functions of these grand edifices....

30 min
The Crusades
31: The Crusades

The Crusades to recover the Holy Land from the Muslims represented deep ambiguities in Christian identity. Grasp the nature of these conquests as combined religious mission, popular movement, and political calculation. Then study the four most critical Crusades; their objectives, varied outcomes, and ultimate failure in both political and religious terms....

30 min
Papal Revolution
32: Papal Revolution

This lecture follows the ascending power of the papacy in Christian Europe. Assess the careers of two "super-popes," Gregory the VII and Innocent III, as they aggressively consolidated papal authority in both religious and secular spheres. Learn about the Franciscan and Dominican orders, noting their role as instruments of papal policy....

29 min
Universities and Theology
33: Universities and Theology

Our contemporary universities have their origins in medieval universities that were entirely Christian. Trace the rise of universities in the West-their functions, curricula, and the development of scholastic theology with its methodology of dialectical reasoning. Assess the expression of Christian thought in the theology of Thomas Aquinas and John Duns Scotus and in the poetry of Dante Alighieri....

31 min
The Great Plague
34: The Great Plague

The 14th century saw a period of natural and human-caused disasters that negatively affected society and the church. Track the extreme hardships of the Black Death, prolonged wars, and the terrors of the Inquisition. See also how the same era produced a flourishing of Christian mysticism and the beginnings of humanist literature....

29 min
Corruption and the Beginnings of Reform
35: Corruption and the Beginnings of Reform

By the late medieval era, systemic dysfunction within Christianity led to efforts at structural reform. Grasp the critical issues the church faced in the practice of theology and liturgy, as well as in deepening political and moral corruption. Learn about the courageous early reformers, whose daring voices anticipated the Protestant Reformation....

32 min
The Ever-Adapting Religion
36: The Ever-Adapting Religion

The course concludes with reflections on the numerous cultural adaptations Christianity has made on its path to becoming a "world religion." Contemplate the challenges posed to the faith in its journey from the Reformation to the modern era, and the question of Christianity's identity within all its cultural permutations....

33 min
Luke Timothy Johnson

I strive to make philosophy accessible and lovable to everyone. If everyone embraced philosophy, the world would be a much better place.


Yale University


Emory University

About Luke Timothy Johnson

Dr. Luke Timothy Johnson is the Robert W. Woodruff Professor of New Testament and Christian Origins at Emory University's Candler School of Theology in Atlanta, Georgia. Professor Johnson earned a Ph.D. in New Testament Studies from Yale University, as well as an M.A. in Religious Studies from Indiana University, an M.Div. in Theology from Saint Meinrad School of Theology, and a B.A. in Philosophy from Notre Dame Seminary in New Orleans. A former Benedictine monk, Professor Johnson has taught at Yale Divinity School and Indiana University, where he received the President's Award for Distinguished Teaching, was elected a member of the Faculty Colloquium in Teaching, and won the Brown Derby Teaching Award and the Student Choice Award for teaching. At Emory University, he has twice received the On Eagle's Wings Excellence in Teaching Award. In 2007 he received the Candler School of Theology Outstanding Service Award. His most recent award is the 2011 Louisville Grawemeyer Award in Religion for the ideas set forth in his 2009 book, Among the Gentiles: Greco-Roman Religion and Christianity. Professor Johnson is the author of more than 20 books, including The Real Jesus: The Misguided Quest for the Historical Jesus and the Truth of the Traditional Gospels and The Writings of the New Testament: An Interpretation, which is widely used as a textbook. He has also published several hundred scholarly articles and reviews.

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