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Early Christian practice and institutions

Class at Hussite Theological Faculty |


The annotation of the seminar includes two basic frameworks of course focus, from which the doctoral student chooses after consultation with his or her supervisor. Within the chosen focus, the specific topic of the seminar will be specified taking into account the ISP of the student, or the topic of his or her dissertation, and the current state of research of the given problems (new monograph, monothematic issue of the relevant periodical, etc.). Therefore, the annotation characterizes only the basic outline of partial areas of focus, and informs about the general framework from which one specific problem is chosen for a specific semester. The course is organized in the form of active participation by doctoral students. Doctoral students take responsibility for partial topics, supervise, and correct the reading of a given section of the work and its interpretation, and moderate the discussion. The unifying framework of both areas of focus is the issue of early Christian institutions and standardization processes.

A) In the course, students study Christian ritual practice in the period from the emergence of Christianity to the 4th century, i.e., the time period understood as essential for the formation of Christian ritual practice in general. The subject is the establishment of ritual practice in New Testament texts and its subsequent development, plurality, and changes. The starting point is an analysis of primary texts not only of the forming of (proto) orthodoxy (Didache,

Justina, Irenaeus, Tertullian, Cyprian, Cyril of Jerusalem, Apostolic Constitution), but also ritual practice in pseudo clementine texts or in the Gospel of Philip. In general, the course focuses not only on baptism, the Eucharist, prayer, anointing, but also, for example, on ritual washing of the feet, apotropaic rites, or ritual acts in connection with death.

The course focuses on one specific topic/issue.

Selection of topics:

- Ritual practice and identity

- Ritual practice and salvation

- Relation to Jewish ritual practice

- Baptism as a transitional ritual

- Early Christian ritual practice as a replacement for the sacrificial ritual?

- The Eucharist in the context of ritual feasts

- The baptismal ritual of the majority church versus the Valentine ritual of Redemption

- Geographical conditionality of baptismal ritual sequences (Syria and Egypt — North Africa — Rome) and its interpretation

B) In the course, doctoral students focus on the issue of the creation, formation, and establishment of the New

Testament canon. It follows the process of canonization in various contexts of early Christianity (e.g., gnosis or

Alexandrian theology). Doctoral students will use the primary literature and, from the perspective of current research, they will thematise selected problems, such as the question of Markion’s influence on canon formation (was Markion really the “creator of the Christian Holy Scriptures”, as Adolf von Harnack thought?), the significance of Tatian’s

Diatessaron for canon formation, the issue of the so-called Muratorian fragment and other partial questions. The annotation characterizes only the basic syllabus of the course and informs about the general framework from which one partial problem is chosen for a specific semester, on which the whole course focuses.

Selection of topics:

- Catholicism of texts in early Christianity versus the “canon”

- Plurality of canons?

- Gnostic Christianity and the formation of the canon

- Markion’s significance for the formation of the canon

- Tatian’s Diatessaron as a reaction to Markion?

- Irenaeus of Lyon as the “scripture theologian”

- Clement of Alexandria and gradational canonicity

- The Muratorian fragment

- The significance of preserved manuscripts

- The relationship between ritual practice and canonicality/canon

- Athanasius of Alexandria