Christian Origins 101: How the First Christians Lived, Believed, and Shaped History

Podcast-style audio & video course -
Length: 12 hrs and 35 mins
Professor, Saint Mary’s College of California
(10 customer reviews)
Audio Download + Subscription
Audio Download + Subscription
Includes Free Study Guide
Audio Download + Subscription
Audio Sample:

You are invited to journey back 2,000 years to the very start of Christianity and track 450 years of its fascinating early development.

In Christian Origins 101, you will explore the rich history, early leadership, and groundbreaking theology, of early Christianity. Through 30 erudite lectures, you will focus on six major themes: the early Church’s relationship with its Jewish heritage, the Gnostic movement, Christianity and the Roman Empire, the early Church and women, debates about Jesus’ divinity in the fourth century, and debates about Jesus’ humanity in the fifth century. Each of these themes served as a locus for significant debates about the nature of Christian beliefs and practices.

In exploring the fundamental questions that challenged Christianity from the Apostolic Age to the Council of Chalcedon in 451 AD, you will gain a deep understanding of the roots of the beliefs Christians hold dear. By learning about Christianity’s remarkable origins and development, you will gain a richer understanding of the Church today.

You will find these lectures extraordinarily well taught, highly informative and enjoyable.

This course was previously published as The Origins of Christianity

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David Zachariah Flanagin, Ph.D., is Professor of Theology and Religious Studies at Saint Mary’s College of California, where he teaches courses in the development of Christian thought and in biblical studies. His teaching has earned him recognition by the student body as Faculty Member of the Year. Prof. Flanagin received his doctorate in the History of Christianity from the Divinity School at the University of Chicago. He is the author of a number of articles on late-medieval ecclesiology and biblical interpretation. He is the co-editor (with Christopher M. Bellitto) of Reassessing Reform: A Historical Investigation into Church Renewal, published by Catholic University of America Press. In addition to his academic duties, he lectures frequently at churches on topics in the Bible and theology.
Praise for Zach Flanagin
“Zach Flanagin is an outstanding historian… thoroughly grounded in his material, but with special gifts as a lecturer. His works in late medieval spirituality are top-notch and I commend him for searching out the origins of this spirituality in its very beginnings.”– Gerald Christianson, Professor Emeritus of Church History, Gettysburg Lutheran Seminary        
“Zach Flanagin enjoys the unique combination of deep learning and clear teaching, which is why I recommended him to Now You Know Media. He can communicate complicated subjects in an accessible manner that raises the level of conversation. You will leave his courses with greater insights into church history and the spirituality that drives it.” – Christopher Bellitto, Ph.D., History Department, Kean University
“He is an energetic, captivating and enthusiastic lecturer who speaks to both experienced and beginning Bible students. His knowledge and love of the Bible resonates with adults. He not only covers the history and message of each book, but always inspires his listener to find meaning and application for life today.” – Nora Petersen, Director of Adult Formation at St. John Vianney Parish, CA   
“I have the privilege of working closely with Professor Flanagin, who is—and I do not exaggerate—one of the most gifted writers and verbal communicators I know. His scholarship in Christian history is influential, and his classroom teaching is masterful.” – Michael Barram, Ph.D., Saint Mary’s College of California

    Theme #1: The Church Emerging from Judaism
  • Introduction: The Early Church and Judaism
  • The Early Church and the Torah
  • Finding Christian Meaning in the Old Testament: The Case of Justin Martyr
  • Christian and Jewish Identities in the Second Century: Who Is the Heir to God’s Covenant?

    Theme #2: Gnosticism and Orthodoxy
  • Gnosticism, Ptolemy, and the Old Testament
  • Gnostic Cosmology
  • Gnostic Views of Christ and Christianity
  • Reactions to Gnosticism: The New Testament Canon
  • Reactions to Gnosticism: Ignatius and the Episcopal Structure
  • Reactions to Gnosticism: Irenaeus, Apostolic Succession, and the Rule of Faith
  • Reactions to Gnosticism: Tertullian, Irenaeus, and the Stereotype of Heresy

    Theme #3: Christianity and the Roman Empire
  • The Spread of Christianity in the Empire
  • Apologies for the Faith
  • Persecution and Martyrdom
  • The Conversion of Constantine

    Theme #4: The Early Church and Women
  • Surveying the Evidence about Women in Early Christianity
  • Paul’s Perspective on Women in the Church
  • The Pauline Legacy in the Pastoral Epistles and the Acts of Thecla
  • A Positive or Negative Tale for Early Christian Women?

    Theme #5: The Divinity of Christ: The Trinitarian Debates
  • Early Christian Views of Jesus
  • Logos Christology
  • Arius and Arianism
  • The Council of Nicea
  • Alexander and Athanasius
  • After Nicea
  • The Trinity and the Council of Constantinople

    Theme #6: The Humanity of Christ: The Christological Debates
  • The Logos-Sarx Christology of Alexandria
  • The Logos-Anthropos Christology of Antioch
  • Nestorius of Constantinople and Cyril of Alexandria
  • The Council of Chalcedon

10 reviews for Christian Origins 101: How the First Christians Lived, Believed, and Shaped History

  1. Matthew

    Prof. David Flanagin provides an excellent and understandable account of Christian beginnings.

    Prof. David Flanagin provides an excellent and understandable account of Christian beginnings.

  2. Tim

    One of the best

    I have purchased more than thirty courses from Now You Know Media and without question this is one of the best. Most of the courses are good, but only a few would I rate five stars. This is one of them. Dr. Flanagin, must be a very distant relative of Peter of Ireland. He does an exceptional job of explaining the evolution of Catholic theology and its historical context. If this is the type of subject that you find interesting, you will be well pleased with this course.

  3. Matthew

    Nice overview

    Prof. David Flanagin is very knowledgeable and presents the material in a clear way. This course provides a nice overview of early Christianity with many currently relevant questions answered.

  4. Charles

    Very enlightening

    The evolution of the Church’s understanding of the Trinity and the consensus arrived at over the first 400 years of our Church was very enlightening.

  5. John

    Superb scholarship

    Superb scholarship, order of progression historical material excellent, entire program excellent.

  6. Matthew M., MA

    Fall Survey: October 2016

    Knowledgeable and well delivered lectures relevant to today.

  7. Jim T., NV

    Winter Survey: January 2017

    Thorough and engaging presentation throughout.

  8. William M., IA

    Summer Survey: July 2017

    It gives insight into the diversity in the early church.

  9. Matthew M., MA

    Summer Survey: July 2017

    Prof. Flanagin is very knowledgeable and delivers clear and interesting talks.

  10. Mike McWilliams (verified owner)

    I have listened to numerous Learn25 courses, but this is the first time I have written a review. As to the content, this is a very clear and thorough review of early church history. It is well organized. The length of the course doesn’t fit a typical 12-lecture format; neither do Professor Flanagin’s other courses. I suspect that his approach is to do as much justice to the topic as he reasonably can within limits, and let that determine the course length. The content will interest those who want to understand more about how information was transmitted by Christians before Christian writings began; the early written documents available to us, whether the theology contained in them eventual became treated as “orthodox” or not; and the struggle to give definition to belief about Jesus Christ. It will be more than some want, with Donatists, Nestorians, and ecumenical councils among those making an appearance. It was just right for me. More important than the content for me is the quality of the Professor. He is articulate; he doesn’t assume we have a lot of background knowledge; but is effective at proportioning his time among topics. He is clearly in command of the scholarship behind his topic. I am a Protestant; the material is equally applicable for Catholic or Protestant. I trust his judgement in the choice of the material he synthesizes. He clearly loves his field of history, and he is true to its healthy methods and practices. Hence, his is not an apologetic or devotional objective, but one of history. After listening to this course, I bought his four other Learn25 courses. I can only recall doing this before, based solely on the quality of the presenter, with Professor Michael Higgins’ courses.

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