The Early Church: Christ, Controversies and Characters

Explore the beginnings of Christianity

Discover how a small, persecuted group transformed into the world's largest religion. Uncover the pivotal controversies, influential figures, and the unyielding faith that propelled the early Christian church forward. This eight-lecture series offers a deep dive into the early church’s life, exploring the foundational moments and teachings that influence Christianity today. From worship practices to the courage of martyrs, this course connects the past with the present in an engaging and insightful manner.

Topics Covered in the Course

  • Key figures in early Christian history and their contributions to theology.
  • The major controversies that shaped Christian doctrine.
  • The daily life, worship practices, and challenges of early Christians.
  • The role of art, music, and sacraments in early Christian communities.
  • The defense of Christianity by the first apologists and the bravery of the martyrs.

If you are interested in the history of Christianity, church traditions, or the enduring legacy of the early church fathers, this course is for you.

Let's Get Started

This course contains eight sessions, each containing a video lesson, course notes, and a quiz. You are also invited to join the discussion throughout the course as you watch these videos. You can complete this course at your own pace. So we encourage you to work through it at whatever pace is most comfortable for you. At the end, you will receive a 'Course Completion Certificate' via email. 


Bruce Hillman

Bruce Hillman is a Scholar in Residence at 1517. He Holds a BA in History and Political Science from Quinnipiac University, an MDiv. from the Lutheran Brethren Seminary, and an STM in Patristics from Drew University; He is the former Lead Pastor at Hillside Lutheran Brethren Church in Succasunna New Jersey where he served for 16 years. His research involves Augustinian studies, Early Christianity, Postmodernism, and hermeneutics. In his free time, he enjoys gardening and cooking. He is an avid student of both British and Japanese cultures and traditions. Other areas of academic interest include: Karl Barth, the question of certainty, Ancient Near-Eastern Wisdom Literature, Asian Christianity, church and culture, and philosophies of truth.


Introduction to the Fathers
Patristic Context and Anxieties
Patristic Witness in Martyrdom
Patristic Apologetics
How the Fathers Read Scripture
Worship and Prayer in the Early Church
Sacraments in the Early Church
The Incarnation: Seeing for Believing

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