SOAS University of London

Department of Religions & Philosophies, School of History, Religions & Philosophies

Eastern and Orthodox Christianity

Module Code:
Module Not Running 2020/2021
FHEQ Level:
Year of study:
Taught in:
Full Year

This course uses the prism of historical, theological, political, social, cultural and religious dynamics to examine the evolution of Eastern and Orthodox Christianity over two thousand years. It examines 'apostolic links' and 'conversion narratives', that point to the Judaeo-Christian matrix of early Christianity which was subsumed by Hellenism in the fourth century CE. 

The doctrinal disputes of the fourth and fifth century, which introduced concepts of heresy and orthodoxy that were inherent in the emergence of the so-called 'Oriental' Churches, are evaluated to demonstrate the challenges that accompanied the changed face of Christianity when it became an 'establishment' religion. 

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

By the end of the course students should be able to:

  • Discuss, with reference to primary and secondary sources, key issues in the phenomenology of martyrdom and monasticism in the Eastern and Orthodox churches;
  • demonstrate an awareness of the major issues and differences in the current research;
  • Analyze critically the methodologies of scholars in the field.


2 hour lecture and 1 hour seminar each week.

Scope and syllabus

The course explores its profile in both the Byzantine and Sassanid Empires (as 'establishment' and 'non-establishment' institutions respectively), its 'dhimmi' status in Islam (including the Ottoman period) as well as its tension with Communism and the challenges faced in the post-Communist period. Regional case studies articulate the contribution of Christianity to the development of vernacular identity in Armenia, Egypt, Ethiopia, India, Iraq and Syria (Eastern Church), Georgia, Russia and Serbia (Orthodox Church).

Method of assessment

Coursework: two 1,500 word essays (50%). Assessment: two hour exam paper (50%).


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules