CF103 Lecture Summaries - Orthodox Christology and Trinitarian Theology I


  • To introduce students to the concept and theology of the Trinity and the theology of the person of Christ and their development in the Christian Church from the apostolic period through the fifth century A.D.
  • The course will focus both on the development of doctrine and on the ways in which the Trinity was understood and experienced by Christians in this period. The course will also explore the formulation of Christian belief in the first four Ecumenical Councils and introduce selected aspects of the importance and significance of these doctrines in the later Orthodox tradition.
  • It will explore the manner in which intellectual and religious controversies forced Christian thinkers to formulate a definition of the Trinity, which was expressed formally in the creeds of Nicaea (325 A.D.) and Constantine

On completion of the module, students should be able to:

  • Understand the importance of a ‘rule of faith’, or doctrinal creed, in the early Christian Church.
  • Realize the significance of the Ecumenical Councils in formulating the doctrine.
  • Discuss some of the key differences between the Orthodox and non-Orthodox formulations of the creed in relation to the Holy Trinity.
  • Have a grasp of the development of Trinitarian doctrine in the early Church.
  • Recognize the importance of the formulation of doctrine for later Church history and for the Orthodox Church today.

Knowledge and understanding:

• knowledge of the lineaments of Orthodox Trinitarian and Christological doctrine
• understanding of the historical dimension of the articulation of Christian doctrine
• familiarity with selected key theologians of the early Church
• knowledge and understanding of the first four Ecumenical Councils


Lecture 1 - Christian understanding of the Trinity in the New Testament and Sub-Apostolic periods 

Key Sources

  • Dr Mary Cunningham's Lecture
  • Handout for the study of Holy Trinity in the NT
  • Fr Boris Bobrinskoy: The Holy Spirit in the Church
  • The Apostolic Fathers: Clement of Rome, Ignatius, Justin Martyr, Irenaeus (pp.5-42; 116-120, 129-132, 141-149; 244-304; 508-903)


Lecture 2 - Further development of Trinitarian doctrine in the late Second and Third Centuries A.D.

Key Sources

  • Dr Mary Cunningham's Lecture Handout
  • St Irenaeus, Bishop of Lyon- The Demonstration of the Apostolic Preaching
  • Origen (esp. pp,422-449)
  • Audio file- Metropolitan Kallistos on Orthodox Approaches to the Trinitarian Theology before and after Nicea
  • Origen's "Philokalia" (with a schematic representation of Origen's Theory of Interpretation)
  • Karen Jo Torjesen, Hermeneutical procedure and theological method in Origen's exegesis (Berlin: De Gruyter, 1986), pp. 108-149.


Lecture 3 - Arius, Athanasius, and the Council of Nicaea (325 A.D.) 

Key Sources


Lecture 4 - The Cappadocian Fathers and the Council of Constantinople (381 A.D.) 

Key Sources


Lecture 5 - The Christology of the first four centuries

Key Sources

  • Handout for the Lecture by Dr Marcus Plested
  • Grillmeier: Christ in Christian Tradition
  • Placher: Truly Human-Truly Divine


Lecture 6 - The Christology of the Councils of Ephesus (431) and Chalcedon (451)

Key Sources

  • Handout for Lecture on Councils of Ephesus and Chalcedon- Dr Marcus Plested
  • Further Handout on the Lecture (Dr Marcus Plested)
  • Dr Marcus Plested- Eutychianism
  • Hall: Doctrine and Practice in the Early Church
  • Fr John Meyendorff: Christ in Eastern Christian Thought
  • Chadwick: The Early Church
  • Metropolitan John of Pergamon (Zizioulas)- Christology


Lecture 7 - Optional Resources