CF103 Lecturers

Mary Cunningham is a lecturer at the Department of Theology and Religious Studies at the University of Nottingham. She completed her MA at the Centre for Byzantine Studies at the University of Birmingham in England, where she later received her PhD, with a thesis on the eighth-century Byzantine preacher and hymnographer, Andrew of Crete. In 2002 she published her work: Faith in the Byzantine World. Further details about her research you can find here





Dr Marcus Plested is Vice-Principal and Academic Director of the Institute for Orthodox Christian Studies. He took his doctorate from Oxford in 1999 with a thesis on the Macarian Homilies supervised by Bishop Kallistos (Ware). Dr Plested has taught, lectured, and published widely in the field of Orthodox Christian studies. His most recent book is The Macarian Legacy: The Place of Macarius-Symeon in the Eastern Christian Tradition (Oxford: OUP 2004).

The Institute for Orthodox Christian Studies (IOCS) has brought together some of the world's leading scholars in their respective fields of expertise. Reading the brief biographies of my instructors is humbling, in so many ways. I admire their scholarship, and feel very fortunate to be listening to their lectures via distance learning.

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

My Next Course: CF103 Orthodox Christology and Trinitarian Theology I

I realised yesterday that it was the 1st of February- anticipating my next course in my Certificate Studies, which will be the first of two courses on Orthodox Christology and Trinitarian Theology. My personalised email from IOCS arrived overnight given the time zone differences with the UK. As I awoke and got down the long list of emails once at my desk, the last one I got to was the welcome message for CF103. I caught myself smiling and shared with my husband later what an incredible thing it is to do something you have always wanted to! I quickly scanned the assessment questions to get a feel for where this course was headed, and also looked at the 8 lecture delivery and recommended readings. I would identify my reading level in this area as very basic. I am going to have to do so much reading- I can tell- but I am so looking forward to the learning journey once again.

The few things that come to mind in worship however, are how often as Orthodox Christians we remember Christ as fully God and fully man, and also do the sign of the Cross by saying "in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit" in prayer and liturgical services.