25 Open Courseware Classes About Early Christianity

by Joy Shepherd on January 13, 2010

Some Open Courseware classes are older than you might think — many courses reach back into antiquity to show how Christianity has affected society throughout time and place (and how some social and cultural aspects affected religion as well). Some courses teach the Bible as spiritual text and as literature, some courses touch on social and political histories and other courses focus on cultural aspects of religion and society. Each course listed below falls into one of those three categories.

The links within each category is listed in alphabetical order by the name of the course. Additionally, the name of the institute that offers the course is added in brackets after each course description. Every course is free to use, but the institutions that offer them do not offer certificates or degrees upon the completion of the course.

Bible and Theology

  1. Bible Study: This is an online or correspondence course that focuses on any one of four English Bible Versions, including the KJV (King James Version), NASB (New American Standard Bible), NIV (New International Version) and NKJV (New King James Version).
  2. Bible Universe: This site carries articles, study tools and a complete free online course on the Bible [Bible Universe].
  3. Catholic Social Teaching: This course provides a historical, theoretical and practical overview of the principles and themes of the Roman Catholic social encyclical tradition [Notre Dame].
  4. Foundations of Theology: Biblical and Historical: This is an introductory course to the Bible and historical Christianity that aims to familiarize the student with the contents of the Bible and the development of the early Church [Notre Dame].
  5. Free Bible College Courses: Dozens of links to lectures about the Old Testament and the ministry of Jesus, including links to YouTube lectures and lessons [GoodNewsMedia].
  6. Introduction to the Old Testament (Hebrew Bible): This course examines the Hebrew Bible Old Testament as an expression of the religious life and thought of ancient Israel [Open Yale].
  7. The Bible: This course provides an introduction to major books within both the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament. Learn about the different historical periods that produced and are reflected in the Bible [MIT].

Historical Social and Political Impacts

  1. Catholic Social Teaching: Explore an historical, theoretical and practical overview of the principles and themes behind the Roman Catholic social encyclical tradition [Notre Dame].
  2. Crucible of Pluralism: Religion in Modern America: This course looks at the changes in America’s religious landscape since the 1960s. A larger historical context also is provided [Columbia].
  3. History of Ancient Rome: This course ranges from Romulus to Constantine, examining threats to empire in late antiquity posed inside by the rise of Christianity [Notre Dame].
  4. Islam, the Middle East, and the West: This course covers the Crusades, the Renaissance, Western expansion and the effects on modern thought [MIT].
  5. Jewish History from Biblical to Modern Times: Explore how our views of Jewish history have been formed and how this history can explain the survival of the Jews as an ethnic/religious group into the present day [MIT].
  6. Medicine, Religion and Politics in Africa and the African Diaspora: This course examines how Afro-Atlantic religious traditions have challenged western conceptions of illness, healing, and the body and have also offered alternative notions of morality, rationality, kinship, gender, and sexuality.
  7. Politics and Religion: This course is a graduate reading seminar that explores the role of religious groups, institutions, and ideas in politics using social science theories [MIT].
  8. Religion Online: Browse more than 6,000 articles and chapters on topics that range from the Bible to practical theology and from culture to the history of religion [Religion-Online].
  9. Religion today: themes and issues: No course can tackle today’s religious themes and issues without an historical perspective. This simple course takes on perspective [The Open University].
  10. The Crusades: Learn about the history of the Crusades, their impacts and more from this online course [Boise State University].

Historic Cultural Aspects

  1. Faith and the African American Experience: This course introduces the African American faith experience, with particular attention being given to the historical development of spiritualities of liberation in the American Diaspora [Notre Dame].
  2. Foundations of Western Culture II: Renaissance to Modernity: This course deals with the change in perspective imposed by scientific ideas, the general loss of a supernatural or religious perspective upon human events, and the effects for good or ill of the increasing authority of an intelligence uninformed by religion as a guide to life [MIT].
  3. From ‘Self’ and ‘Other’ to ‘We’: This course covers the notion of the Self and of the Other in inter-faith study and inter-faith dialogue and how perspectives on this topic have changed over time [Gresham College].
  4. Latino Theology and Christian Tradition: This course examines the development of Latino religion and theology in the U.S., and how the integration of Latino influences have articulated the meaning and implications of core theological topics such as Christology, worship, evangelicalism and social justice [Notre Dame].
  5. Man, God, and Society in Western Literature: Listen to over two dozen lectures about this topic at your leisure [Berkeley Webcasts].
  6. The Ancient World: Greece: This course, which covers the history of Ancient Greece from the Bronze Age to the death of Alexander, tackles social economic, political and religious trends [MIT].
  7. The Emergence of Europe: 500-1300: This wide-ranging course includes contact with the Byzantine and Islamic East and the Crusading movement, the quality of religious life and other events that shaped these perspectives [MIT].
  8. The Making of Russia in the Worlds of Byzantium, Mongolia, and Europe: This course focuses on the political, religious, economic, and social factors affecting relations between state and society in medieval and early modern Russia [MIT].

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