Religious Studies | Introduction to Christianity
A250 | 13185 | D. Fruchtman


The study of Christianity is the study of history, of philosophy, of people, places and
cultures, of texts, of art, of economics, society and politics, of relationships between
people and relationships between ideas. Over its two-thousand-year history, Christianity
has shaped and been shaped by its surroundings, has influenced and been influenced by
its intellectual climate. It has been, and continues to be, a huge presence in the world’s
political landscape. This course is an introduction to Christianity, a jumping-off point for
further study and a way of familiarizing yourself with the diversity and history of one of the
driving forces in society today.

So, what is Christianity? Sandra Frankiel defines it simply as “the religion of those people
who believe in Jesus Christ as the savior of the world.” But, as Frankiel points out, “this
immediately raises more questions: Who is Jesus Christ? What is a savior? What is meant by
‘believe in’?” Christians throughout history have debated all of these terms. Was Jesus fully
human or fully divine? How is the messiah (the Jewish term meaning “anointed one,” which
is translated into Greek as “Christos” or “Christ”) supposed to save the world? And, for that
matter, what do we mean by “world”? Is salvation accessible to everyone? And what does
that salvation look like?

All of these issues (and many, many others!) have, at one point or another, caused
differences of opinion in Christian history, making Christianity an incredibly diverse
phenomenon and giving it a very convoluted and intriguing history. This course will follow
that history, beginning with Jesus and the gospels (canonical and non-canonical), weaving
through Late Antiquity, the Middle Ages, the Reformation and the American context before
ending with discussions of contemporary issues in Christianity such as civil rights, poverty,
politics, and the ordination of women.