A detailed programme can be downloaded here

The plenary lectures are:

Opening Lecture

Robin Jensen: From Despicable Idols to Venerated Icons: The Emergence of Sacred Art in Early Christianity, Venue: Christ Church  Cathedral, introduced by David Hunter (NAPS)



Plenary Lectures

John Behr: The Gospel of John in the Second Century

According to Ernst Käsemann, the Passion narrative was included by John in his Gospel only as ‘a mere postscript which had to be included because John could not ignore this tradition nor yet could he fit it organically into his work’. And yet the overwhelming testimony from the second century is that the annual celebration of Pascha was, at least to begin with, held only by those who looked back to John as the high priest who established the feast and its date. Reading John as a ‘paschal Gospel’ also forces us to reconsider Käsemann’s other assertion, that John’s incarnational theology is no more than a ‘naive doceticism’, and, indeed, the meaning of incarnation more generally, and also to situate John Ashton’s ‘apocalyptic’ reading of the Gospel more securely.


Isabel Bochet: Credere in Christum: the Development of the Augustinian Notion of fides at the crossroads of Philosophy and Scripture

My aim is to study the genesis of the Augustinian notion of fides, understood in its specifically Christian character, as credere in Christum. The discovery of the Sermon Dolbeau 19 showed the Augustinian origin of the distinction between credere Christum / credere Christo / credere in Christum, which became a commonplace in the Middle Ages. This distinction, which François Dolbeau describes as "brilliant improvisation", is the result of a progressive doctrinal elaboration.

The use of the expression credere in soon enough became the usual expression to designate the Christian act of faith, but without any clear differentiation from other constructions of credere. For Augustine, it goes without saying that no minister dares to say: "Believe in me"; only Christ can say it. Augustine uses this fact of language in his argument against the Donatists; he also makes explicit, in this context, what is required by the Christian's own faith: to believe in Christ, it is not enough to recognize him as the Son of God, it is also necessary to combine love with faith. However, before 412, Augustine did not differentiate between credere in Christum and credere Christo.

In 412, at the beginning of the anti-Pelagian controversy, in De spiritu et littera, Augustine wondered whether or not "believing in the one who justifies the sinner" (Rm 4,5) was in the power of free will; what led him to distinguish faith in the one who justifies from other forms of belief: it implied a close union of man with God, for it was both of God and man. This doctrinal clarification is not immediately accompanied by a terminological concern. It is by commenting on John's Gospel in a continuous way that Augustine discovers, in 414, the specificity of the johannine credere in Christum, which he distinguishes from credere Christo; "to believe in Christ" requires incorporation into Christ: quid est ergo credere in eum? credendo amare, credendo diligere, credendo in eum ire, and eius membris incorporari (In Ioh. 29, 6). 

The ternary distinction that Augustine introduced shortly afterwards into the Sermon Dolbeau 19, commenting on John 6:29, is only of relative importance, even if it was successful, through Bede, in the Middle Ages. What Augustine affirms, on the other hand, with increasing force, in this sermon, as in subsequent texts, is the reality of incorporation into Christ that occurs through faith in Christ; it is union with God and cooperation with him that faith in Christ makes possible. The Christian faith cannot therefore be thought of as one belief among others: what defines it is not only a specific content, it is also an act that is the work of Christ in the believer.

Alberto Camplani: Church Institutions and Official Writing: The First Episcopal Histories and Early Canon Law (4th to 7th centuries)


The main topic of the paper is a specific kind of historical writings including such works as the Historia Episcopatus Alexandriae (Ge'ez and Latin), the History of the Church preserved in Coptic, the Arabic History of Patriarchs of Alexandria, and other works (among which the Liber pontificalis) written by the personnel of the main Mediterranean bishoprics. The paper will propose some reflections about the relationship between this historiography and canon law, with particular attention to their three main functions: representing the past and its symbolic articulations; regulating the internal life of the single churches; promoting the image of a particular seat (Alexandria, Antioch, Constantinople, Rome) in front of the Mediterranean Christianity and the Empire.

Antony Dupont: Grace, original sin and predestination in the two cities: the anti-Pelagian context of Augustine’s De ciuitate Dei 

Augustine of Hippo’s (354-430) De ciuitate Dei (413-427) belongs to the canon of Western literature. The rich diversity of ideas his “magnum opus et arduum” (Ciu. 1. praef.) contains, was a source of inspiration for philosophers and theologians in the subsequent centuries in many different domains. Of particular influence was the social and political vision Augustine deployed in the distinction he perceives between the ‘earthly city’ and the ‘heavenly city’. His doctrine of the two cities however did not come out of the blue, and was already present in prior writings, even preceding the fall of Rome (August 24 410) that occasioned Augustine's apology of Christianity and his parallel construction of the idea of two cities in De ciuitate Dei. Similarly, the content of this massive work - penned by a very associative author - is not restricted to the said apology and two cities scheme. It contains themes elaborated upon in other parts of his oeuvre, concerns that occupied him throughout his whole life. The latter is definitely true for his reflections about divine grace and original sin. De ciuitate Dei's composition overspans the whole period the doctor gratiae was entangled in the Pelagian controversy. Gerard J. P. O' Daly firmly asserts: “the bulk of the work [De ciuitate Dei] reflects his mature thought on grace and predestination”. Our paper will situate De ciuitate Dei within the context and content of the Pelagian controversy. Does Augustine develop his doctrine of gratia and peccatum originale in De ciuitate Dei explicitly and elaborately? Are there differences in treatment compared with his anti-Pelagian treatises? Can, in this perspective, certain evolutions within De ciuitate Dei itself be observed?

Samuel Fernandez: Arian or Monarchian Crisis in the Fourth Century? Reevaluating the Evidence towards the Next Centenary of Nicaea (325-2025) 

The theological controversy of the Fourth Century has been usually understood as referring only to Christ's divinity (Arian crisis). However, the problem was not only whether Christ was divine or not, but also whether the divine Son was a subsistent person or a faculty of God (Monarchian crisis). This unbalanced understanding has one of its primary sources in Athanasius who claimed that all those who opposed Nicaea simply denied the divinity of the Son. This interpretation was extremely influential because it was assumed by almost all Church historians of the IV and V century. Consequently, many documents contemporary to Nicaea and its reception have been transmitted in such a way that misleads the reader’s interpretation. The aim of this paper is to provide new light on these documents by freeing them from this misinterpretation and re-placing them in their original theological contexts. By doing so, it would be possible to reexamine the theological controversy of the Fourth Century on the road to the next centenary of the great Council of Nicaea (325-2025).

Anders Christian Jacobsen: Body and Freedom in Origen


Origen claims that human beings are free and endowed with free will, but at the same time, he believes that human freedom and free will is limited by the bodily existence of human beings. According to Origen, there is thus a conflict between body and freedom. I will argue that human freedom is more important to Origen than the human body. Consequently, Origen argues that the body is not a necessary and persistent element in the human existence. This has important implications for Origen’s theology in general and in particular for his creation theology and his eschatology.

Scott Johnson: Linguistic Turns, Disciplinary Boundaries: The Role of Syriac in the Concept of Late Antiquity

As the field of Late Antiquity took off over the past fifty years, so did, in tandem, the field of Syriac Studies. It is far from certain, however, that there is a causal relationship in either direction. Late Antiquity began as an extension of late Roman history towards social and cultural themes. On a different trajectory, Syriac grew as more critical editions and translations became available and historical scholarship kept pace. Nevertheless, the broadening of scope for the study of the later Roman Empire has, without doubt, benefitted from a spotlight being turned on Syriac literature and culture. However, tensions emerged. As Late Antiquity has become eastward-focused and chronologically later, Byzantine Studies as traditionally practiced has resisted a perceived colonization, and the boundaries of both empire and discipline are at present keenly debated. Scholars in these areas are well aware of the value of Syriac, but further acquaintance with the language remains a desideratum. At the same time, the field of Patristics has reaped tremendous rewards from the growth of Syriac, especially with regard to the study of Christology. This lecture will first analyze these broader disciplinary trends and then move to a discussion of the state of the study of Syriac. New texts, advances in scholarship, and open questions will be highlighted in turn. A special emphasis will be placed on horizons in early Christian exegesis and theology.

Naoki Kamimura: Augustine and the Guidance of Souls

The art of guiding the soul through words had been long established within the classical paideia, but along with the processes of its transmission and change in Late Antiquity, served as the way in which Christian preachers provided divine pedagogy to the congregation, as does, ultimately, God instruct them.  In recent years there has been considerable discussion about the psychagogic system, with its impact on how Christianity and pagan culture viewed the construction of a unified religious identity.  What we will do in this lecture is to discuss how Augustine brings together in a holistic way theology and pedagogy, the act of reading and interpreting scriptures, and the psychagogic discourse of pastoral care, with the difficulties of reconciling the status quo of the society with the Christian way of life.  For Augustine, the cura animarum is part of a coherent programme towards a heavenly way of life in union with Christ.


Wolfram Kinzig: Why Creeds? A New Perspective on an Old Text 


In recent years, scholarship on credal texts and formulae has made much progress. In this process, the traditional view about the origin of the Roman creed in particular has come under intense scrutiny. Furthermore, recent studies have, for example, focussed on the influence of the Roman emperors on the development of the creeds and on their use in liturgy and in everyday life. Finally, many new relevant texts have been published. This paper will explore to what extent these new insights have changed our overall view of the origin and history of the creeds since J.N.D. Kelly’s famous monograph Early Christian Creeds (third ed. 1972). It reaches the conclusion that it is time for a New Perspective on the Creed.

Wendy Mayer: Patristics and Postmodernity: Bridging the Gap


In the 21st century, across universities, theological schools, and countries, Patristics is under pressure. The increasing secularism of western countries, the pressures of business- and vocationally-driven educational models, a deep suspicion of institutionalised religion in the wake of nation-wide sex-abuse scandals, and fundamentalist movements – to name but a few social and political factors – are all having their impact. In this paper I will argue that these same factors are in fact an opportunity for re-energising and re-investment in the field. A case can be made to governments, society and university or college administrators that Patristics is relevant and has something vital to contribute. Examples will be drawn from my own experiences since taking up the position of Associate Dean for Research in a small embattled theological college that throws up many of these challenges in microcosm. My formation in Patristics and Patristics research, I have found, speaks to those challenges in surprisingly fruitful ways. If Elizabeth Clark famously argued in the 1990s for more church history, less theology in the field, what we will propose are some further avenues which (post-)postmodernity challenges us to take up. That vision embraces and lifts up a future for Patristics in not just Europe, the UK and North America, but also Asia and the global South.

Sébastien Morlet: Symphonic Exegesis from Greek to Patristic Thought (3rd c. BC – 3rd c. AD)

Symphonic exegesis is a central aspect of patristic interpretation of Scriptures : the Bible explains the Bible, or is thought to be in agreement with a few texts of Greek literature. However, the roots of this « concordism » are not Christian, but Greek. The symphonic vocabulary used by the Christians, and the exegetical procedures which are connected to it originated in Greek philology, and were also known to historians and philosophers. The lecture will give an overview of the history of symphonic thought in « pagan » and patristic literatures with a view to highlighting the deep continuation between Greek and Christian traditions, but also to undertand why, and to what extent, Christians also created new applications of symphonic reasoning, and also gave birth to new conceptions of textual symphonia.  

Manolis Papoutsakis: Romanos the Melodist and the Syriac Literary Tradition


Since the publication of José Grosdidier de Matons’ monograph on Romanos in 1977, attempts have been made to bring out the importance of the Syriac literary tradition for a deeper understanding of his poetry: it is now believed that Romanos should have been familiar with Syriac writings upon which he drew as he was composing his kontakia in Greek. In this lecture, on the one hand, a history of the scholarship on Romanos’ syrianité will be sketched and, on the other hand, it will be asked whether his appropriation of Syriac motifs may shed any light on his interpretation of Scripture, his Christology and his attitude to the imperial court.

Istvan Perczel: Origenists or Theosophers? The doctrinal history of a Christian Platonist movement from the 5th to the 7th centuries: A reassessment of the evidence


The history of the Origenist movement, condemned repeatedly in the years 400, 543 and 553, is particularly obscure. There is no agreement in scholarship about the teaching of those theologians who were condemned, nor about the nature of the ‘heresy,’ nor about the political conditions and the status of the repeated condemnations. By reassessing the historical and literary evidence provided by the anti-Origenist sources, the historiographic writings and the identifiable works produced by the ‘Origenists’ themselves, the lecture will attempt at reconstructing the political, doctrinal and spiritual history of the movement from the first condemnation, through a period of occultation in the fifth century and the open struggle in the first half of the sixth, to its metamorphoses in the second half of the sixth century and its distant surviving echoes in the seventh, until the Monothelete controversies. It will show the intricate interrelation between the Origenist and the Christological controversies and demonstrate that, under the vile name ‘Origenist,’ one can recognise a distinct Christian Platonist philosophical and spiritual movement, whose members called themselves ‘Theosophers.’ Also, the lecture will attempt at identifying the main theologico-philosophical writings emanating from the ‘Origenist/Theosopher’ circles themselves and summarise the doctrinal tendencies, even schools, within the movement.’

Bryan Ward Perkins: Unity and diversity in the cult of saints in Late Antiquity

An ERC-funded project has collected as much as possible of the early evidence for the cult of saints across the entire Christian world: from Ireland and Britain, through the Latin and Greek Mediterranean, to Coptic Egypt, the Syriac-speaking East, and Armenia and Georgia.  This survey reveals much that was common to all Christians of the period, but also significant regional differences in the nature of the saints revered, and in types of hagiography, cultic practices and cultic objects. This lecture, drawing on the evidence of the 'Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity' database, will explore and illustrate a wide range of these differences.

Johannes Zachhuber:The philosophical dimension of the Christological controversy

The Christological controversy began in the fifth century and continued for the remainder of late antiquity. It led to the first permanent confessional division in the history of Christianity. In this lecture, I will show that this doctrinal debate was also of profound significance for Patristic philosophy. All participants started from a theoretical framework inherited from the Cappadocians, but the conceptual needs of Christology necessitated wide-ranging transformations of this tradition. In my lecture, I will present the most important of these changes highlighting their philosophical significance and their innovative potential.

Closing Lecture
Lorenzo Perrone: "Sacrifice of a Broken Spirit": The Prayer of the Sinner in Ancient Christianity, Christ Church Cathedral


Prayer to God has never been the exclusive privilege of the ‘righteous’ or the ‘saint’. As amply witnessed by the Scriptures of the Old and the New Testament (as well as by post-biblical writings), some of the most vivid and influential prayers are placed on the mouth of sinners leading them to repentance and God’s pardon. For the sake of clarity, also in view of similar instances in modern literatures that echos the Bible or the Church Fathers, we should distinguish the “sinful prayer” from the “prayer of the sinner”, which then becomes properly a “penitential prayer”. A sinful prayer is namely the one which perverts the demand addressed to God because of a mistaken spiritual attitude or due to the content itself of the request. Ps 108 (109), regarded by patristic interpretation as the rejected prayer of Judas the traitor, is probably the best example, though we do not lack other cases of perverted prayers emerging in the biblical and the patristic traditions of ancient Christianity. The prayer of the sinner, in its turn, can be regarded as initially distinct from the penitential prayer as such, insofar as, on the one hand, the experience of sin still permeates the address to God in terms of a confession; on the other hand, it appears essentially as a personal process of avowal and amendment, not yet accompanied by the performance of some penitential rites. Beyond the evidence at our disposal in early Christian literature, the paradigm of the sinner’s prayer occupies an important place in the patristic discourse on prayer, as we observe first and foremost in Origen. Yet most of the euchological treatises before and after the Alexandrian, when providing the instructions for a correct way of praying, imply themselves a consideration of the sinner’s prayer. Its paradigm can be exploited both negatively and positively, so that the model of the exemplary prayer proposed has, in a sense, always to cope with it. Even the recommended physical gestures (as raising one’s eyes to heaven, standing or kneeling) become fully meaningful, insofar as they are seen as different from the way a sinner has normally to pray. Notwithstanding that, the patristic explanation of the fifth petition of the Lord’s Prayer in the long run promotes the awareness that ours is, in principle, always a “sinner’s prayer”. While the ecclesiastical rites develop the different forms of the penitential discipline for the faithful who have sinned after the baptism, supporting them with the apt prayers, the rise of monasticism sharpens the consciousness of the sinfulness for those who pray. Ancient monks are concerned, with an unprecedented intensity, about the conditions, possibilities and efficacy of prayer for sinners, whereas they stress its emotional component, for instance, thanks to the spiritual value attributed to weeping for one’s sins. This development emerges in an impressive and even disturbing way in the Fifth Step of John Climacus’ Spiritual Ascent, through the prayers in the prison for the monks who have sinned. By way of a conclusion, and as a creative synthesis of these scriptural, patristic and monastic traditions, Gregory of Narek in 10th century Armenia erects a unique literary monument for the sinner’s prayer in his Book of Lamentations.