The shape of faith : creation and theological knowing in early Christian catechesis.


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This dissertation traces the development of catechesis as an educational institution in early Christianity, with a focus on Italy and North Africa from the second to the fifth century. While catechesis has been an object of study among social historians, liturgical scholars, and pastoral theologians—particularly with an interest in how the fourth-century political changes associated with the Constantinian dynasty transformed Christian initiation—an examination of catechesis as a species of late-antique education will open up new vistas from which to view the continuities of practice over this period. Following recent proposals that advocate a broader conception of institutions that shaped early Christian theology, the present study considers catechesis as a pedagogical institution dedicated to shaping knowledge of God and the created world. Catechesis emerged within second-century school Christianity, where issues of epistemology, theories of creation, and church structure and authority were ascendent—issues that remained central to catechesis over the following centuries, despite a number of major ecclesiastical, political, and theological changes. What emerges in the following pages is a picture of catechesis that is at once more closely situated within the educational traditions of the Graeco-Roman world yet also less determined by the so-called Constantinian settlement. This new narrative of catechesis proposes a reinterpretation not only of early Christian catechesis in particular but also of the way in which we understand the development and practices of theological formation more generally.



Catechesis. Catechumenate. Patristic. Late antiquity. Education. Baptism.