29681 - History of Churches and Religious Movements (1) (LM)

Academic Year 2023/2024

  • Docente: Andrea Annese
  • Credits: 6
  • SSD: M-STO/07
  • Language: Italian

Learning outcomes

At the end of the course the student will have the required knowledge of historical methodology in order to relate the history of the Christian Churches with general features of cultural, institutional, political and religious systems. At the exam, the student will be able to put forward his/her assessments and conclusions regarding studies and analyses in History of the Churches.. In addition, the student will be able to use the means and methods acquired in the historical field to widen his/her knowledge and apply effective critical thinking.

Course contents

The 6 cfu course coincides with the First Module (for the MA in History and Oriental Studies and for students of the MA in Cultural Anthropology who choose such module) or with the Second Module (for the MA in Italian Culture and Language for Foreigners and for students of the MA in Cultural Anthropology who choose such module). The 12 cfu course includes both the First and the Second Module.


First Module (Andrea Annese)

Jesus, His Movement, and the Issue of Debt

A number of key texts produced by Jesus’ followers in the first century CE refer to the issue of “debt,” starting with the best known: the “Our Father” prayer, transmitted in different versions from the gospels of Matthew and Luke, and the core of which goes back to the historical Jesus, speaks of debt relief. For nearly two millennia, this and other texts have elicited the most diverse interpretations, from ancient exegetes to anthropologist David Graeber.

This course will develop the analysis of some early Christian sources to trace a historical reconstruction (in dialogue with the social sciences) of the question of “debt,” the concept of the “kingdom of God,” and its relation to human society according to the historical Jesus and to his movement, where new and different interpretations of Jesus’ preaching soon emerged. Fundamental methodological coordinates for the study of the topic will be provided, and historical-exegetical studies on the historical Jesus, his movement and its socio-cultural context will be brought into dialogue with Graeber’s considerations on the same sources and with other studies on “reciprocity,” in order to verify the possible gains of an interdisciplinary and multifaceted approach.


Second Module (Davide Dainese)

Constantine as theological-political paradigm

The module aims to illustrate several features of the use of the figure and myth of the first Christian emperor from Late antiquity to Contemporary age. More specifically, in light of recent historiographic production, it will examine the thesis of M. Scattola, Teologia politica, Bologna 2007. Other issues will also be studied, especially the problem of tolerance to the question of confessional/religious pluralism.

The following topics will be examined throughout the lessons:

  • The myth of Constantine in Antiquity: Eusebius of Caesarea and the Actus Sylvestri
  • Constantine before and after the Reformation
  • Religious tolerance and intolerance
  • Constantine in the contemporary age: art, theology, cinema.


First Module

Exam bibliography:

1) E. Norelli, Gesù di Nazaret, in E. Prinzivalli (a cura di), Storia del cristianesimo. I. L’età antica (secoli I-VII), Carocci, Roma 2015 (or reprints), pp. 33-68.

2) A. Annese, I vangeli sinottici e le loro fonti, in A. Annese, F. Berno, M. Fallica, M. Mantovani, Le origini cristiane. Testi e autori (secoli I-II), Carocci, Roma 2021 (repr. 2023), pp. 21-67.

3) M. Pesce, Da Gesù al cristianesimo, Morcelliana, Brescia 2011 (or reprints), only pp. 5-34, 55-84, 209-225 (= Presentazione; Parte prima, capp. I e III; Parte II, Conclusione).

4) A. Destro, M. Pesce, Il Battista e Gesù. Due movimenti giudaici nel tempo della crisi, Roma, Carocci, 2021.

5) D. Graeber, Debito. I primi 5000 anni, il Saggiatore, Milano 2012, only pp. 9-26, 74-124 (= capp. 1, 4, 5).

6) Excerpts from M. Sahlins, L’economia dell’età della pietra, and from E.W. Stegemann, W. Stegemann, Storia sociale del cristianesimo primitivo, which will be discussed during the course (these brief excerpts will be made available by the teacher on Virtuale).

Non-attending students will add one of the following volumes:

1) P. Bertalotto, Il Gesù storico. Guida alla ricerca contemporanea, Carocci, Roma 2010.

2) E. Prinzivalli (a cura di), L’enigma Gesù. Fonti e metodi della ricerca storica, Carocci, Roma 2008 (or reprints).


Some (non-obligatory) texts which are helpful for further study:

1) A. Annese, Jesus, Debt, and Society: Bringing David Graeber into Dialogue with Social-Scientific Research into the Historical Jesus, forthcoming article (in press, Spring 2024).

2) W. Stegemann, Gesù e il suo tempo, Paideia, Brescia 2011.


Second Module

Attending students shall study:

  • One text chosen from:

    Eusebio di Cesarea, Elogio di Costantino. Discorso per il trentennale. Discorso Regale, ed. M. Amerise, Milan 2005.

    Eusebio di Cesarea, Vita di Costantino, ed L. Franco, Milano (any available edition).

    T. Canella, Gli Actus Silvestri : genesi di una leggenda su Costantino imperatore, Fondazione Centro italiano di studi sull’alto Medioevo, Spoleto 2006.

  • 2 essays of choice from the following miscellaneous volumes:

    A. Melloni – E. Prinzivalli – S. Ronchey (ed), Costantino 1. Enciclopedia costantiniana sulla figura e l'immagine dell'imperatore del cosiddetto Editto di Milano 313-2013, Rome 2013, voll. I e II

    T. Canella, L’impero Costantiniano e i luoghi sacri, Bologna 2016.

  • 2 essays of choice in:

    A. Melloni – E. Prinzivalli – S. Ronchey (ed), Costantino 1. Enciclopedia costantiniana sulla figura e l'immagine dell'imperatore del cosiddetto Editto di Milano 313-2013, Rome 2013, voll. III

  • One text chosen from M. Scattola, Teologia politica, Bologna 2007 and M. Rizzi, Cesare e Dio. Potere spirituale e potere secolare in Occidente, Bologna 2009.

The only difference in the syllabus for non-attending students concerns the need to study all three of the books in the first section (that is, the monograph by T. Canella and the two works of Eusebius).

Teaching methods

Taught class; historical-critical analysis of sources; use of images and PowerPoint presentations (with maps, reproductions of manuscripts, etc.).

Assessment methods

Oral exam based on the subjects of the course and the books required. Students will be examined on their command of the specific vocabulary; on their knowledge of the topics of the course; on their ability to present clearly what has been learned; on their degree of acquisition of the methodological skills necessary for the study of ancient Christianity, illustrated during the course; on their ability to analyze problems and sources. Final Grade:

- knowledge of a very limited number of topics covered in the course, analytical skills that emerge only with the help of the teacher, poor command of vocabulary, poor clarity of exposition, methodological principles acquired in a barely sufficient way: grade 18-19;

- knowledge of a limited number of topics covered in the course, capacity for independent analysis little more than sufficient, sufficient command of vocabulary, fair clarity of exposition, methodological principles acquired at a fair level: grade 20-24;

- knowledge of a large number of topics covered in the course, ability to make independent choices of critical analysis, good command of specific terminology, good clarity of exposition, good competence in the methodological principles of the discipline: grade 25-29;

- very thorough knowledge of the topics covered in the course, excellent ability to make autonomous choices of critical analysis and logical connection, full command of specific terminology and excellent argumentation skills, high familiarity with the methodological principles of the discipline: grade 30-30L.

Teaching tools

Transcripts and scans of sources (uploaded among the teaching materials on Virtuale); images, PowerPoint presentations.

Office hours

See the website of Andrea Annese


Quality education Gender equality Reduced inequalities

This teaching activity contributes to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals of the UN 2030 Agenda.