The Global Church—The First Eight Centuries

The Global Church—The First Eight Centuries

Taught by Donald Fairbairn

The Global Church—The First Eight Centuries by Donald Fairbairn introduces students to the initial, formative centuries of Christian history, paying special attention to Christianity's non‐Western roots, global expansion, and interaction with the changing world around it from late antiquity to the Islamic conquests.

Course Details

  • 22 Units

  • Self-paced

  • 8 hours of video

  • Intermediate

  • Global Church—The First Eight Centuries

12 Month Access
$229.99 USD

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Course Description

The Christian church of the early centuries spread throughout much of Asia, Africa, and Europe, spoke many languages, was situated within diverse cultural settings, and had varied worship practices; yet it maintained a vital unity on core teachings at the heart of the Christian faith. In The Global Church—The First Eight Centuries online course, professor Donald Fairbairn helps viewers understand both the variety and unity of the church in this pivotal era by:

  • Recentering the story of the church in its early centuries to pay greater attention to Africa, Turkey, and Syria, where most of the church's intellectual energy was nurtured
  • Highlighting Christian communities outside the Roman Empire, as far afield as Persia and India, alongside those within it
  • Identifying key events by their global, not merely Western, significance and taking into account early Christian interactions with other religions, particularly Islam

The Global Church—The First Eight Centuries online course is an ideal introduction to the formative centuries of Christian history that broadens the narrative often recounted and places it more firmly in its varied cultural contexts. Students of church history, formal and informal alike, will appreciate the fresh approach and depth of insight this course provides.

By completing this course, you’ll gain:

  • A general recentering of the story of the church in its early centuries from a global perspective
  • Insight into Christian communities outside the Roman Empire to understand the church’s intellectual energy and progress
  • Practical knowledge of key events and their global significance, from the apostles to early Christian interaction with Islam
  • Confidence in your growing knowledge through personalized review sessions and unit assessments

Meet Your Instructors

Donald Fairbairn

Ph.D., Cambridge

Donald Fairbairn is Robert E. Cooley Professor of Early Christianity at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. His books include Grace and Christology in the Early Church, Life in the Trinity, and The Story of Creeds and Confessions.

Course Outline


  • In the Fullness of Time: The World of the First Century

  • To the Ends of the Earth: Early Christian Expansion

  • Foreigners and Exiles: The Church and Its Surrounding Societies

  • The Rhythms of Christian Life: Early Christian Worship and Practice

  • A Long Obedience: Episcopacy, Creed, and Canon

  • Confessing the One God: Early Heresies and Christian Doctrine

  • The First Church Schism: Novatianism in the West

  • God and Country: The Rise of Christian Kingdoms

  • Still Foreigners and Exiles: The Church in Realms That Did Not Become Christian


  • The Second Church Schism: Donatism in Latin North Africa

  • To the Desert: The Rise of Monasticism

  • The Trinitarian Faith: From Crisis to Consensus

  • For Us and for Our Salvation: Grappling with the Incarnation

  • The Great Ancient Schisms: Christological Fracturing

  • Drifting Apart: Prelude to Another Great Schism

  • To the Ends of the Earth (Again): Monastic Missions

  • The Crescent on the Horizon: The Rise of Islam

  • Redrawing the Map: The Arab Conquests

  • Unexpected Challenges: Christians in Muslim Societies

  • Beyond the Reach of Islam: The Edges of the Christian World

  • Conclusion



BibleMesh is now offering an integrated reading experience for our new book-based courses. As before, students will be guided through their reading with book excerpts embedded within the course. This allows for an improved reading experience within the course. Students will also be able to pop out the book reader into a full-screen, fully-featured web-based reading platform where they will be able to see the wider context of each excerpt and access the complete book.

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