News and Events



From 2 February to 29 April Professor Patricia Ciner visited the Centre on the Brisbane campus. Professor Ciner holds appointments at both the National University of San Juan and the Catholic University of Cuyo in Argentina.  She is currently the leader of a large research project, on which she spoke at the Centre’s meeting on 5 and 6 March: ‘Alexandria and Multiculturalism: New Lines of Research in Patristic Studies’.  During her stay in Brisbane Professor Ciner contributed to two of our research projects, ‘Dreams, Prophecy and Violence from Early Christianity to the Rise of Islam’, and ‘Negotiating Religious Conflict: Letters between Rome and Byzantium in the Seventh Century’.


Academics and postgraduate students in early Christianity within ACU met for their annual two-day planning meeting in Brisbane on 6 and 7 March. The meeting was held in the new St John Paul II building, in which inlaid into the floor is St John XXIII’s words from the opening of the Second Vatican Council that the church must look not only at the circumstances of the world in the present time, but must never depart from the treasures of the fathers.

The meeting was an opportunity to meet new PhD candidates Ryan Strickler and Junghun Bae, to meet Prof. Patricia Ciner from National University of San Juan and Catholic University of Cuyo, Argentina, who has chosen to spend her several months of study leave here in Brisbane, and to hear progress reports from individual research projects (including our Japanese colleagues) and reports from the two ACURF projects headed by Wendy Mayer (Religious Conflict and Radicalisation) and Pauline Allen with Bronwen Neil (Ecumenical Negotiations East-West). There was also an opportunity to discuss plans to ensure that research in early Christian studies remains at the forefront of ACU’s international reputation. Members also had time to celebrate monograph publishing achievements in 2014.



Rev. Dr. Professor Hubertus Drobner has a most distinguished academic and ecclesiastical career. He holds four doctorates (Mainz, Rome x 2, and Oxford) and has a prodigious publishing record, as will be apparent from his list of publications.  He is a worldwide acknowledged expert on Augustine of Hippo and the Cappadocian fathers, a combination across the Latin-Greek divide that has been achieved by very few scholars in the field of Patristics.  In addition, he has regular visiting teaching appointments at the University of Navarra and at the Augustinian Institute in Rome, for Professor Drobner is fluent in German, English, Italian, Spanish, and French.  His various memberships of editorial and advisory boards of the highest calibre illustrate the international esteem in which he is held.

Professor Drobner produced the Lehrbuch der Patrologie (Handbook of Patrology) in 1994, a monumental work of some 900 pages which has gone into three German editions and into French, Spanish, Korean, English, Czech, and Chinese translations, a testimony to his expertise.  His twenty-two monographs, soon to be augmented, are further testimony to his standing and productivity in the field.  Professor Drobner has been a regular visitor to Australia and to the international conferences organised by the Centre for Early Christian Studies, where he has demonstrated his engagement in and support of the research of ACU colleagues and students.


Bronwen Neil has been awarded an Australian Research Council Future Fellowship for 2014-2018 which amounts to $843,000. The title of the project is Dreams, Prophecy and Violence from Early Christianity to the Rise of Islam. The project aims to uncover the common roots of Christian and Islamic dream interpretation. It will reveal common themes in dream literature from pagan and Jewish antiquity to early Christianity and early Islam, and show how dreams and prophecy have been used to increase religious control, and to justify violence since Late Antiquity.

With its focus on an ARC-targeted research area - Understanding Culture and Communities - the project will benefit Australia by building intercultural understanding between contemporary Jews, Christians and Muslims. It will stress the common cultural roots of Judaism, Christianity and Islam by uncovering the crucial role of dreams and prophecy in increasing the authority of religious leaders, and the use of dreams to justify inter-religious violence.

The project funding lasts for four years, and includes a Level E salary (research only) and short trips to the Dumbarton Oaks Byzantine Studies Centre in Washington DC (Harvard University), and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s Centre for the Study of Christianity.


Bronwen Neil and Pauline Allen have received funding for three years for their new project:

Negotiating religious conflict: Letters between Rome and Byzantium in the seventh century, an era of crisis.

Over 1000 letters survive in Greek and Latin from 590 to the end of the seventh century, when the Byzantine empire was at war first with Persia, and then with the Arab forces united under the new faith of Islam.
Bishops and emperors of Rome and Byzantium used letters to negotiate their claims to universal and local power in the course of conflicts over religion. The project will increase our understanding of the ways in which religious conflict was handled through letter-exchange in early Medieval Europe and Byzantium, and what happened when these diplomatic avenues failed. It will shed light on the question of whether the seventh century was really the beginning of the Dark Ages, or a period of cultural regeneration.

The ARC awarded Neil and Allen $150 000 for 2014-2016. This was the only ARC Discovery Project awarded to ACU in 2013.


Volume 18 of the Early Christian Studies series is titled Men and Women in Early Christian Centuries and edited by Wendy Mayer and Ian Elmer. The studies collected in this volume address the role of men and/or women in theology, in history, in narrative, in liturgy – in short, in a range of aspects of Christianity as it emerged and rose into prominence as a religion.

Dr Johan Ferreira has written a book about Early Chinese Christianity, titled Early Chinese Christianity: The Tang Christian Monument and other Documents, as part of our Early Christian Studies series. This book investigates the origin and the character of Early Chinese Christianity (景教 Jingjiao) during the Tang dynasty (618-907 CE). It sets Tang Christianity against the background of Syriac Christianity and the Tang cultural milieu, and then particularly focuses on the Tang Christian Monument and two Dunhuang manuscripts, the Hymn to the Trinity and Saints and Scriptures, providing syntactical analyses and fresh translations of the primary material. The research integrates western and Chinese scholarship on the subject and also provides an assessment of the history and theology of Tang Christianity. The book argues that Tang Christianity should not be branded with the Nestorian label, but must be understood in its own right.

Staff at the Centre have published several volumes recently:

Pauline Allen and Bronwen Neil edited Collecting Early Christian Letters (Cambridge University Press) and The Oxford Handbook of Maximus the Confessor (Oxford University Press).

Collecting Early Christian Letters is the first multi-authored study of New Testament and late-antique letter-collections, crossing the traditional divide between these disciplines by focusing on Latin, Greek, Coptic and Syriac epistolary sources.

For the first time, Maximus' works and thought are integrated into the history of his life in the politically trouble times of seventh-century Byzantium in The Oxford Handbook of Maximus the Confessor. Thirty foremost scholars in the field have contributed to this book.

The Bishop of Rome in Late Antiquity edited by Geoffrey D. Dunn has also been published. The essays in this volume from international experts in the field examine the bishop of Rome in late antiquity from the time of Constantine at the start of the fourth century to the death of Gregory the Great at the beginning of the seventh.