Heaven and Hell throughout the Ages (THE3142)

StaffProfessor Morwenna Ludlow - Convenor
Credit Value30
ECTS Value15.00
NQF Level6
Duration of Module Term 1: 11 weeks;

Module aims

This module will examine:

  • the development of Christian doctrines of heaven, hell and related concepts such as purgatory, focusing on five key periods: the early Church; the Medieval period; the Reformation; the late 18th and 19th centuries.
  • how specific questions on the nature of heaven and hell have been related to the Christian eschatological hope and to Christian theology in general
  • social and political factors affecting belief in or the denial of hell
  • the variety of beliefs on these themes, in particular looking at the relationship between mainstream Christianity and fringe groups.

ILO: Module-specific skills

  • 1. demonstrate knowledge and critical understanding of the development and variety of Christian beliefs about heaven, hell and purgatory
  • 2. analyse the reasons why differences of opinion on these beliefs were so divisive in Christian communities
  • 3. describe and critically assess the relation of beliefs in heaven and hell to social and political factors
  • 4. demonstrate critical understanding of the historical and theological problems involved in tracing the development of a doctrine through time

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

  • 5. demonstrate comprehension of and intelligent engagement with the richness of Christianity in some of its varied forms
  • 6. demonstrate sophisticated understanding of the multi-faceted complexity of Christianity's place in the world, and in particular the relationship between specifically Christian beliefs, texts, practices and institutions, and wider social and cultural structures and norms
  • 7. demonstrate a sophisticated understanding of how personal and communal identities and motivations are shaped by religion, how this has both constructive and destructive effects, and how important such identities are
  • 8. demonstrate proficiency in the practice of a core method of study: critical historical investigation

ILO: Personal and key skills

  • 9. undertake independent work within broad guidelines
  • 10. shape information independently into a coherent and creative account
  • 11. demonstrate critical and creative thought
  • 12. make critical and independent use of written sources
  • 13. demonstrate sensitive and critical understanding of the differences between the practices and traditions of various groups
  • 14. communicate clearly in written and oral forms15. Participate appropriately in a learning group
  • 15. participate appropriately in a learning group

Syllabus plan

Whilst the content may vary from year to year, it is envisioned that it will cover some or all of the following topics:

  • Introduction to themes and issues [Homeric Hymn to Demeter and Virgil Aeneid VI]
  • The early church I [The Passion of Perpetua; Irenaeus Against Heresies V]
  • The early church II [Origen On First Principles, Augustine City of God]
  • The Medieval period: Hell and Purgatory [Dies Irae; Dante Purgatorio]
  • The Medieval period: resurrection [Dante Paradiso and Aquinas]
  • Radical eschatology [Pseudo-Dionysius, Joachim of Fiore, Jan Hus]
  • The Reformation: purgatory, indulgences [Luther 95 Theses; Babylonian Captivity]
  • Responses to the Reformation: [Council of Trent; Johannes Denck] 
  • Seventeenth and eighteenth century England: pietism, Platonism and radicalism [Anne Conway, Jane Lead, George Rust, and Jeremiah White] 
  • The eighteenth and nineteenth centuries: USA [Jonathan Edwards and H. Ballou]
  • The nineteenth century: UK [F. W. Farrar; response to Farrar from E. Pusey]


Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled learning and teaching activities22Lectures
Scheduled learning and teaching activity11Seminars
Guided independent study267Private study

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Exam402 hours1-15Written feedback
Essay504000 words1-15Written and oral feedback
Seminar presentation1010 minutes1-3,5-11, 13-15Written feedback on content and presentation

Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
ExamExam1-15Refer/Defer period
EssayEssay1-15Refer/Defer period
Seminar presentationSeminar presentation1-3,5-11, 13-15Refer/Defer period

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

  • Brian Daley The Hope of the Early Church (Hendrickson, 2003)  
  • Jacques Le Goff The Rise of Purgatory (Scholar Press, 1984) 
  • Almond, Philip C. Heaven and hell in Enlightenment England (C.U.P., 1994) 
  • Rowell, Geoffrey, Hell and the Victorians (Clarendon Press, 1974) 
  • Moltmann, Jurgen Theology of Hope (SCM 1967) 
  • Ludlow, Morwenna Universalism in the History of Christian Theology, in R. Parry and C. Partridge (edd.)
  • Universal Salvation (Paternoster, 2003) 
  • Ludlow, Morwenna Universal Salvation (OUP, 2000)

Module has an active ELE page?


Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

  • ELE – https://vle.exeter.ac.uk/course/view.php?id=1721

Available as distance learning?