CUP Undergraduate Research


The Early Church and Care for the Destitute Sick: Theology in Thought and Action in the First Through Fourth Centuries

Date of Award

Spring 4-23-2012

Document Type

Restricted Access Thesis


College of Theology, Arts, & Sciences



Degree Name

Theology, BA

First Advisor

Michael A. Thomas, PhD


This thesis explores the connection between the contemplated and lived theology of the early church and its care and healing of the destitute sick. The first chapter examines how the Jewish and Greco-Roman cultures viewed and cared for the impoverished sick. After establishing this background, the next chapter examines how the incarnation of Christ and his ministry provided an example to his disciples of caring for the suffering and the ability and reason to do so. This chapter focuses on texts commonly used by the church fathers in an effort to introduce the reader to the scriptural foundations for the church fathers’ theology. In the third chapter, this thesis discusses the theology of the church fathers which undergirds the church’s desire and efforts in caring for other humans. It builds on many of the central theological themes in Christianity: incarnation, imago Dei and personhood, the Kingdom of God, love of neighbor, and sanctification and deification. Utilizing these themes, this thesis shows how the fathers established the theological basis for caring for the sick. Finally, the last chapter provides an overview for how the early church lived out this theology in its care for the sick. Specifically, it describes how the priests, laity, clerical orders, and monastic communities created institutions to heal the sick and succor the chronically ill and dying. The culmination of these efforts led to the creation of the hospital which fulfilled the theological calling to live out the gospel.

Honors: Thesis with Distinction Award

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