Early Christianity

Early Christianity

Early Christianity

291 Pages ·2008·1.12 MB ·English

Early Christianity

Early Christianity


Examining sources and case studies, this fascinating book explores


early Christianity, how it was studied, how it is studied now, and


how Judaeo-Christian values came to form the ideological bedrock


of modern western culture.


Looking at the diverse source materials available, from the


earliest New Testament texts and the complex treatises of early


Christian authors such as Lactantius and Eusebius, to archaeology,


epigraphy, and papyrology, the book examines what is needed to


study the subject, what materials are available, how useful they


are, and how the study of the subject may be approached.


Case study chapters focus on important problems in the


study of early Christianity including:


• the book of Acts as a source for the social


dynamics of cities and the tensions inherent in


Hellenistic Judaism


• orthodoxy and organization in early Christianity


• early Christianity and the Roman empire.


Also including a comprehensive guide for students that lists major


collections of literary and non-literary sources, the chief journals


and series, and important textbooks, Early Christianity is an


excellent aid to the study of Christianity in history.


Mark Humphries is senior lecturer in Classics at the National


University of Ireland, Maynooth. He is the author of Communities


of the Blessed (OUP 1999) and a chapter in the Cambridge


Ancient History XIV (2000). He is a general editor of the series


Translated Texts for Historians. Classical Foundations


The books in this series introduce students to the broad areas of


study within classical studies and ancient history. They will be


particularly helpful to students coming to the subject for the first


time, or to those already familiar with an academic discipline who


need orientation in a new field. The authors work to a common


brief but not to a rigid structure: they set out to demonstrate the


importance of the chosen subject and the lines of recent and


continuing research and interpretation. Each book will provide a


brief survey of the range of the subject, accompanied by some


case studies demonstrating how one may go on deeper into it.


Each will also include guidance of a practical kind on sources,


resources and reference material, and how to pursue the subject


further. When complete, the series will comprise a critical map


of the whole field of ancient studies.


The series is planned to include:


Early Christianity


Greek History


Greek Literature


Greek Philosophy


Late Antiquity


Latin Literature


Roman Social History


The Roman Empire


Books currently available in the series:


Roman Social History


Susan Treggiari


Latin Literature


Susanna Morton Braund


Greek History


Robin Osborne


Early Christianity


Mark Humphries


ii Early Christianity 1


2


3


4


5


61


7


8


9


10


11


12


13


14


15


16


Mark Humphries


1711


18


19


20


21


22


23


24


25


26


27


28


29


30


31


32


33


34


35


36


Folio


iii First published 2006


by Routledge


2 Park Square, Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxon OX14 4RN


Simultaneously published in the USA and Canada


by Routledge


270 Madison Ave, New York, NY 10016


Routledge is an imprint of the Taylor & Francis Group


© 2006 Mark Humphries


This edition published in the Taylor & Francis e-Library, 2006.


“To purchase your own copy of this or any of Taylor & Francis or Routledge’s


collection of thousands of eBooks please go to www.eBookstore.tandf.co.uk.”


All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reprinted


or reproduced or utilised in any form or by any electronic,


mechanical, or other means, now known or hereafter


invented, including photocopying and recording, or in any


information storage or retrieval system, without permission


in writing from the publishers.


British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data


A catalogue record for this book is available from the


British Library


Library of Congress Cataloging in Publication Data


Humphries, Mark.


Early Christianity/by Mark Humphries. – 1st ed.


p. cm. – (Classical foundations)


Includes bibliographical references and index.


1. Church history – Primitive and early church, ca.


30–600 I. Title. II. Series.


BR165.H74 2006


270.1–dc22 2005023645


ISBN10: 0–415–20538–7 (hbk)


ISBN10: 0–415–20539–5 (pbk)


ISBN13: 9–78–0–415–20538–2 (hbk)


ISBN13: 9–78–0–415–20539–9 (pbk)


iv 1


2


3


4


5


For Tim, Ash, Luke, and Joey 61


7


8


9


10


11


12


13


14


15


16


1711


18


19


20


21


22


23


24


25


26


27


28


29


30


31


32


33


34


35


36


Folio God shall have a starring role in my history of the world. How


could it be otherwise? If He exists, then He is responsible for


the whole marvellous appalling narrative. If He does not, then


the very proposition that He might has killed more people and


exercised more minds than anything else. He dominates the stage.


Penelope Lively, Moon Tiger


I do not know if you are one of those who look down on every-


thing called religion and theology with disdain or indifference.


And yet, no matter how one looks at Christianity, and possibly


regards it as a mistake, is it not of real value to pursue the


history of this mistake and discover the world shaking events and


transformations this mistake had caused?


Adolf von Harnack, private letter, 1869


(cited in Frend 2003: 11) 1


2


3


4


5


Contents


61


7


8


9


10


11


12


13


14


15


16


Preface xi 1711


18


Introduction: how to use this book 1 19


20


1 What is early Christianity and why does 21


it deserve study? 9 22


The shape of early Christianity 9 23


Approaching early Christianity in the twenty-first 24


century 17 25


26


2 Tradition and revelation: the historical 27


quest for early Christianity 34 28


Discovering early Christianity in the age of 29


Constantine 35 30


Early Christianity from late antiquity to the middle 31


ages 41 32


Renewal, reform, and the origins of critical scholarship 49 33


The rise of modern scholarship 55 34


Towards modernity: early Christianity in the nineteenth 35


and twentieth centuries 59 36


Folio


vii CONTENTS


3 The search for early Christianity: sources


and their interpretation 64


Christian literature 65


Jewish and pagan literature 82


Documentary sources and material remains 88


Using the sources 93


4 Messiahs and missions: contexts for the


origins and spread of Christianity 97


Christian origins and the problem of Judaism 98


Mission and conversion: the expansion of early


Christianity 108


Case study: inscriptions and the missionary journeys


of Paul 125


5 Doctrine and power: orthodoxy and


organization in early Christianity 142


How many bishops attended the council of Nicaea? 143


The ideal of unity in early Christianity 146


Organization and personnel 149


Ritual 156


Orthodoxy and heresy 158


Truth, tradition, text 165


Case study: the Nag Hammadi discoveries and


early Christianity 167


6 Confronting Babylon: early Christianity


and the Roman empire 186


An age of persecutions? 188


Christian alienation from Roman society 196


Christian attitudes to the Roman empire 202


Towards Christendom: an uneven progress 206


Case study: Pliny the Younger and the


Christians 210


viii CONTENTS


7 Discovering early Christianity 225 1


Points of departure 226 2


Source materials 230 3


Specialist journals 234 4


Bibliographical guides to chapters 3–6 237 5


61


Notes 244 7


Bibliography 250 8


Index 268 9


10


11


12


13


14


15


16


1711


18


19


20


21


22


23


24


25


26


27


28


29


30


31


32


33


34


35


36


Folio


ix


Early Christianity


Examining sources and case studies, this fascinating book explores


early Christianity, how it was studied, how it is studied now, and


how Judaeo-Christian values came to form the ideological bedrock


of modern western culture.


Looking at the diverse source materials available, from the


earliest New Testament texts and the complex treatises of early


Christian authors such as Lactantius and Eusebius, to archaeology,


epigraphy, and papyrology, the book examines what is needed to


study the subject, what materials are available, how useful they


are, and how the study of the subject may be approached.


Case study chapters focus on important problems in the


study of early Christianity including:


• the book of Acts as a source for the social


dynamics of cities and the tensions inherent in


Hellenistic Judaism


• orthodoxy and organization in early Christianity


• early Christianity and the Roman empire.


Also including a comprehensive guide for students that lists major


collections of literary and non-literary sources, the chief journals


and series, and important textbooks, Early Christianity is an


excellent aid to the study of Christianity in history.


Mark Humphries is senior lecturer in Classics at the National


University of Ireland, Maynooth. He is the author of Communities


of the Blessed (OUP 1999) and a chapter in the Cambridge


Ancient History XIV (2000). He is a general editor of the series


Translated Texts for Historians. Classical Foundations


The books in this series introduce students to the broad areas of


study within classical studies and ancient history. They will be


particularly helpful to students coming to the subject for the first


time, or to those already familiar with an academic discipline who


need orientation in a new field. The authors work to a common


brief but not to a rigid structure: they set out to demonstrate the


importance of the chosen subject and the lines of recent and


continuing research and interpretation. Each book will provide a


brief survey of the range of the subject, accompanied by some


case studies demonstrating how one may go on deeper into it.


Each will also include guidance of a practical kind on sources,


resources and reference material, and how to pursue the subject


further. When complete, the series will comprise a critical map


of the whole field of ancient studies.


The series is planned to include:


Early Christianity


Greek History


Greek Literature


Greek Philosophy


Late Antiquity


Latin Literature


Roman Social History


The Roman Empire


Books currently available in the series:


Roman Social History


Susan Treggiari


Latin Literature


Susanna Morton Braund


Greek History


Robin Osborne


Early Christianity


Mark Humphries


ii Early Christianity 1


2


3


4


5


61


7


8


9


10


11


12


13


14


15


16


Mark Humphries


1711


18


19


20


21


22


23


24


25


26


27


28


29


30


31


32


33


34


35


36


Folio


iii First published 2006


by Routledge


2 Park Square, Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxon OX14 4RN


Simultaneously published in the USA and Canada


by Routledge


270 Madison Ave, New York, NY 10016


Routledge is an imprint of the Taylor & Francis Group


© 2006 Mark Humphries


This edition published in the Taylor & Francis e-Library, 2006.


“To purchase your own copy of this or any of Taylor & Francis or Routledge’s


collection of thousands of eBooks please go to www.eBookstore.tandf.co.uk.”


All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reprinted


or reproduced or utilised in any form or by any electronic,


mechanical, or other means, now known or hereafter


invented, including photocopying and recording, or in any


information storage or retrieval system, without permission


in writing from the publishers.


British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data


A catalogue record for this book is available from the


British Library


Library of Congress Cataloging in Publication Data


Humphries, Mark.


Early Christianity/by Mark Humphries. – 1st ed.


p. cm. – (Classical foundations)


Includes bibliographical references and index.


1. Church history – Primitive and early church, ca.


30–600 I. Title. II. Series.


BR165.H74 2006


270.1–dc22 2005023645


ISBN10: 0–415–20538–7 (hbk)


ISBN10: 0–415–20539–5 (pbk)


ISBN13: 9–78–0–415–20538–2 (hbk)


ISBN13: 9–78–0–415–20539–9 (pbk)


iv 1


2


3


4


5


For Tim, Ash, Luke, and Joey 61


7


8


9


10


11


12


13


14


15


16


1711


18


19


20


21


22


23


24


25


26


27


28


29


30


31


32


33


34


35


36


Folio God shall have a starring role in my history of the world. How


could it be otherwise? If He exists, then He is responsible for


the whole marvellous appalling narrative. If He does not, then


the very proposition that He might has killed more people and


exercised more minds than anything else. He dominates the stage.


Penelope Lively, Moon Tiger


I do not know if you are one of those who look down on every-


thing called religion and theology with disdain or indifference.


And yet, no matter how one looks at Christianity, and possibly


regards it as a mistake, is it not of real value to pursue the


history of this mistake and discover the world shaking events and


transformations this mistake had caused?


Adolf von Harnack, private letter, 1869


(cited in Frend 2003: 11) 1


2


3


4


5


Contents


61


7


8


9


10


11


12


13


14


15


16


Preface xi 1711


18


Introduction: how to use this book 1 19


20


1 What is early Christianity and why does 21


it deserve study? 9 22


The shape of early Christianity 9 23


Approaching early Christianity in the twenty-first 24


century 17 25


26


2 Tradition and revelation: the historical 27


quest for early Christianity 34 28


Discovering early Christianity in the age of 29


Constantine 35 30


Early Christianity from late antiquity to the middle 31


ages 41 32


Renewal, reform, and the origins of critical scholarship 49 33


The rise of modern scholarship 55 34


Towards modernity: early Christianity in the nineteenth 35


and twentieth centuries 59 36


Folio


vii CONTENTS


3 The search for early Christianity: sources


and their interpretation 64


Christian literature 65


Jewish and pagan literature 82


Documentary sources and material remains 88


Using the sources 93


4 Messiahs and missions: contexts for the


origins and spread of Christianity 97


Christian origins and the problem of Judaism 98


Mission and conversion: the expansion of early


Christianity 108


Case study: inscriptions and the missionary journeys


of Paul 125


5 Doctrine and power: orthodoxy and


organization in early Christianity 142


How many bishops attended the council of Nicaea? 143


The ideal of unity in early Christianity 146


Organization and personnel 149


Ritual 156


Orthodoxy and heresy 158


Truth, tradition, text 165


Case study: the Nag Hammadi discoveries and


early Christianity 167


6 Confronting Babylon: early Christianity


and the Roman empire 186


An age of persecutions? 188


Christian alienation from Roman society 196


Christian attitudes to the Roman empire 202


Towards Christendom: an uneven progress 206


Case study: Pliny the Younger and the


Christians 210


viii CONTENTS


7 Discovering early Christianity 225 1


Points of departure 226 2


Source materials 230 3


Specialist journals 234 4


Bibliographical guides to chapters 3–6 237 5


61


Notes 244 7


Bibliography 250 8


Index 268 9


10


11


12


13


14


15


16


1711


18


19


20


21


22


23


24


25


26


27


28


29


30


31


32


33


34


35


36


Folio


ix


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