The Church in Ancient Society: From Galilee to Gregory the Great

The Church in Ancient Society: From Galilee to Gregory the Great

The Church in Ancient Society: From Galilee to Gregory the Great

The Church in Ancient Society: From Galilee to Gregory the Great

Synopsis

'This is a tour de force by a great scholar... a magisterial account of the doctrinal and institutional history of the early Church, particularly in the east Roman provinces. The easy style, not without a sprinkling of colloquialisms, conceals the author's great learning and enthusiasm for his subject... Henry Chadwick's book will remain a standard work on the history of early Christianity for the forseeable future.' -English Historical Review'Chadwick writes a fluent narrative history... But the best is reserved for the three chapters on the Christological controversies in the east, 428-451. This is a well-tilled field, but Chadwick manages to breathe new life into each phase of the dispute. There is complete command of the evidence and clear-headed explanation of the events.' -English Historical Review'Whoever looks for a reliable and highly readable companion to the formative centuries of Christianity and, in many respects, of European culture as well could hardly make a better choice.' -Church Times.'For teachers of theology, The Church in Ancient Society will be a valuable resource.' -Graham Gould, THES'For many, the world of late antiquity, the concerns of theologians and of ordinary Christians alike, may have become a distant heritage. Chadwick generally succeeds in bringing it to life. At times, antiquity doesn't even seem to be so distant after all.' -Church Times'Surveying this vast field with the experience of a lifetime, Chadwick on every page reveals his mastery, in particular, of the many and varied primary sources.' -Church Times'The exposition is rich in detail, and makes an enjoyable read that will appeal to an academic and to a general readership alike.' -Church Times'Marked by a monumentality both of scope and detail... the last great narrative history of the twentieth century in its field.' -Kate Cooper, Times Literary Supplement'Henry Chadwick ranks as one of the great figures of the twentieth century in his field, and there is every reason to believe that a future generation of scholars will be keen to have access to his guidance on any one of a thousand points of detail.' -Kate Cooper, Times Literary Supplement'The Church in Ancient Society will stand as a fitting memorial to the study of patristics in the late twentieth century.' -Kate Cooper, Times Literary Supplement'Though dense, the book is highly readable, with pithy summaries of complicated controversies and manoeuvrings, peppered with aphorism and irony. Delightful asides abound... The book is a tour de force to which we will keep turning as an essential reference work.' -The Tablet'The first 600 years: that is nearly one third of the Church's entire history. No one but Henry Chadwick... could have given us so full and so authoritative an account of these decisive centuries. His new book crowns a body of illuminating work on several of the outstanding figures as well as on many of the thorniest problems of the early Church's history.' -The TabletThe Church in Ancient Society provides a full and enjoyable narrative history of the first six centuries of the Christian Church. Ancient Greek and Roman society had many gods and an addiction to astrology and divination. This introduction to the period traces the process by which Christianity changed this and so provided a foundation for the modern world: the teaching of Jesus created a lasting community, which grew to command the allegiance of the Roman emperor.

Excerpt

During the first six hundred years of the Christian Church's existence many changes occurred. Of these the most dramatic and remarkable was the shift from being a persecuted sect which, in order to fulfil its destiny as a universal faith not tied to a particular race, had to sever the umbilical cord to Judaism, and so to capture society and the Roman empire. From embodying a counter-culture to being seen as a mainly (not invariably) conservative social force was an extraordinary step. The number of martyrs did not need to be very large for their 'witness' to be public and 'newsworthy'. Remarkably soon the Church had recruits in high society, and as early as the middle of the second century was dreaming of a day when the emperor himself would be converted. The Christians changed the dominant form of religion in the Roman empire and thereby imprinted the most important difference between ancient and medieval society.

Not that the Christians had a wholly different culture from that of 'antiquity'. They came out of a society which to educated Greeks and Romans could be labelled 'barbarian'. Defenders of Christianity devoted pages to arguing for the superiority of barbarian ethics and religious ideas. By the late third and fourth centuries the Christians were supporters of the good order and law of the Roman empire. In his commentary on Paul's epistle to the Romans Origen could say that the task of magistrates was to restrain overt and public delinquencies, whereas sins (which could be highly anti-social) had to be corrected by bishops with ecclesiastical discipline. The latter, of course, were successful only with church members acknowledging the right of the community's representative leaders to admonish and speak in the Lord's name.

Initially belonging to the ancient world, Christianity remains the faith of a high proportion of this planet's population. Its characteristic teachings and ideals still speak universally to mind and conscience in individuals, and still bond together communities across chasms of differences in education and race. To study the ancient Church is to watch the Christian society forming structures and social attitudes that have remained lasting and in the main stream permanent. The aspiration to be universal is rooted in monotheism. There is always a tendency for religions to become tribal; that is, each tribe looks to its own protecting god with whom sacrifices maintain friendly

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