The Early Church

The Early Church

The Early Church

The Early Church

Synopsis

Frend's masterful survey, here presented with a new Preface and updated bibliographies, traces the historical and theological development of the Christian church from apostolic times through the fifth century. Frend charts the tumultuous and momentous process by which an obscure Palestinian Jewish sect became the official religion of the Roman Empire and achieved, despite conflict, schism, and heresy, a firm organizational, liturgical and doctrinal identity.

Excerpt

This book was first published in 1965, and was based on lectures which I gave in Cambridge to students preparing for the Cambridge Certificate of Theology. It was intended primarily as a historical study tracing the rise and development of the Christian Church within the framework of Greco-Roman society down to the period of the Council of Chalcedon in 451 and the pontificate of Pope Leo, 440–461. By this time, theChurch's triumph throughout the Roman empire, with the notable exception of Britain, was complete, and the structure of its doctrine and organization enshrined in four ecumenical councils.

Since 1965 two main developments have taken place. First, an enormous amount of new material relating to the early Church has been discovered. The continuous discovery of early Christian basilicas and other remains have confirmed evidence from literary sources that Christianity had become the predominant religion of the empire by around 400. The work of the archaeologists has been supported by patristic scholars. The discovery by the Austrian researcher, Johannes Dinjak, of a hitherto unknown group of thirty letters and memoranda, twenty-seven written by Augustine of Hippo himself, has been a major event. Further light has been thrown on the early life of the Persian religious reformer, Mani (Manichaeans), by the decipherment of a minute papyrus in the Cologne collection.

The new Manichaean document points to the second development, namely the expansion of knowledge about the non-orthodox Christian movement. Discoveries now available to students include the publication in English of fifty-two treatises and fragments of the Gnostic Library from Nag-Hammadi in Upper Egypt, by Professor James M.Robinson and his colleagues (The Nag-Hammadi Library in English, Harper and Row 1977). In addition, the publication of many of the discoveries, including frescos and manuscripts found during the 'Save Nubia' international archaeological project to salvage as much as possible of Nubian remains in the Nile valley before their destruction by the rising waters of Lake Nasser behind the High Dam at Aswan, have demonstrated the vigour and religious and artistic achievement of the Nubian Monophysite . . .

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