Christian Origins

Christian Origins

Christian Origins

Christian Origins

Synopsis

Dealing with a time when Christians were moving towards separation from the movement's Jewish origins, this inaugural volume of A People's History of Christianity tells the people's story by gathering together evidence from the New Testament texts, archeology, and other contemporary sources. Of particular interest to the distinguished group of scholar-contributors are the often overlooked aspects of the earliest Christian consciousness: How, for example, did they manage to negotiate allegiances to two social groups? How did they deal with crucial issues of wealth and poverty? What about the participation of slaves and women in these communities? How did living in the shadow of the Roman Empire color their religious experience and economic values?

Excerpt

This seven-volume series breaks new ground by looking at Christianity’s past from the vantage point of a people’s history. It is church history, yes, but church history with a difference: “church,” we insist, is not to be understood first and foremost as the hierarchical-institutional-bureaucratic corporation; rather, above all it is the laity, the ordinary faithful, the people. Their religious lives, their pious practices, their self-understandings as Christians, and the way all of this grew and changed over the last two millennia— this is the unexplored territory in which we are here setting foot.

To be sure, the undertaking known as people’s history, as it is applied to secular themes, is hardly a new one among academic historians. Referred to sometimes as history from below, or grassroots history, or popular history, it was born about a century ago, in conscious opposition to the elitism of conventional (some call it Rankean) historical investigation, fixated as this was on the “great” deeds of “great” men, and little else. What had always been left out of the story, of course, was the vast majority of human beings: almost all women, obviously, but then too all those who could be counted among the socially inferior, the economically distressed, the politically marginalized, the educationally deprived, or the culturally unrefined. Had not various elites always despised “the people”? Cicero, in first-century BCE Rome, referred to them as “urban filth and dung”; Edmund Burke, in eighteenth-century London, called them “the swinish multitude”; and in between, this loathing of “the meaner sort” was almost universal among the privileged. When the discipline called “history” was professionalized in the nineteenth century, traditional gentlemen historians perpetuated this contempt if not by outright vilification, then at least by keeping the masses invisible. Thus, when people’s history came on the scene, it was not only a means for uncovering an unknown dimension of the past but also in some sense an instrument for righting an injustice. Today its cumulative contribution is enormous, and its home in the academic world is assured.

Only quite recently has the discipline formerly called “church history” and now more often “the history of Christianity” begun to open itself up . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.