The Birth of the New Testament

The Birth of the New Testament

The Birth of the New Testament

The Birth of the New Testament

Excerpt

It would be a mistake to attempt too precise a distinction, within the general term 'explanation', between the explanations offered by the Church to outsiders and the teaching and instruction offered to its own members or to definite enquirers. Or again, it is a faint line, in the last analysis, that divides explanations given to outsiders on the Church's own initiative, in the course of evangelism, and those given in reply to inquiry, criticism, or attack--explanations, that is, which constitute Christian apologetic. These various categories merge insensibly into one another. For the sake of clarity, however, the subject of 'catechesis'--the instruction of enquirers ('catechumens') or the newly baptized--and of 'edification' thereafter will be raised again in a later chapter; and for the present we turn our attention more generally to the Church's understanding of itself in the face of problems and pressures, whether from within or from without, so as to see the stages by which an awareness of its distinctive calling dawned.

It must be remembered at the outset that the Church in the first century, unlike the Church today, did not need to spend much time defending the existence of God. True, there were Epicureans, whose system relegated God to such a distance from the physical world as to constitute a virtual atheism; and there were one or two other brands of 'free thinking'. But for the most part everybody took some doctrine of deity and the supernatural as an axiom (it was the Christians who seemed atheists, with their lack of altar and shrine), and Christian explanation did not have to begin with God--least of all when confronted by Jewish monotheism--even if the distinctively Christian convictions did in fact involve a radically new conception of deity.

Chronologically, indeed, one of the earliest questions to be . . .

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