Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

A Concise History of the Early Church

Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

A Concise History of the Early Church

Article excerpt

A Concise History of the Early Church. By Norbert Brox.Translated by John Bowden. (New York: Continuum Publishing Company. 1995. Pp. viii, 184. $18.95.)

This lucid and excellently translated survey of the Early Church spans from its beginning to the Council of Chalcedon (451 A.D.).The author, Norbert Brox, professor of early church history and patrology in the University of Regensburg, says in his preface that he hopes to strike a balance between an easy-tofollow survey and a sufficiently detailed account. He has achieved this balance remarkably well in his eight compact and very readable chapters. They range from the earliest form of Christianity within Judaism to the missionary expansion on through to the major developments before and after Constantine. Brox's chapters on church life and organization (IV) and on the first four Ecumenical Councils (VII) are particularly insightful. Other chapters deal with conflicts, heresies and schisms, theological orientations, and the literature of the Early Church. He includes a bibliography with each chapter, a "for further reading" section at the end, and an index of names and subjects.

Brox gives a very realistic picture of Constantine. He shows him not so much as a pagan ruler who is converted from the worship of idols to the Christian God, but rather as a head of state practicing the cult of Sol Invictus (the victorious sun god) who, by a spectacular shift of his own, changes that cult by identifying it with Christianity"For him, the God of the Christians was identical with the god whom he himself worshipped" (p. 48).Adroit at reading the signs of the times,"Constantine saw Christianity through Roman eyes as a cult religion (only later did he come to understand the significance of the creed in Christianity) with recognizable structures (a hierarchical organization, an ideal unity throughout the empire, universalism, a capacity to establish itself in history) which was admirably suited to contribute to the task of the state" (p. …

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