Magazine article First Things; A Monthly Journal of Religion and Public Life

A New History of Early Christianity

Magazine article First Things; A Monthly Journal of Religion and Public Life

A New History of Early Christianity

Article excerpt

A NEW HISTORY OF EARLY CHRISTIANITY by Charles Freeman Yale, 400 pages, $35

Within a few paragraphs the perspicacious reader of this "new" history of early Christianity will sense that here is another recycling of old and tired clichés that are predictable in popular histories of Christianity. The tipoffs are the buzzword diversity and the villain, the oppressive "institutional" Church. We are expected to be "startled" that Christian doctrine is not fixed and unchanging, that different forms of Christianity existed in the early years, that early Christians disagreed with each other and engaged in debate, that a body of orthodox teaching did not emerge full blown but was given formulation over time, and that politics played a part.

Although Freeman has apparently read widely, his prejudices trump understanding. …

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