A new history of early Christianity

by Freeman, Charles, 1947-

Format: Print Book 2009
Availability: Available at 1 Library 1 of 1 copy
Available (1)
Location Collection Call #
Whitehall Public Library Nonfiction Collection NF 270.1 F877n
Location  Whitehall Public Library
Collection  Nonfiction Collection
Call Number  NF 270.1 F877n

The relevance of Christianity is as hotly contested today as it has ever been. A New History of Early Christianity shows how our current debates are rooted in the many controversies surrounding the birth of the religion and the earliest attempts to resolve them. Charles Freeman's meticulous historical account of Christianity from its birth in Judaea in the first century A.D. to the emergence of Western and Eastern churches by A.D. 600 reveals that it was a distinctive, vibrant, and incredibly diverse movement brought into order at the cost of intellectual and spiritual vitality. Against the conventional narrative of the inevitable "triumph" of a single distinct Christianity, Freeman shows that there was a host of competing Christianities, many of which had as much claim to authenticity as those that eventually dominated. Looking with fresh eyes at the historical record, Freeman explores the ambiguities and contradictions that underlay Christian theology and the unavoidable compromises enforced in the name of doctrine.

Tracing the astonishing transformation that the early Christian church underwent--from sporadic niches of Christian communities surviving in the wake of a horrific crucifixion to sanctioned alliance with the state--Charles Freeman shows how freedom of thought was curtailed by the development of the concept of faith. The imposition of "correct belief," religious uniformity, and an institutional framework that enforced orthodoxy were both consolidating and stifling. Uncovering the difficulties in establishing the Christian church, he examines its relationship with Judaism, Gnosticism, Greek philosophy and Greco-Roman society, and he offers dramatic new accounts of Paul, the resurrection, and the church fathers and emperors.

Part one: Beginnings
A trial
The seedbed : Judaism in the first century AD
Jesus before the Gospels
Breaking away : the first Christianities
From history to myth, from Jesus to Christ : what did Paul achieve?
The letter to the Hebrews
Fifty years on the Jesus of the Gospels
John and the Jerusalem Christians
Creating a New Testament
No second coming : the search for stability
Part two: Becoming Christian
Toeholds in a wider empire : infiltrating Greek culture
Open borders : the overlapping worlds of Christians and Jews
Was there a gnostic challenge?
The idea of a church
To compromise or reject
Celsus confronts the Christians
The challenge of Greek philosophy
Origen and early Christian scholarship
New beginnings : the emergence of a Latin Christianity
Victims or volunteers : the problem of Christian martyrdom
The spread of Christian communities
Part three: The imperial church
The motives of Constantine
Debating the nature of God
Theodosius and the stifling of Christian diversity
The assault on paganism
'No one is honoured before him' : the rise of the bishop
An obsession with desire : Jerome and the temptations of the flesh
The end of optimism : Augustine and the consequences of sin
Divine but human
The closing of the schools, Justinian and the silencing of debate
A fragile church : Christianity and the collapse of the western empire
Faith, certainty, and the unknown God.

Published Reviews
Booklist Review: "A skeptic, Freeman views Christianity as a human phenomenon: nothing divine or miraculous figures in his account of the religion's origins. The resurrection of Jesus, on his telling, likely involves a complicated theft of Jesus' body and perhaps some delusional visions among sleep-deprived disciples. Yet even if readers must look elsewhere for theological insight into miracles foundational to Christian orthodoxy, Freeman can offer acute analyses of the human dynamics of an evolving religious movement that struggled to define that orthodoxy. He surveys a surprisingly diverse range of early Christian communities, differing from one another in doctrine, devotional observances, and attitudes toward pagan philosophy. But in the narrative that he presses most insistently, Freeman recounts how small and politically marginal bands of Christians subject to savage persecution transformed into an imperially powerful church serving Roman emperors (notably, Constantine and Theodosius) and persecuting heretics unwilling to embrace the creeds those emperors helped to hammer out. The devout will dispute Freeman's metaphysics, but students of history will learn much about ecclesiastical politics.--Christensen, Bryce Copyright 2009 Booklist"
From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Additional Information
Subjects Church history -- Primitive and early church, ca. 30-600.
Publisher New Haven :Yale University Press,2009
Language English
Description xvi, 377 pages : illustrations, facsimiles, maps ; 25 cm
Bibliography Notes Includes bibliographical references (pages [353]-358) and index.
ISBN 9780300125818 (ci : alk. paper)
030012581X (ci : alk. paper)
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