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Lecture

Early Christianity Outlines the beginnings of Christianity, appeal to convert, survival of the religion, martyrs, issues of religious perception, and society in the church.


Department
Classical Studies
Course Code
CLAS100
Professor
Sheila Ager

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Early Christianity
October-20-10
12:30 PM
Origins in Judaism
o Belief in single, absolute creator
Contrasts with polytheism of Greeks and Romans
Judaism:
o Figure of messiah important in Judaism. Religious saviour, political saviour, military saviour
o Do not want to be ruled by anyone else
o Suppressed by a culture with a different religion. Saviour would rid them of oppression
Jesus
Oldest images represent Jesus as a healer
A lot of images come from catacombs under Rome
o Where Christian community sought refuge at times of prosecution, also where they buried
their dead
o Date to late 3rd and early 4th century. Around time of Diocletian who conducted the worst
of the persecutions
Sources of Early Christianity
Oldest historical testimony comes from Paul's letters, comes approximately 2-3 decades after
Jesus' death. Not one of Jesus' original followers
Another source comes from Roman Pagan author Suetonius. Wrote biographies of emperors
including Nero who blamed fire in Rome on Christians. Where public awareness of Christianity
occurs
4 gospels (postdate letters of Paul)
Attributed to 4 evangelists named Matthew, Mark, Luke and John
All proclamation of faith, not historical records
Consequences: objective history of earliest Christianity (life of Jesus) is impossible. Nothing telling
anything of Jesus from the time he was alive
Life in the early Church
"house" churches - shows that Christian community appealed to all classes
o Later evolution outgrew capacity of house churches and started renting public buildings
(basilica)
Community focused
o Directed around shared meal known as 'Eucharist' which is a celebration/reminder of Jesus'
last meal
Apocalyptic world view
o Messiah came, left, and promised to come back any time. Saw history as ending very, very
shortly.
o After generations, sceptics point out that messiah has not come back, apocalyptic view
decreases. Became in institution and envisioned itself with longevity, can't be
Conversion to early Christianity required total allegiance
o Why Romans do not like them, they are not loyal to the state and do not sacrifice to the
health and benefit of the emperor/empire
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