Christianity and the Roman Empire: Background Texts / Edition 1by Ralph Martin Novak
Pub. Date: 02/01/2001
Publisher: Bloomsbury Academic
The rise of Christianity during the first four centuries of the common era was the pivotal development in Western history and profoundly influenced the later direction of all world history. Yet, for all that has been written on early Christian history, the primary sources for this history are widely scattered, difficult to find, and generally unknown to lay persons
The rise of Christianity during the first four centuries of the common era was the pivotal development in Western history and profoundly influenced the later direction of all world history. Yet, for all that has been written on early Christian history, the primary sources for this history are widely scattered, difficult to find, and generally unknown to lay persons and to historians not specially trained in the field.
In Christianity and the Roman Empire Ralph Novak interweaves these primary sources with a narrative text and constructs a single continuous account of these crucial centuries. The primary sources are selected to emphasize the manner in which the government and the people of the Roman Empire perceived Christians socially and politically; the ways in which these perceptions influenced the treatment of Christians within the Roman Empire; and the manner in which Christians established their political and religious dominance of the Roman Empire after Constantine the Great came to power in the early fourth century CE.
Ralph Martin Novak holds a Masters Degree in Roman History from the University of Chicago.
For: Undergraduates; seminarians; general audiences.
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I found this book very useful to gain insight into the writing of the thinkers and historians which shaped the early Church. There was a nice mix of selections from many view points (Christian, Jewish, Pagan and secular). The selections were presented with enough commentary to understand possible biases. It was free from the usual habit of citing a selection as supporting evidence but then not giving the text of the selection. A great addition for students of Christianity in its earliest years who do not have access to a large library to chase down footnotes. This book has many of the writings I have seen cited in other books but in one text.
Christianity and the Roman Empire: Background Texts is designed for undergraduates, seminarians, and the general reader in early Christian history. The book contains approximately 250 selections from literary texts and archeological materials dating to the period of 27 B.C. to 416 A.D. These materials were selected to explore (i) the ways in which the early Christians were perceived and treated by the imperial government and the many peoples of the Roman Empire, (ii) the social and political interactions between Christians and the surrounding pagan culture, and (iii) the means the Christian emperors of the 4th century used to consolidate Christian dominance in the social and political life of the Roman Empire. Unlike most source books, however, which merely reproduce the sources or discuss only aspects of the individual sources, in Christianity and the Roman Empire: Background Texts the ancient texts are inserted at the appropriate places in a historical narrative of the history of the rise of Christianity in the Roman World during the first four centuries A.D. The narrative provides both an overall historical context for the sources and specific discussions of the relevance of the sources to the larger narrative history, while the primary sources allow the reader to examine the evidence used to reconstruct this history. The ancient materials presented in Christianity and the Roman Empire: Background Texts are generally reproduced at greater length than commonly found in most source books. A primary goal of the narrative text is to direct the reader along the path of the majority historical consensus without being so intrusive as to obscure the majesty and power of the ancient materials themselves. I have attempted to present the materials in such a way that this book could serve as both a useful adjunct to the work of other scholars in the field and as a stand-alone history for the non-specialist reader. Christianity and the Roman Empire: Background Texts consists of approximately 320 pages of text, organized into six chapters and 5 appendices. Chapter One is a brief introduction to basic historical methodology for dealing with literary texts. Chapters Two through Five contain a chronologically organized historical narrative, with ancient sources, describing the rise of Christianity during first four centuries A.D. Chapter Six is a case study of the way in which Christians came to dominate the political life of Alexandria, Egypt during the period of approximately 350-416 A.D. The five appendices examine topics more appropriately examined on a topical rather than a chronological basis, and cover the subjects of Rome's relationship with Judaism during this same period, pagan accusations of Christian immorality, the worship of the Roman emperor, the formulation of the Nicene Creed, and the evidence concerning the dates for the birth and death of Jesus. The book has both primary source and subject indexes.