Empire Baptized: How the Church Embraced What Jesus Rejected (Second-Fifth Centuries)

Empire Baptized: How the Church Embraced What Jesus Rejected (Second-Fifth Centuries)

by Wes Howard-Brook


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Through a study of the early church, this book shows how Christianity in effect opted for the religion of empire, shifting the emphasis of Jesus's prophetic message from transforming the world to the aim of saving one's "soul."

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781626981942
Publisher: Orbis Books
Publication date: 08/25/2016
Pages: 368
Sales rank: 833,635
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.20(h) x 0.80(d)

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments xi

Introduction xiii

Why Should We Care about Ancient History? xix

The Question of "Writing Christian History" and How This Book Is Organized xx

A Personal Note xxiv

1 The Roman Imperial Context and the "Religion of Empire" 1

Religion in the Roman Empire 1

Source of Divine Power in Public Religion 3

The Home of the Gods and Places of Sacred Encounter in Public Religion 4

Sources of Divine Power in Private Religion 6

The Home of the Gods and Places of Sacred Encounter in Private Religion 7

The Imperial Cult 7

Philosophy 9

Roman Social and Economic Structures 9

The Urban Social Order 9

The Economic Order 12

Urban versus Rural Life 14

Relationships with "Others" 15

Relationship with the Earth and Its Creatures 21

Paideia and Humanitas: How the Romans Transmitted Their Worldview across Generations 23

2 Alexandria and Carthage: Urban Laboratories for Brewing "Christianity" 25

Why Studying Specific Places Is So Important for Understanding How Christianity Developed 25

Alexandria 27

The Ptolemaic Era 27

The Roman Era: A New Social Order 28

Culture and Religion: The Unending Question of Identity 30

Egyptians 30

Jews 31

Christian Origins in Alexandria 33

Egyptian Religion 33

Isis and Scrapis 35

Therapcutae 36

Philosophers/Middle Platonists 37

"Pagans" 38

"Christians" 38

Key Christians in Alexandria 39

Second Century 39

Third Century 40

Fourth Century 40

Carthage and North Africa 41

The Pre-Roman City 41

Roman Carthage and the Surrounding Region 44

Culture and Religion in North Africa 47

Local Religion 47

Jews and Christians 48

Key Christians in North Africa 50

Second Century 50

Third Century 51

Fourth Century 51

3 How Should Christians Read the Hebrew Scriptures? 52

The Problem 52

The Road Not Taken: Marcion's and the "Gnostics'" Rejection of Hebrew Scriptures 58

Reading Scripture in the New Testament 58

Marcion: The God of the Hebrew Scriptures Is Not the Father of Jesus 62

The So-called Gnostics and the Development of Counterstories to the Hebrew Scriptures 65

Responses to Marcion and the Gnostics from the Writers of Emerging "Orthodoxy" 67

Irenaeus: The "Rule of Faith" 68

Justin Martyr: Hebrew Scripture as "Prophecy" about Jesus 71

Reading Hebrew Scripture in Alexandria 72

Philo 73

The Epistle of Barnabas 76

Valentinus, Clement, and the Question of "Gnosis" 77

Origen of Alexandria and the Establishment of a Systematic, Christian Method for Interpreting Hebrew Scriptures 81

4 "Christianity" Moves Closer to the "Religion of Empire (150-220 CE) 92

Carthage 92

Martyrdom 92

Tertullian 98

Against Marcion: Defending the God of Fear and Judgment 101

Places of Sacred Encounter and the Question of Earth/Creation 104

Purpose of Human Life: Straddling the Space between Creation and Empire 106

Basic Social Structure: Embracing Imperial Hierarchical Patronage in the Church 107

Basic Economic Structure: Rejecting the Appearance of Wealth While Maintaining the Reality 109

Relationship with Unknown Others: Jews, Heretics, and Women 111

Jews 112

Heretics 114

Women 117

Religious Obligations 120

Relationship with Earth/Land 122

Relationship with Enemies: War 123

Alexandria 126

Clement 126

The Role of Philosophy in Clement's Thought 128

Philosophy and Scripture 129

Clement's "Gnostic" 131

God's "Home": In Heaven and in the Mind of the Gnostic 132

Purpose of Human Life 133

Basic Social Structure: Stoic Hierarchy in Church and Society 133

Economics and Wealth 135

Relationship with "Others": Jews, Heretics, and Strangers 137

Women, Sex, and Marriage 138

Relationship to Creation: Humans Are a "Heavenly Plant" 139

Loving Enemies and Participation in War 139

5 "Christianity" up to and in Response to the Decian Persecution (220-255 CE) 141

The Roman Empire in the First Half of the Third Century, Decius's Edict, and the Persecution of Christians 141

Alexandria: Origen 146

Purpose of Human Life: Unity with the Divine 146

Basic Social Structure: The Complex Role of the Roman Empire in Origen's Theology 147

War and Violence: The Early "Separation of Church and State" 149

The Human Body and Sexuality: Mere Passing Distractions 152

Earth and Creation: Made for Humans, but Only for a Short Time 153

Economics and Wealth: Outside God's Concern 155

"Others": Women, Pagans, Egyptians, and Jews 156

Women 156

Pagans and Egyptians 157

Jews 158

Origen's Reading of the Song of Songs 158

Carthage: Cyprian 161

God's "Home": In the Catholic Church Alone 168

Basic Social Structure: Hierarchical Patronage 172

Economics 173

The Other: Jews 175

Women, Sex, and the Body 176

Earth/Creation 176

Violence and War 176

6 "Christianity" Becomes the Official Religion of the Empire 178

The Roman Empire in the Late Third Century 179

Threats on the Frontiers 179

Economic Woes 180

Political Consequences: Prom a "Commonwealth of Cities" to a True "Empire" 180

Religion: The Glue That Would Hold the Empire Together 182

Emperor Diocletian: Seeking to Bring Order to the Imperial Chaos 186

Constantine: Establishing "Christianity" as the "Religion of Empire" 191

Lactantius: The First Christian to Legitimize Constantine's Reign 199

Eusebius: Celebrating the Imperial Church in Writing 200

In Praise of Constantine 201

The Life of Constantine 202

The Council of Nicaea 204

Church History 208

7 "Christianity" Embraces Empire 211

After Constantine: The Roman Empire in the Late Fourth and Early Fifth Centuries 215

Athanasius. Patriarch of Alexandria 219

Alexandria in the Fourth Century 219

Athanasius: The Man and His Mission 224

The "Arian Controversy" and Its Aftermath 224

Athanasius and the "Life of Antony": Seeking to Corral the Desert Monks into the Episcopal Sheepfold 232

God's Home: In the Catholic Church 235

Social Order: Hierarchical Patronage 235

Economics 236

The Body, Men and Women, and Sexuality 237

Others: Surrounded by "Ariomaniacs" 239

Violence/War 239

Earth/Creation 240

Jerome 241

Ambrose 250

Augustine: Preacher, Theologian, Politician 258

North Africa in the Fourth Century 258

Augustine the Man 263

Reading the Bible: Augustine Forges a Middle Road 270

Where God Lives and the Purpose of Life: To Worship God in the Catholic Church and "in Heaven" 272

Basic Social Structure: Hierarchy in Both Church and Society 275

Economics: Following the Moderate Path 276

Relationships with "Others" 278

Donatists: "Compel Them to Come In" 278

Pelagians 281

Jews 283

"Pagans" 285

Body, Sex, and Gender 287

Earth and Creation 290

War and Peace 291

The Consequences of Moderation 294

Conclusion 296

Bibliography 299

Index of Ancient Sources 335

Index of Modern Authors Quoted 341

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