Summary: It is now almost 2000 years since the birth of Jesus Christ set in motion the chain of events which led to the creation of the Christian faith and its diffusion throughout the world. During these two millennia Christianity has, perhaps, proved more influential in shaping human destiny than any other institutional philosophy, but there are now signs that its period of predominance is drawing to a close, thereby inviting a retrospect and a balance sheet. In this book the author has att
Summary: It is now almost 2000 years since the birth of Jesus Christ set in motion the chain of events which led to the creation of the Christian faith and its diffusion throughout the world. During these two millennia Christianity has, perhaps, proved more influential in shaping human destiny than any other institutional philosophy, but there are now signs that its period of predominance is drawing to a close, thereby inviting a retrospect and a balance sheet. In this book the author has attempted to survey the whole history in one volume. ...show less
Edition/Copyright:76 Cover: Paperback Publisher:Touchstone Books Year Published: 1976 International: No
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PART ONE The Rise and Rescue of the Jesus Sect (50 BC-AD 250)Some time about the middle of the first century AD, and very likely in the year 49, Paul of Tarsus travelled south from Antioch to Jerusalem and there met the surviving followers of Jesus of Nazareth, who had been crucified about sixteen years before. This Apostolic Conference, or Council of Jerusalem, is the first political act in the history of Christianity and the starting-point from which we can seek to reconstruct the nature of Jesus's teaching and the origins of the religion and church he brought into being.We have two near-contemporary accounts of this Council. One, dating from the next decade, was dictated by Paul himself in his letter to the Christian congregations of Galatia in Asia Minor. The second is later and comes from a number of sources or eye-witness accounts assembled in Luke's Acts of the Apostles. It is a bland, quasi-official report of a dispute in the Church and its satisfactory resolution. Let us take this second version first. It relates that 'fierce dissension and controversy' had arisen in Antioch because 'certain persons', from Jerusalem and Judea, in flat contradiction to the teaching of Paul, had been telling converts to Christianity that they could not be saved unless they underwent the Jewish ritual of circumcision. As a result, Paul, his colleague Barnabas, and others from the mission to the gentiles in Antioch, travelled to Jerusalem to consult with 'the apostles and elders'.There they had a mixed reception. They were welcomed by 'the church and the apostles and the elders'; but 'some of the Pharisaic party who had become believers' insisted that Paul was wrong and that all converts must not only be circumcized but taught to keep the Jewish law of Moses. There was 'a long debate', followed by speeches by Peter, who supported Paul, by Paul himself and Barnabas, and a summing up by James, the younger brother of Jesus. He put forward a compromise which was apparently adopted 'with the agreement of the whole Church'. Under this, Paul and his colleagues were to be sent back to Antioch accompanied by a Jerusalem delegation bearing a letter. The letter set out the terms of the compromise: converts need not submit to circumcision but they must observe Certain precepts in the Jewish law in matters of diet and sexual conduct. Luke's record in Acts states that this half-way position was arrived at 'unanimously', and that when the decision was conveyed to the Antioch congregation, 'all rejoiced'. The Jerusalem delegates were thus able to return to Jerusalem, having solved the problem, and Paul carried on with his mission.This, then, is the account of the first council of the Church as presented by a consensus document, what one might call an eirenic and ecumenical version, designed to present the new religion as a mystical body with a co-ordinated and unified life of its own, moving to inevitable and predestined conclusions. Acts, indeed, says specifically that the ruling of the Council was 'the decision of the Holy Spirit'. No wonder it was accepted unanimously ! No wonder that 'all' in Antioch 'rejoiced at the encouragement it brought'.Paul's version, however, presents quite a different picture. And his is not merely an eye-witness account, but an account by the chief and central participant, perhaps the only one who grasped the magnitude of the issues at slake. Paul is not interested in smoothing the ragged edges of controversy. He is presenting a case to men and women whose spiritual lives are dominated by the issues confronting the elders in that room in Jerusalem. His purpose is not eirenic or ecumenical, still less diplomatic. He is a man burning to tell the truth and to imprint it like fire in the minds of his readers. In the apochryphalActs of Paul,written perhaps a hundred years after his death, the tradition of his physical appearance is vividly preserved: '...a little man with
W. H. C. FrendThe New York Review of BooksHis is a tour de force, one of the most ambitious surveys of the history of Christianity ever attempted and perhaps the most radical. In eight sections, with a great range of reading and a knowledge that is never made tedious, he tells the story of the rise, greatness, and decline of Christianity.
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Prologue PART ONE The Rise and Rescue of the Jesus Sect (50 BC-AD 250) PART TWO From Martyrs to Inquisitors (AD 250-450) PART THREE Mitred Lords and Crowned Ikons (450-1054) PART FOUR The Total Society and its Enemies 1054-1500) PART FIVE The Third Force (1500-1648) PART SIX Faith, Reason and Unreason (1648-1870) PART SEVEN Almost-Chosen Peoples (1500-1910) PART EIGHT The Nadir of Triumphalism (1870-1975) Epilogue Select Bibliography Index
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