Whereas the Hebrews provided
an ethical religion for the West (in the form of Judaism and the idea of ethical monotheism),
the Ancient Greeks provided an ethical philosophy. Both focused on the role
of the individual (and not community responsibility), and both complemented
each other (ethical irrationalism in the form of religion and ethical rationalism
in the form of philosophy) when merged later in Christianity. Not sure if that makes much sense.
As the fortunes of political Rome declined,
the fortunes of Christianity--one might say "spiritual Rome"--rose. Over
the course of the first five centuries of the new common era--Historians use ce (of the common era) instead of ad (in the year of the lord) to denote dates after the year "0"--the newly-developing Christian church gradually assumed
responsibility for the political activities
of the Roman government, thus ensuring a lasting impact for the Roman empire. For example, the church assumed
duties ranging from minor, such as recording legal documents for births, to major, for example,
arranging the military defense of cities and towns. Over time, Christianity
evolved from an extremely small, obscure Near Eastern sect to become one of the world's
When studying the origins of Christianity,
it is very important to remember that Jesus of Nazareth was born into and grew up within
the Jewish faith. During his ministry, he repeatedly averred that he had
come not to destroy the law, i.e., Judaism, but to fulfill it, thus linking himself with
the earlier Judaic prophets who had also embarked on a reform mission stressing
the ethical responsibilities of the religion. The prophets had urged people
to do more than just perform rituals and uphold the letter of the law. Instead,
they maintained that people should be guided by the spirit of
the law. For example, according to Jesus of Nazareth, it was not enough simply not
to kill someone. What was required was the complete absence of anger.
Some recommended online lectures and websites:
- Early Christian Writings: All of Early Christianity
(New Testament, Apocrypha, Gnostics and Fathers). This is an excellent resource for studying
the history of the early Christian church.
- The Development of the Early Church by Charles Kimball See also his In the Shadow of Rome where he writes about the journeys of the Apostles.
- Professor Campbell's notes on Early Monotheism
- Gary Gutting, Returning to the Sermon on the Mount
- For extra credit please suggest to your instructor a
relevant website for this unit of the course.
Send the title of the site, the url and a
brief explanation why you find the information interesting and applicable to
the material being studied in this unit.