Early Christianity
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 major religions.
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.


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