Thread: How important is Christianity - Board: Oblivion / Ship of Fools.

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Posted by pimple (# 10635) on :
historically? I've been reading some fascinating and very well-written books about the transition from Republic to Empire in Ancient Rome. In one of them, Jesus doesn't appear in the index, though Judaism does.

On the other hand, when I googled something like "History in the first century AD"
all I got were histories of the early Church.

It seems that it's either all about Jesus or sod all. The thing is, I know that very little writing that is now accepted as academically historical can be found about Jesus before the crucifixion , and that goes for famous Greeks and Romans as well - they tend not to be documented until - or even after - they do something of world interest.

What I'm looking for is a holistic history that shows how the early Christians responded to the world around them, and vice versa. Apart from reams by Josephus which I haven't started on yet, can anybody help?

[ 17. December 2015, 16:32: Message edited by: pimple ]
Posted by HCH (# 14313) on :
As I understand it, by the time Jesus appeared, the transition of Rome from republic to empire was a done deal. The interesting part of the transition was earlier (concentration of wealth, wars of the triumvirates), and by the time Jesus was born, Octavius was de facto emperor. Octavius died when Jesus was in his late teens, and Tiberius was emperor until after Jesus died. (The term "emperor" is not precise; what happened was that one person accumulated several authoritative roles--consul, praetor censor--that already existed under the republic, plus wealth, plus military support, and then stayed in power for life. At some point, the term "emperor" was used.)

I take it you are interested in the early Christian period. Later on, as of maybe 400 A.D. and for the next thousand years, Christianity--or rather, the church--was often a major influence in international affairs.
Posted by Jay-Emm (# 11411) on :
Originally posted by pimple:
historically? I've been reading some

Can't help with sources.

But as the transition to empire is (kind of) ending around the time the new testament story starts. It's not surprising that either can be told without reference to the other.

But there are clear intersection points Julius and Pompey go through (and while Egypt is probably more significant on Rome, obviously had a massive impact on Israel). Then the defeated Mark and Octavian are in the area. [and a king of kings, and our father]

Then you have Vespasian & Titus in Israel at the start of the year of 5 emperors. Which can't not have affected their relationship with the church both ways (whether for the good or bad).
Given the chaos of the year and the small church at the time there would have been short term butterfly effects (one defeat and would his army have followed, a win too early would Vitus have been the survivor.

Then obviously at yet another critical time for the empire we have Constantine, who was definitely affected by the church (at least in terms of fashion) and affected the church. But isn't 1st century and is the reverse end of our empires story.

[ 17. December 2015, 20:17: Message edited by: Jay-Emm ]
Posted by Zappa (# 8433) on :
Originally posted by pimple:

What I'm looking for is a holistic history that shows how the early Christians responded to the world around them, and vice versa. Apart from reams by Josephus which I haven't started on yet, can anybody help?

Mileages will vary, but one of the finest historical analyses of the realm in which Christianity was midwifed, and Christianity's emergence in that realm, is Pelikan's The Emergence of the Catholic Tradition (100-600) - but that may not scratch your itch. Christianity was well below the radar of course for its first few decades.

Maybe it will be again, one day [Confused]
Posted by Dafyd (# 5549) on :
I suspect part of the problem is disciplinary boundaries. If you're studying early Christian history you're in the theology or biblical studies department. If you're studying the wider Roman world you're in the Classics department.
People can cross boundaries, but even disciplines as similar and non-interpretive as chemical and mechanical engineers occasionally look at what each other are saying and go, that opinion's just weird.
Posted by Schroedinger's cat (# 64) on :
The problem is all history is told from a perspective, What is more, history from 2000 years ago is far more sparse than more recent history. Even 200 years ago, it is hard to get a very clear picture.

2000 years ago, there were relatively few people able to tell produce historical evidence - very few could write which is the most common form, but there are others, like trinkets or artefacts. Today, any event that happens will have hundreds of thousands of words written about it, even if it is quite minor or localised, and written from hundreds of perspectives.

Many of those who could write were liable to take a particular perspective because someone was liable to be paying then to write. So the primary documents from that period are sparse and biased to particular views. So for people today, writing history usually means taking a perspective, because your selection of sources will be reflecting this bias.

In truth, your history is liable to be reflecting a very small number of primary sources. How this history is presented depends on which of the half dozen core and reliable sources are used as THE primary.

So, in answer to your question, was it important? Yes, for some people, very and vitally important. And for others, trivial and irrelevant. The question is meaningless, unless you define "important to whom?" Your answer to this question will define the answer to the original question. As so often, getting the right question defines the answer.
Posted by Martin60 (# 368) on :
Emulating Christ is most. Being CofE or Russian Orthodox or Evangelical or Roman Catholic or take your pick ... isn't.

10,000 years.

[ 18. December 2015, 23:12: Message edited by: Martin60 ]
Posted by pimple (# 10635) on :
Thanks for all of this.

Finding the right question. Yes. And not trying to second-guess the questions of others? Why am I writing this or that? What's my (?hidden) agenda?

It's all about a story I want to write. Oh just get on with it, pimple!

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