The Church in Ancient Society provides a full and enjoyable narrative history of the first six centuries of the Christian church. Ancient Greek and Roman society had many gods and an addiction to astrology and divination. This introduction to the period traces the process by which Christianity changed this and so provided a foundation for the modern world; the teaching of Jesus created a lasting community, which grew even to command the allegiance of the Roman emperor. Henry Chadwick discusses Christianity in relation to how it appeared to both Jews and pagans, and how Christian doctrine and practice were shaped in relation to Greco-Roman culture and the Jewish matrix. Among the major figures Chadwick discusses are Tertullian, Clement of Alexandria, Origen, Constantine, Julian the Apostate, Basil of Caesarea, Ambrose of Milan, and Augustine.
Following a chronological approach, Henry Chadwick’s clearly exposits important texts and theological debates in their historical context in unrivalled detail. In particular, he examines theological and ecclesial texts in relation to the behavior and beliefs of people who attended churches and synagogues. Christians did not find agreement and unity easy and Chadwick displays a distinctive concern for the factors—theological, personal, and political—which caused division in the church and prevented reconciliation. The emperors, however, began to foster unity for political reasons and chose monotheism. Finally, the Church captured society.
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The book is a tour de force to which we will keep turning as an essential reference work.
—R.A. Markus, The Tablet