Birth Of A Worldview, A Review

1879 words - 8 pages

In Birth of a Worldview: Early Christianity in its Jewish and Pagan Context, Robert Doran attempts to analyze the development of Christianity in the early period of its formation and how it related to the Jewish and the pagan (Roman) religions throughout its development in early times. The text begins with a historical outline of the development of the early Christian world and then delves into a more theological analysis in the latter portions. The development of the book mirrors the development of Christianity itself, which was focused early on with finding ways to worship and expand the faith in a world that was very anti-Christian. Once it had become more accepted throughout the world, Christian writing and thought about theological matters flourished as a result.

The first chapter, Christians and the Roman World, examines the historical development of Christianity in its first few hundred years of existence. Before Constantine, Christians were heavily persecuted by the Roman empire and martyrdom was common. Non-Christian Romans saw the Christians as "bringing the displeasure and disfavor of the gods on their cities" (Doran 9.)

This persecution became very intense during the third century as Rome was frequently at war and its emperors sought to improve their favor with the gods by denouncing those who did not believe in their gods. The emperor Decius, who ruled from 248 until 251, forced Christians to offer animal sacrifices to the Roman gods for the well-being of the empire. While many of the wealthier Christians simply offered bribes in place of this sacrifice, many of the poorer ones had no choice.

In the year 313, Constantine then issued the Edict of Milan which resulted in state acceptance of the Christian faith. After Constantine's reign, the acceptance of Christianity by succeeding emperors in the latter part of the fourth century was mixed, but for the most part favored Christianity. Now that Christianity was favored, many Christians sought to suppress pagan religions. However, the Edict of Milan promoted acceptance of all religions and so pagan practices were tolerated throughout much of the fourth century, although this too was to change toward the latter part of the century, when in 392 emperor Theodosius issued a decree which banned many pagan activities. As a result of these elements, Christianity had seen drastic changes during a time span of approximately one hundred years.

The following chapter, Cosmos: The Quest for Order, looks at the development of cosmology as it related to Christianity during the religion's early years. The Christian ideas on cosmology were heavily influenced by Stoicism and Platonism, two of the leading philosophic traditions of the time period (34.) Both schools of thought followed the belief that the universe exhibited clear signs of order in its design which were clearly the work of a creator.

The Stoic contribution to Christian theology was primarily with the...

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