EARLY CHRISTIANITY AND SOCIETY by Robert M. Grant

EARLY CHRISTIANITY AND SOCIETY

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Mass free state distribution of wheat and bread, sometimes administered by the Church; tax exemption for religious buildings, sometimes Christian, sometimes pagan--and also for artists, actors, musicians, and doctors; Christian devotion to monarchy, and its connection with the concept of the Kingdom; attitudes to wealth, slavery, and despised occupations, always including sailors and pilots; these are some of the topics investigated here, often with humor and irony, but always to expand and make more accurate our knowledge of the Church in the ancient world. What is offered is not an overall picture but studies of seven subject areas, informed by a lifetime of reading and teaching. That a period of 400 years is dealt with, back and forth, and that in its course conditions changed markedly, presents a challenge to the reader's attention. And there is necessarily much weighing of one source of evidence against another. The figures in particular are impressionistic, to use the author's word. (When Bishop of Constantinople, John Chrysostom gave the city's Christian population as 100,000; he earlier used the same figure for Antioch when living there, in each case as an argument for more generous giving to the church.) In today's church affairs, the life of the early church is a popular point of reference, and the picture emerging here of a largely middle-class, largely conservative body, often continuous with pagan practice and philosophy, is important, if very much open to discussion.

Pub Date: Oct. 5th, 1977
Publisher: Harper & Row