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Early Christian Literature: Christ and Culture in the Second and Third Centuries (Helen Rhee) Paperback Book, (Routledge, 2005) 9780415354882

Title: Early Christian Literature: Christ and Culture in the Second and Third Centuries

Author: Rhee, Helen

Publisher: Routledge/Taylor & Francis; Publication Date: 2005

Paperback; ISBN: 9780415354882

Volumes: 1; Pages: 240

List Price in Paper: $41.95 Our price: $41.95

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Christians in the formative period of their religion, from the mid first to early third centuries, sought new ways of relating their lives to the dominant society that surrounded them. As doctrine and practice became established, hostility from the wider world was often extreme and Christians used many literary forms to strengthen their own self-definition. Prominent among these were the Apologies as well as the semi-fictional Apocryphal Acts and Martyr Acts. These forms used the existing literary patterns of Greco-Roman society to present distinctively Christian ideas, attitudes, and adventures.

In this thoroughgoing study, Helen Rhee shows how the forms of classical fiction were adapted to present the superiority of Christian monotheism, the superiority of Christian sexual morality, and Christian (dis)loyalty to the Empire. These propagandistic writings shaped the theological, moral, and political trajectories of Christian faith and contributed largely to the definition of orthodoxy.

This outstanding work of scholarship explores issues of cultural identity in an area which has hitherto lacked definition. In clear prose the author presents arguments that will be of equal interest to the student of early Christianity and of Greco-Roman literary culture and civilization.


Second-century Christian literature in its historical-cultural context

1 Christianity in the mid-second and the early third centuries

Christian interaction with Greco-Roman society

Literature of the second century: the apologies, apocryphal acts, and martyr acts

Triangular relationship

2 The superiority of Christian monotheism

Apologies: Christianity as true philosophy

Apocryphal acts: Christianity as true power

Martyr acts: Christianity as true piety

3 The superiority of Christian sexual morality

Asceticism in general: the controlling paradigm

Asceticism: sexual chastity and renunciation

Chastity, marriage, and family in Greco-Roman society: ideology and practice

Marriage and celibacy in the New Testament

Apologies: harmony with the established social order

Tatian and encratism

Apocryphal acts: antithesis of the social ideal and resistance to the social order

Martyr acts: renunciation of social mores

4 Christian loyalty to the empire

Imperial cult: unity of religion and politics

Apologies: Christian loyalty to the empire

Apocryphal acts: Christian subversiveness to the empire

Martyr acts: Christian resistance to the empire

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