Brent - Political History of Early Christianity

Brent - A Political History of Early Christianity
This book traces the history of early Christianity as a political movement with serious political challenges to the Pagan Empire that pagans correctly identified and of which they did well to be aware. The hostility between Paganism and Early Christianity was not the result of an unfortunate misunderstanding but the result of a threat whether overtly or surreptitiously posed by the growth of both the order of Christian societies and the development of the theology that underpinned that order. Stoic and Middle and Neo Platonist assumptions were to produce two rival cosmologies in which Pagan and Christian social order was constructed, with imperial religion relying upon a polytheistic ordering of the cosmos and Christianity, in one form or another, upon a Trinitarian one.
The methodology in terms of which my thesis proceeds can be exemplified from two proponents of the relationship between metaphysical order and political order. The first was Peter Berger who developed a sociology of knowledge in which the metaphysical order was studied as a social construction: what people believe about the world of nature as part of a cosmic order of things external to society is in fact the reflection of social order. Reality is socially constructed so as to legitimate the structure of authority within society, making patterns of authority stable and enduring, and not simply unstable and ephemeral, by anchoring social order in some putative order of nature beyond society. Berger however was to emphasize that his account was essentially a study of the role that bodies of metaphysical knowledge whether theistic or atheistic (such as the Newtonian mechanistic model of physics) functioned in the ordering of social relations: he wished in no way to deny further claims to truth that they might make. Thus a given form of society with a given set of social relations might be necessary to explain the emergence of a particular kind of cosmology but such social relations were not sufficient to explain that cosmology and its further development.
One could, for example, write an account of the development of mathematics in terms of economic groups pursuing their material self-interest in which their social interaction was seen to produce various kinds of relationships between mathematical concepts and theorems. Such an account would therefore show how modern mathematics (and in consequence cosmological explanations in modern physics) arose from its generation from the roots of such a social construction of mathematical and physical reality. But at the end of the day, it is quite remarkable that a system generated by such sociological roots that imply a quite different aim actually succeeds in fitting the ‘real’ world. Nevertheless it is difficult to believe that it was purely accidentally that, at the same time that Newton propounded a view of the cosmos in terms of the combination of various individual atoms not further divisible under various kinds of physical forces, Locke articulated his view of the origin of civil society based upon a social contract entered into by individuals at some putative dawn of history. Just as nature consisted of irreducible atoms combined into molecules of various complexity to form an orderly cosmic order, so too irreducibly unique individual persons as social atoms combined under the rules of contract given in a state of nature to form molecular social institutions which in combination gave rise to social order.

Allen Brent - A Political History of Early Christianity

London, New York, T&T Clark International, 2009. - 346 pp.
ISBN 978-0-567-03174-7 (Hardback)
ISBN 978-0-567-03175-4 (Paperback)

Allen Brent - A Political History of Early Christianity - Contents

  • 1. The Jesus of History and His Movement, and the Politics of His Day
  • 2. The First Confrontation with Paganism under Nero and the Markan Community
  • 3. The Political Theology of the Augustan Revolution: Cosmic Reconstruction
  • 4. John the Seer’s Apocalyptic Response: An Attack on Augustan Cosmic Reconstruction
  • 5. Early Christian Cosmic Reordering: St Luke, Clement and Ignatius
  • 6. The Apologists and the Politics of the Trinity: Logos and Cosmology
  • 7. Cyprian against Decius: Opposing Eschatologies and the Creation of a State within the State
  • 8. Constantine, the Divine Order of the Christian Empire and Its European Legacy
  • 1. Scripture
  • 2. Early Christian and Jewish Writers
  • 3. Classical Works, Epigraphy, and Coins Works
  • 4. Latin Words
  • 5. Greek Terms
  • 6. Modern Authors
  • 7. Subjects


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