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Looking Back and Ahead

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 October 2023

Hartmut Leppin
Affiliation:
Goethe-Universität Frankfurt Am Main
Jan N. Bremmer
Affiliation:
Rijksuniversiteit Groningen, The Netherlands
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Summary

It is striking that Christians were so successful. They had internal dissension; lacked relics; had no common temple; came from less educated classes and the periphery of the empire; Jews and pagans harassed, even persecuted them. Because they did not offer sacrifices, excluding them from offices and festivals, and were unable to maintain certain family traditions they appeared antisocial. Yet Christ-followers succeeded in winning over non-Jews as well. The persecutions welded Christians together, and martyrs served as role models, even to those who had manifested weakness. In areas such as sexual morality, Christians sought to demonstrate that they were superior to contemporaries of other faiths. They also formed transregional networks. The opportunity to gain prestige in Christian communities also attracted people. Various forms of authority competed with each other, especially the charismatic and spiritual authority of those who excelled in ascetic practices. That in the end monarchical bishops were to become the decisive figures in Christianity was by no means clear from the beginning. That Roman emperors would support Christianity was an unlikely development that changed Christianity significantly. But the tradition of a defiant piety that defined the beginnings was not lost, so that Christianity continued to renew itself.

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Chapter
Information
The Early Christians
From the Beginnings to Constantine
, pp. 368 - 393
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2023

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