A HISTORICAL INTRODUCTION TO THE NEW TESTAMENT - Robert M. Grant - Collins St James's Place London 1963 - Copyright: Robert M. Grant 1963 - Printed in Great Britain by Cox & Wyman Limited London, Fakenham and Reading - This edition prepared for katapi by Paul Ingram 2003.

PART III: New Testament History and Theology

Chapter 17. Christian Beginnings

| HOME | contents | << | christian beginnings | >> |

In the second part of our study, our intention was primarily literary. We endeavoured to examine the various New Testament books and to determine what literary analysis would tell us about them - although, almost inevitably, historical questions kept coming up. The third part will be devoted more specifically to these historical questions; we shall endeavour to find out what the New Testament books have to tell us about Christian origins and early Christian history.

There are, of course, two aspects to early Christian history.

  1. The history can be viewed as an 'inner' history, the story of the movement as it was regarded by early Christians themselves, without much correlation with the history of the world outside or, in other words, with the environment (political, social, cultural, etc.). To a considerable extent this way of looking at it results in a 'sacred history' (Heilsgeschichte) and often involves little more than simply reading a document such as Luke-Acts. Again, we might take the passages in the Pauline epistles in which we hear about the life and work of Jesus and add to them the passages in which we hear of the life and work of the apostle Paul. This would give us something like Paul's view of the history of early Christianity.
  2. The history can also be treated in relation to (a)   its background in the Graeco-Roman world and, especially, in (b)   the kinds of Judaism prevalent in Palestine and in the world outside Palestine.

By examining this relation we can then create a picture of early Christianity partly in its environment and partly against its environment. Such an environmental study can be viewed as related to history in general, to the history of ideas, and to the history of religion.

Ideally the first aspect should be studied first, so that we have some idea of what early Christianity was 'in itself' before treating its relations with other phenomena. On the other hand, Christian origins seem to become historically more meaningful when they are treated in relation to their background.

We shall therefore say something about the Graeco-Roman world (Chapter xvii) and Palestine in Graeco-Roman times (Chapter xviii) before turning to the life of Jesus (Chapter xix) and the early Church (Chapter xx).