Introduction to Early Christianity

Early Christianity

Early Christianity had a profound impact on the development of Western civilization. The first few centuries of the Christian movement were dynamic and turbulent. Understanding its origins helps us trace the evolution of religious thought, social structures, and cultural beliefs that continue to shape our world. The New Testament is a central text for billions worldwide. Studying the historical context in which it emerged fosters a deeper and more nuanced understanding of its contents, messages, and continued interpretation.

Studying the challenges and complexities faced by early Christians can ignite questions and gain insight about personal faith, beliefs, and values. However, class attendees should remember that

  • Complexity: Early Christianity wasn’t monolithic. Various Christian groups competed with different beliefs and practices. Acknowledging this diversity from the outset is crucial.
  • Sources: Reliance on biased historical sources is a challenge. Scholars carefully assess textual accounts alongside archaeological evidence for well-rounded perspectives.
  • Modern Lens: Interpreting ancient history through a contemporary lens risks distortion. It’s vital to contextualize early Christian beliefs and practices within their own time and social world, avoiding the trap of imposing modern assumptions.

Attendees are encouraged to review extra readings for fuller explanations and understanding.  While each discussion has a suggested list of books to peruse, they tend to be academic. For an easier and more understandable read, Father Melton’s book recommendations may be a better choice.

Links to videos, articles, maps and charts are provided but should be viewed as opinions, justified or not.

Ten Week Curriculum

Discussion One: Against All OddsJewish Society, Economy, Culture, Demographics, and Politics Before Christ. ((Week One)

Understanding the environment at the time of Christ is important to understand the attraction, organization, issues, and evolution of the Christian doctrine and organization.

Discussion Two: An Unexpected Messiah – Jesus Christ Ministery (Weeks Two and Three)

The appearance of Jesus of Nazareth – the “Messiah” – and his three-year ministry, including discussion of the Historical and Biblical Identities

DiscussionThree: An Unlikely Messenger – Paul the Apostle (Weeks Four and Five)

The conversion of Saul of Tarsus, his missions, and Letters

Discussion Four: Gaining a Foothold – First Century Church (Week Six)

The leaders of the early Church: Persecution, Orthodoxy, Structure

Discussion Five: Persecutors, Martyrs & Apologists (Weeks Seven and Eight)

Persecutions ramp up as evil rumors abound in Empire, Church Apologists and New Heresies

Discussion Six: Finding the Truth – Orthodoxy and Scripture (Weeks Nine and Ten)

Appearance of Christian Creeds, Organization Structure. Definition of the Trinity