Birth of a Worldview, a Review

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In Birth of a Worldview: Early Christianity in its Jewish and Pagan Context, Robert Doran attempts to analyze the development of Christianity in the early period of its formation and how it related to the Jewish and the pagan (Roman) religions throughout its development in early times. The text begins with a historical outline of the development of the early Christian world and then delves into a more theological analysis in the latter portions. The development of the book mirrors the development of Christianity itself, which was focused early on with finding ways to worship and expand the faith in a world that was very anti-Christian. Once it had become more accepted throughout the world, Christian writing and thought about theological matters flourished as a result. The first chapter, Christians and the Roman World, examines the historical development of Christianity in its first few hundred years of existence. Before Constantine, Christians were heavily persecuted by the Roman empire and martyrdom was common. Non-Christian Romans saw the Christians as "bringing the displeasure and disfavor of the gods on their cities" (Doran 9.) This persecution became very intense during the third century as Rome was frequently at war and its emperors sought to improve their favor with the gods by denouncing those who did not believe in their gods. The emperor Decius, who ruled from 248 until 251, forced Christians to offer animal sacrifices to the Roman gods for the well-being of the empire. While many of the wealthier Christians simply offered bribes in place of this sacrifice, many of the poorer ones had no choice. In the year 313, Constantine then issued the Edict of Milan which resulted in state acceptance of the C... ... middle of paper ... ...ained that women were exercising liturgical functions that properly pertained to the male sex" (147.) Another writing which is not part of the canon is the Gospel of Thomas, which states that "every female who will make herself male shall enter the kingdom of Heaven" (149.) Doran's book, Birth of a Worldview, while dense reading at times, presents a well-balanced view of the various issues involved in the growth of early Christianity and the different viewpoints held by the theologians of the time. A more expanded explanation of many of the concepts would probably assist a reader who is not well-versed in Christian theology or in early Christian history, for that matter, for the book is only 158 pages and seems to gloss over many concepts. However, the book is an excellent introduction to early Christianity from both a theological and historical perspective.
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