Birth of a Worldview, a Review

analytical Essay
1392 words
1392 words

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...

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...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.

In this essay, the author

  • Analyzes the development of christianity in the early period of its formation and how it related to the jewish and pagan (roman) religions throughout its development in early times.
  • Explains that the first chapter, christians and the roman world, examines the historical development of christianity in its first few hundred years of existence.
  • Explains that roman emperor decius forced christians to offer animal sacrifices to the roman gods for the well-being of the empire.
  • Explains that the edict of milan promoted acceptance of all religions and pagan practices were tolerated throughout much of the fourth century.
  • Explains that cosmos: the quest for order looks at the development of cosmology as it related to christianity during the religion's early years.
  • Explains that the stoic contribution to christian theology was primarily with the concept of logos, or word, which is used in the gospel of john to refer to the word of god. plato contributed the idea of an incorporeal mind or soul
  • Analyzes how plotinus spoke of something he called "the one" from which everything else in the universe originated. while greek philosophers like plato lived in mostly pagan times, their ideas seem interrelated with the concepts behind a monotheistic religion.
  • Explains that galen believed in the existence of a creator, while christians and jews believe that god created the material and fashioned it.
  • Explains that jews in the roman empire examines the growing separation between jews and christians as christian thought became more and more separated from its jewish roots as christianity developed.
  • Analyzes how christianity began to move away from judaism, citing justin martyr's "devastatingly hostile attack against the jews" and melito of sardis' "god-killers."
  • Analyzes how the first steps: articulating alienation addresses the development of an ambivalent christian worldview amidst the greco-roman and jewish traditions in which it developed.
  • Quotes epiphanius, a fourth-century bishop, who argued that the hebrew mosaic law should be followed precisely. since christ followed the law as jew, so should christians.
  • Analyzes how marcion, the son of a christian bishop, denounced mosaic law using the polemical statements of paul as his basis for his ideas. he also found what he felt were logical contradictions in the concept of god.
  • Explains that at this time in christianity, there was no official "canon" that was recognized by all christians. bishop irenaeus argued that there were only four authoritative gospels.
  • Explains that the next theologian examined by doran is valentinus, who emphasized that jesus dying on the cross was the important saving act for humanity.
  • Explains that doran discusses christian rituals and social practices. the concept of marriage and the propagation of the species was an important one.
  • Explains that the fifth chapter is called the source of power. the "power" refers to the power of jesus christ and its origins and nature from a theological perspective.
  • Explains that theodotus believed that jesus was born a normal human and did not receive the divine power of christ until his baptism.
  • Argues that noetus argued that god was both the father and the son and that they were one. pope callistus agreed with this view and denounced others such as hippolyt
  • Analyzes doran's analysis of the concept of good and evil, and the attempts by early christians to answer the question of why evil exists.
  • Opines that christians should consider their lives on earth as a "training ground" for the afterlife in god's kingdom. origen saw the body as being unclean with sin from the moment of birth.
  • Analyzes how the final chapter, "neither male nor female," examines the role of women in the early christian church.
  • Explains that the involvement of women in the early christian church was limited. pope gelasius complained that women were exercising liturgical functions that properly pertained to the male sex.
  • Opines that doran's birth of a worldview is an excellent introduction to early christianity.

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