Episco-Fact #105
September 6, 2018

The Rector is teaching a class called Christianity, the first three thousand years. Was Christianity not founded in in the first century C.E. (i.e. Common Era, formerly known as Anno Domini, meaning year of our Lord)?

The title of the Rector's class is an unashamed derivative of the work of Diarmaid MacCulloch, Fellow of St. Cross College and Lecturer at the University of Oxford, The History of Christianity: the First Three Thousand Years. The outline of MacCulloch's work serves as a base for the class, leavened by A History of the Christian Church, a modern classic by Williston Walker, Richard A. Norris (an Instructor of the Rector's at Seminary), David W. Lotz, and Robert T. Handy, and enriched by a whole host of other readings about the lives of Jesus, Paul, the Patristic Fathers and Mothers, and other readings.

More to the point, the religious, cultural, intellectual, and spiritual context that results in Christianity is a process that begins in the ancient history of Judaism and Hellenism circa 1000 BCE (Before the Common Era, formerly BC). It is out of this milieu that the of an independent people formed in the wilderness of Canaan and the independent people of the Peloponnese, with languages independent of each other but common to a small group of tribes in their respective locations that helped to define their understanding of themselves.

The paradox that they built into the respective understandings of God are the philosophical prime moving spirit of the Greeks and the eminent personal interaction of the God of the Jews. Both groups in some form understood that this God to be the God, for the Jews, the creator God, and for the Greeks, the Unknown God (Acts 17:23), but their natures are very different.

These understandings develop independently for about seven centuries, but by the time of Alexander the Great's conquests, Hellenistic culture begins to spread in the Mediterranean, Judaism absorbs thought processes and spiritual vocabulary. By the time of the Roman occupation of Palestine, 100 BCE, or so, Greek culture is deeply influential. At the same time, the Jewish persecution is reaching a point where rebellion is in the air when Jesus comes on the scene.

Interestingly, this Jewish sect, Christianity, is narrated in Greek, and after its early dissemination among Jews ultimately spreads to Greek speakers, along Roman roads, under Roman protection. Rome, may have been a Roman take on Hellenism, but it was a major adapter and user of Greek culture.

Moving forward from that first millennium, Rome's prominence in Western lands continues the philosophical, intellectual, and cultural developments of this hybrid faith.