Early Christian Literature
Christ and Culture in the Second and Third Centuries
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Christians in the formative period of their religion, from the mid first to early third centuries, sought new ways of relating their lives to the dominant society that surrounded them. As doctrine and practice became established, hostility from the wider world was often extreme and Christians used many literary forms to strengthen their own self-definition. Prominent among these were the Apologies as well as the semi-fictional Apocryphal Acts and Martyr Acts. These forms used the existing literary patterns of Greco-Roman society to present distinctively Christian ideas, attitudes, and adventures.
In this thoroughgoing study, Helen Rhee shows how the forms of classical fiction were adapted to present the superiority of Christian monotheism, the superiority of Christian sexual morality, and Christian (dis)loyalty to the Empire. These propagandistic writings shaped the theological, moral, and political trajectories of Christian faith and contributed largely to the definition of orthodoxy.
This outstanding work of scholarship explores issues of cultural identity in an area which has hitherto lacked definition. In clear prose the author presents arguments that will be of equal interest to the student of early Christianity and of Greco-Roman literary culture and civilization.
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