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THE purpose of the following pages is to describe and briefly to discuss the attitude of Jesus and his followers in the period preceding the Constantinian settlement-towards the non-Christian society around them, more particularly in its political aspect. This attitude can be adequately investigated only by a more or less complete examination of the literary documents which remain to us from the period in question. In the presence of so vast a mass of material, some method of our own must be devised for the arrangement of the available information, despite the risks of misrepresentation incurred by imposing the stamp of a modern schematism upon that which presents all the variety and spontaneity of a natural growth. In order that the multifarious figures of the countless trees may not make our plan of the forest obscure and confused, we must have some systematic method of making our survey. What we want to do is to trace the development of Christian thought during the successive stages of the Church's history; and this perhaps can best be done by piecing together the thoughts expressed in the course of each stage, and building them up into a broad picture of the Christian attitude at that time. This involves, firstly, the division of the whole period into a number of suitable chronological sections, and secondly, the formulation of a general plan for the presentation of the material available for each section.
In regard to the former point, there is need that these chronological divisions be not too numerous, lest the reader be confused by the multiplicity of similar pictures successively presented to him there is also need that they be not too few to enable him to trace the actual changes wrought by the lapse of time. Most modern writings on the pre-Constantinian Church either treat the whole period (including or excluding that of the New Testament)
almost as a unity, grouping the material primarily around subjects rather than within subdivisions of time, or else they take up the patristic writers one after another in chronological sequence, thus doing full justice to the individuality of the writers, but producing a very large number of small and often strikingly similar sections. The divisions adopted in the ensuing pages, as detailed in the Table of Contents, form, it is submitted, a fairly convenient and reasonable scheme for the treatment of the subject in hand. The dates separating one division from another, while not exempt from that element of arbitrariness which characterizes all that breaks the continuity of history, are not without significance as marking in a rough way the commencement and termination of various pertinent factors and tendencies.2
In regard to the arrangement of the material within each timesection, the difficulty of attaining clearness and the risk of misrepresentation are considerable. For purposes of comparison, the same general scheme has been adopted for all sections, though this inevitably means that the contents of one section will, in many respects, be painfully like those of the sections that precede and follow it. For the details of this scheme, reference may again be made to the Table of Contents. The drawbacks of the plan are unmistakable; but perhaps the same would have to be said of any plan, and compensating advantages may be hoped for. may be done, by a faithful quotation of our sources, to guard against the danger of misrepresenting them; and the ennui of hearing an oft-told tale may be somewhat relieved by the variety of the personalities who tell it.
Within the limits of each time-section, it seemed desirable that there should be no further chronological or other subdivision, apart from the orderly grouping of the subject-matter itself. That is why Paul is not treated separately from his contemporaries, nor Eastern from Western Christianity, nor canonical from uncanonical writings, nor Jewish Christianity from Catholic. Important as
1 An instance of the former method is Harnack's Mission and Expansion of Christianity; of the latter, Luthardt's History of Christian Ethics.
2 Cf. the similar landmarks recognized by Harnack (ME ii. 335f).
these distinctions are, they have, in the interests of simplicity and clearness, been held subordinate to the main fundamenta divisionis.
While it is important that we should know the date and authorship of each literary product of the period with which we are dealing, it will be easily observable that the method by which we intend to proceed enables us to sit loose to all the nicer questions of literary criticism. Our primary object is to sound the mind of Christendom as a whole during each successive sub-period. Comparatively few of the documents before us are of such uncertain date that we cannot place them with confidence in one or other of our sections; and of these few, scarcely one contains matter-or represents an attitude of a striking or peculiar kind. With the great bulk of our materials, very little turns on the solution of the literary difficulties connected with them. In doubtful cases I have had to take the liberty of assuming what seemed a reasonable and wellsupported view, even where the opinions of leading scholars are still far from unanimous. I have prefixed to each section a brief note on the literature that applies to it. In collecting the materials, I have endeavoured to examine the whole of the Christian literature of the period, so far as it was possible and practicable to do so. This last-named condition has meant that certain omissions had to be accepted. I have not, for instance, worked through the whole of the Commentaries and Homilies of Origenes; nor have I attempted to incorporate every pertinent passage in the Apocryphal Gospels and Acts. Nor can I claim to have obtained access to many minor fragments of uncertain date and authorship referred to up and down our great histories of Christian literature. Subject to these limitations, I have tried to base my results on a fresh and personal study of the whole of the available data.
I have not made any attempt to delineate the Jewish and Gentile antecedents and parallels to the various ideas that make their appearance in Christianity. Not that such comparisons are unimportant or uninteresting: on the contrary, for the thorough understanding of Christian thought on any subject, a comparison with non-Christian ideas may be said to be a necessity; and most works bearing on Christian ethics (e.g. Schmidt, Lecky, and Uhlhorn) provide the reader accordingly with the materials
necessary for making such a comparison. It is, in fact, because in these and other works the thoughts of the non-Christian world have been so thoroughly and adequately treated as well as because the space at my disposal (not to mention my capability for such a task) was subject to severe limits-that, beyond a few casual allusions and references to other literature, I have not added Jewish, Hellenic, or Roman parallels to my account of the products of Christian thought and feeling.
If the question be asked why the plea of adequate treatment elsewhere, if it excuses one from the task of describing non-Christian ideas, does not likewise render the fresh description of Christian ideas a superfluity, one can reply only that hitherto the subject. before us has not, as a matter of fact, received the special and thorough attention it deserves. It enters, indeed, to some extent into most of the recognized studies concerned with the Christianity of the period it would, for instance, be impossible to treat of the history of the Church or of Christian ethics or doctrine or even of Christian literature, without trenching, to a greater or less degree, on the Christian attitude to the world that lay beyond the pale of the Church. Hence my great indebtedness to the work of scholars in these various fields. At the same time, I have been able to discover no work wholly devoted to this particular subject and at the same time aiming at a complete treatment of it. Harnack's Mission and Expansion of Christianity touches, in a remarkably full and scholarly way, on most of the topics investigated in the following pages; but the pertinent passages in it are not collected or arranged on the principle that will have to guide our study, and they occur amid a vast amount of extraneous material. Other books, like Harnack's Militia Christi, De Jong's Dienstweigering bij de oude Christenen, Weinel's Die Stellung des Urchristentums zum Staat, and Bigelmair's Die Beteiligung der Christen am öffentlichen Leben in vorkonstantinischer Zeit, deal with subjects that lie in their entirety within the scope of the topic before us; but none of them, not even that of Bigelmair, aims at covering the whole ground; while dealing fully with the question in its practical bearings, the last-named author is but slightly concerned with the more abstract questions that gather around the Christian view of paganism.
The present undertaking may therefore claim to be a venture upon new lines into the field of early Christian studies. At the same time, my indebtedness to the work of others has necessarily been great. In a field of knowledge that has been so thoroughly worked as the New Testament and the history of the early Church, one can hardly take up a single question that has not been already handled by competent scholars. To focus in the following pages anything like the complete results of expert investigation on every pertinent topic would have been beyond my powers. All I have attempted to do has been to consult the best recent works, which bear more or less directly on the chief topics I have undertaken to handle. The footnotes will bear witness to the extent of my indebtedness in this respect.
It remains to touch upon one or two points of detail. It has often been difficult to decide how much of the material ought to be transcribed in the original in footnotes, how much translated and embodied in the text, and how much adduced with bare references. The original has been transcribed wherever it was felt that the importance of the subject-matter or the risk of misrepresentation demanded it and space permitted: I have usually followed in transcriptions the spelling of the edition I happened to be quoting from: hence some variation in Greek and Latin styles. Words inserted in translations in order to bring out the sense are enclosed within round brackets. The references in the footnotes are put in as brief a form as possible, with the object of saving space; and the reader is referred to pages xxxiii-li for fuller details.
I am cherishing the hope that my esteemed critics will not give themselves the trouble of chastising me too lengthily for my unconventional spelling of certain proper names. The matter cannot be fully discussed here; but I can assure them that I have not been actuated by any perverse desire to differ from others, but
1 Cf. the remarks of K. J. Neumann (SK v: "Dagegen habe ich mich bei der Beantwortung der Frage, wie die Kirche sich zum Staate und zur Welt gestellt hat, auf Vorarbeiten kaum stützen können ") and H. Weinel, (SUS 2: "Wie der Staat sich zu dem jungen Christentum stellte und wie er es empfand, das ist . . . klar geworden. . . . Die Empfindungen und Gedanken der Gegenseite, der Christen dem Staat gegenüber, sind viel weniger scharf erkannt").