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Stark's latest foray into Early Xty

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  • Rikk Watts
    Listers might be interested to learn of Rodney Stark s latest foray into the earliest centuries of the Christian movement. His Cities of God traces and seeks
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 28, 2006
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      Listers might be interested to learn of Rodney Stark's latest foray into the
      earliest centuries of the Christian movement. His Cities of God traces and
      seeks to explain the growth of the early church beginning in the East and
      moving West by taking root initially in the more Hellenized port cities. He
      argues:

      1. Paul's missionary activity, in spite of being characterized as directed
      to the Gentiles, was largely to Hellenized Jews, and probably had no
      significant impact on the rate of penetration overall. (He repeats his
      argument that the mission to the Jews was not unsuccessful with many "more
      Hellenized" Jews over the next several centuries being attracted to a
      version of their faith that enabled them to hold on to their ancestral
      scriptures with the added benefit of being less marginalized.)

      2. the earlier spread of Cybele and Isis cults in some measure prepared
      these same ports cities for otherwise unusual Christian ideas.

      3. that "Gnosticism"¬čthe name should be abandoned since it is so broad as to
      be next to useless¬činstead of being a more enlightened form of Xty was a
      disparate collection of marginal and largely insignificant groups or
      individuals that attempted to absorb aspects of Christianity into a largely
      pagan outlook. Where they have been tested the fathers have been remarkably
      accurate in their recounting of such beliefs and generally did not
      misrepresent them to suit an apologetic agenda. Given the beliefs attested
      in the canonical NT, of course such views would be regarded as heretical and
      it is therefore specious to accuse the church fathers of being intolerant.

      4. the oft-cited state-sponsored Christian suppression of paganism under
      Constantine and his successors is a myth. Those emperors regularly continued
      to appoint pagans to high positions, and were generally quite tolerant of
      paganism (there are a couple of minor exceptions, but nothing like pagan
      persecution of Xty) which eventually after a long and slow decline
      eventually faded away.

      5. Mithraism was never really a threat to Xty being found largely only among
      the military and primarily at the borders of the Empire.


      As always, a stimulating and provocative (and in this case short) read.

      Rikk Watts
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