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Fb2 The Origins of Christian Morality: The First Two Centuries ePub

by Wayne A. Meeks

Category: World
Subcategory: History books
Author: Wayne A. Meeks
ISBN: 0300065132
ISBN13: 978-0300065138
Language: English
Publisher: Yale University Press (September 27, 1995)
Pages: 285
Fb2 eBook: 1341 kb
ePub eBook: 1339 kb
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This book thus sketches out what happened during the first two centuries of Christianity.

This book thus sketches out what happened during the first two centuries of Christianity. In what can only be called an ethnography of Christianity, Meeks traces out the beginnings of an intricate fabric of perceptions, beliefs, rituals, practices and interpretations that, over two millennia have come to be what we now recognize as Christian morality. In this, the follow-up volume, & Origins of Christian Morality' explores the deepening development of community and identity of these early Christians as they worked to remain a faithful remnant in a sometimes-hostile world.

Meeks finds that for these Christians, the formation of morals means the formation of community . Yet something more than mere curiosity about an ancient puzzle draws our attention to the first centuries of Christian history.

Meeks finds that for these Christians, the formation of morals means the formation of community; the documents are addressed not to individuals but to groups, and they have among their primary aims the maintenance and growth of these groups. Meeks paints a picture of the process of socialization that produced the early forms of Christian morality, discussing many factors that made the Christians feel that they were a single and "chosen" people.

Christian moral practice took a number of shapes, some of which were quite simply lists of dos and don’ts, while others included gnomes (gnomia in Greek, sententiae in Latin) which were collected aphorisms or witty maxims. I really took a lot away from this book, and would recommend it to anyone who is interested in the first two centuries of Christian ethics, especially with an emphasis on the development of moral communities. It’s a scholarly book, with no hint of an agenda that we usually associate with books on subjects like this.

Wayne A. Meeks examines the surviving documents from Christianity's . This book began as a series of lectures given by Prof. Meeks at Oxford, in 1990 and 1991, with some earlier lecture material included

Wayne A. Meeks examines the surviving documents from Christianity's beginnings (some of which became the New Testament) and shows that they are largely concerned with the way converts to the movement should behave. Traces development of morality of early Christian community as differentiated from surrounding soiciety and based on Scripture and Church writing Читать весь отзыв. Meeks at Oxford, in 1990 and 1991, with some earlier lecture material included Читать весь отзыв.

Constructing the moralities and ethical sensibilities of people is always difficult, especially when you're at a remove of about twenty centuries, yet this is what Wayne Meeks, Woolsey Professor of Biblical Studies at Yale University, does in "The Origins of Christian Morality: The First Two Centuries. Some of the things Meeks looks at won't surprise people, but the depth and breadth of the readings that he can bring to the conversation is striking.

Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1995. J. Berkman - 1997 - Studies in Christian Ethics 10 (2):120-123. San Francisco: HarperCollins (Edinburgh: T&T Clark), 1996.

Wayne Meeks, continuing his important work on the origins of early Christianity, here . Picking up the story after the death of Jesus, he explores how it was that Christian morality developed in the first two centuries.

Wayne Meeks, continuing his important work on the origins of early Christianity, here moves to the second stage of such formation. Meeks approaches his subject in several noteworthy ways.

Meeks, Wayne A. Bibliographic Citation. The Moral World of the First Christians . Meeks, Wayne A. (1986). Related Items in Google Scholar. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1993.

By the time Christianity became a political and cultural force in the Roman Empire, it had come to embody a new moral vision. This wise and eloquent book describes the formative years―from the crucifixion of Jesus to the end of the second century of the common era―when Christian beliefs and practices shaped their unique moral order.Wayne A. Meeks examines the surviving documents from Christianity's beginnings (some of which became the New Testament) and shows that they are largely concerned with the way converts to the movement should behave. Meeks finds that for these Christians, the formation of morals means the formation of community; the documents are addressed not to individuals but to groups, and they have among their primary aims the maintenance and growth of these groups. Meeks paints a picture of the process of socialization that produced the early forms of Christian morality, discussing many factors that made the Christians feel that they were a single and "chosen" people. He describes, for example, the impact of conversion; the rapid spread of Christian household cult-associations in the cities of the Roman Empire; the language of Christian moral discourse as revealed in letters, testaments, and "moral stories"; the rituals, meetings, and institutionalization of charity; the Christians' feelings about celibacy, sex, and gender roles; and their sense of the end-time and final judgment. In each of these areas Meeks seeks to determine what is distinctive about the Christian viewpoint and what is similar to the moral components of Greco-Roman or Jewish thought.
Comments to eBook The Origins of Christian Morality: The First Two Centuries
Burirus
One of the best works on early Christian views on morals.
Adoranin
book came as promoted by the bookstore.
Nkeiy
Fascinating reading for those interested in how Christian morality developed in the early centuries.
Billy Granson
Wayne Meeks weaves together here a stunningly beautiful analytic framework that makes use of the theoretical thrust of one of my intellectual heroes, Anthropologist Clifford Geertz: It is that morality is primarily a cultural affair that grows out of the "thick descriptions" of the ethos of particular communities. Therefore, to understand large heavily freighted concepts like morality requires understanding the framework of interpretative complexity of the ethno-cultural concerns of the groups that surrounds them. The group in question in this case is early Christians. This book thus sketches out what happened during the first two centuries of Christianity. In what can only be called an ethnography of Christianity, Meeks traces out the beginnings of an intricate fabric of perceptions, beliefs, rituals, practices and interpretations that, over two millennia have come to be what we now recognize as Christian morality.

While the author claims that his sketch is not in pursuit of a quest to discover "a system of principles" on which Christian ethics is based, it does indeed go a very long way towards that particular goal; and indeed what we have here certainly is a bit more than the author's modest self-description of just being "an exploration into moral notions."

For my own work, which is an analysis of why racism in America is so persistent, this analysis provides a robust set of training wheels, a "training template" as it were, since it too focuses on culture, ethnicity, and then morality - all key variables in any deep analysis of racism. A bonus in my case is that American racism occurs in an ostensible Christian culture.

Here we see a high-level professional theorist at work doing what he does best, analyzing how the language, symbols, rituals, political context and inner understandings of the early Christians came to become a moral system that has lasted for more than two millennia.

What I like most about this book is the care with which the author developed his analytic framework on the front end, and then allowed it to do all of the heavy lifting of his analysis, on the back end. By the time the reader has completed the very comprehensive and detailed introduction, he already knows that this book is going to be one seminal theoretical ride. And for me, that indeed was the case.

Even as an ex-Christian, I know the Christian story well: God's anointed son was shamefully crucified, but the shame was reversed by raising him from the dead and installing him as the "king of Kings" and Lord of the universe. This new movement spoke the language of myth and cultivated habits of good character that would eventually lead to habits of and a system of morality.

What was different about Christianity that made it a dominant force as the religious dust settled on the Roman Empire is this: Christians, for the first time with any religious sect, self-consciously saw themselves committed to a kind of behaviorial program that elevated themselves as well as humankind. It is often forgotten that the early Christians did not have a "book of ethics," or that "the ethics of the New Testament" came about much later. Their plan was based on "the best practices" extant in the cultures they were situated in at the time. It goes without saying that this cultural milieu was primarily Jewish, and even where it was not Jewish, it was heavily influenced by Jewish religious scholarship. Despite this the pro to-Christians were the first to render morality a self-conscious group enterprise connected to their behavior as a religious sect. For, as the author notes, biblical texts do not have ethics, only people do.

And therein lies the key: morality is not and has never been an individual enterprise, but a community enterprise acquired by the individual either through socialization or re-socialization. Christians were among the first religious sects to engage in re-socialization marked off by the single ritual of baptism. The purpose of baptism was the moral rebirth of a new convert.

The book closes with a summary of the seven theses covered in the penultimate chapter. Of these, Thesis 1 ("Making morals and making community are one dialectic process"); thesis 4 ("Faithfulness ought not to be confused with nostalgia"), and thesis 5, ("Christian Ethics must be polyphonous"), appear to me to be the most potent of the lot.

In the first instance, since no community is all good and can improve itself through dialogue, forging Christian morals is, per necessity, a dialectic process. Secondly, it is indeed a mistake to imagine that there was once a golden era of Christianity. Jesus did not arrive in Galilee with a fully formed Christian ethic, since there were only proto-Christians in existence at that time. But more importantly, it was also true because Christian morals (as did Christian unity), evolved through social coercion and by the process of trial and error over time. And finally, both Christian morals and Christian unity were the product of a kind of "common sense" that Geertz equates with constituting or with being coterminous with culture itself.

For Christians and non-Christians alike this treatise represents the best in scholarship of any kind, as well as the ring of truth. Five Stars
Ice_One_Guys
Wayne Meeks presented a brilliant work on the development of the earliest Christian communities during the apostolic and post-apostolic period, as Christianity took root in the ancient city setting of the Roman Empire, in his work `The First Urban Christians' (my review will be coming soon!). In this, the follow-up volume, `The Origins of Christian Morality' explores the deepening development of community and identity of these early Christians as they worked to remain a faithful remnant in a sometimes-hostile world. Meeks is the Woolsey Professor of Biblical Studies at Yale University, with a great deal of scholarly experience that he brings to the questions of the origins of Christian morality.
In this book, Meeks has presented `an ecology of moral notions'. This is not a guidebook to state in unambiguous terms questions of present-day moral questions. For reasons explained early, Meeks avoids that kind of question because the question can usually be framed by parameters that pre-suppose the answer.
Also, Meeks avoids the term `New Testament ethics' for some particular reasons. Firstly, the early church did not have a New Testament -- the collection of writings we have come to accept as the New Testament had not been collected and recognised as a single body of writings during the first, second and third centuries after the time of Christ, the time during which Christian views of morality were being formed.
Morality is also discussed, rather than ethics, because ethics tends to be a second-order reflection on morality. This is not what was occurring generally or primarily at this time.
In a unique feature, Meeks gives a brief summary, an almost Cliff-notes-lite, of each of the chapters in his Introduction. He traces his development chapter by chapter, highlighting each main point and its connection to the overall theme of the origins of Christian morality as well as the progression through sociology, politics, philosophy, and theology. Meeks admits to being less than systematic in approach, yet this is reflective of the subject. Christian morality did not evolve in a coherent and orderly fashion. It continues to be polyphonic to this day, with varying degrees of acceptance and intolerance by individuals and communities in the name of a 'purer' morality.
`Obviously there can be no community and no tradition if everything is permitted ('All things are lawful, but not all things build up'), and therefore there can be no community without some degree of coercion. Yet unity coerced is unstable ('For why is my freedom judged by a conscience not mine?')'
Unlike today, early Christianity was primarily a religion of converts. Today, most Christians of most denominations are born into the community of people and of thought. This was untrue in the time of the apostles, and continued to be untrue for several hundred years, even after Christianity became the religion of the establishment. Conversion was usually a social act, something done in public, and something that would have public consequences.
How the public Christian world-view intersects and coincides with the outside (some might say, secular) world has always been a problem, from these earliest times to the present (Augustine works with the idea, but only briefly, in his massive description of the City of God centuries after the period Meeks, investigates; H. Richard Niebuhr was still wrestling with the problem in the twentieth century).
There is a tendency to continue ancient heresies today without realising they are such. In his chapter `Loving and Hating the World', Meeks investigates some of the gnostic divisions (the material world is evil inherently, once declared a heresy but which continues to pop up in practical theology of various Catholic and Protestant thinkers). In the following chapter, `The Language of Obligation', Meeks presents lists of vices and virtues, commands, actions, and the way in which these concepts are dealt with, in the attribution of authority (or lack thereof) and the desirability/requirement of deliberate practice. Meeks states that no list is present as exhaustive in the positive or the negative -- even the sum total leaves important things out on both listing of virtue and vice. There is no definitive list for all early Christians. This made formulating a way of discovering right belief and practice all the more important.
In the chapter `History, Pluralism and Morality', Meeks outlines particular theses toward understanding the original concepts of Christian morality:
Thesis 1 -- Making morals and making community are one, dialectical process.
Thesis 2 -- A Christian moral community must be grounded in the past
Thesis 3 -- The church's rootage in Israel is a privileged dimension of its past.
Thesis 4 -- Faithfulness ought not be confused with nostalgia.
Thesis 5 -- Christian ethics must be polyphonic.
Thesis 6 -- Moral confidence, not moral certainty, is what we require.
Thesis 7 -- God tends to surprise.
There is no definitive ending to this book -- just as Christian belief and practice has continued to evolve, so to is it impossible to come to a definitive statement about all-encompassing Christian normative standards at any given point even near the beginnings of the religion, and particularly before the canon of the scriptures have been determined.
Perhaps Meeks' Theses 6 and 7 are the most important for us today. The determination of moral confidence with the understanding that God continues to act in our lives and in our world can both reassure and comfort us in the knowledge of God's love and protection, as well as the recognition that in a world in which people have been given freedom of action, God's own freedom can occasionally (or perhaps even frequently) surprise us.
Kuve
I read this cover to cover a few months ago. It felt like a highly interesting book about the Christian mystery-religion, rather than a study of morality. Don't pass this book by thinking it's about the narrow topic of morality. I'm only somewhat interested in the topic of the origins of Christian morality, but I didn't feel like this book was about morality.
Meeks' style of approach is not at all devotional, but rather, is an engaging and straightforward type of scholarship portraying the early mystic form of Christianity including social aspects.
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