English 233: Introduction to Western Humanities -- Baroque & Enlightenment
Study Guide on early Christianity (before Augustine)
Our reading on this topic is Matthews and Platt, The Western Humanities (3rd Edition), pp. 144-7. (The sections are titled "The Life of Jesus Christ and the New Testament," "Christians and Jews," and "Christianity and Greco-Roman Religions and Philosophies.") Our purpose in taking this up this set of readings is to acquaint ourselves with certain beliefs, episodes and theological concepts that play an important role in Saint Augustine's picture of universal history. You might want to print off a copy of this Study Guide and use it to take notes on as you work through the reading. You will achieve a better understanding if you try to put things in your own words. Your notes will also serve as a convenient source for review as examination time approaches.
Theological concepts that are integral to Augustine's picture of universal history
- Something to think about: What are some features of the Christian message that caused them to use this term to describe it?
- What are the "synoptic gospels"?
- Why are they called this?
- Which gospel is not one of the "synoptic" gospels?
- Why not?
- What important disputes among early Christians show up in the synoptic gospels?
- Something to think about: How does one of these eventually become the basis for the doctrine of the Apostolic Succession that the Catholic Church relies upon in maintaining the authority of the pope?
- What does one of these have to do with the Christian habit of referring to the Hebrew Bible as the "Old Testament"?
- Something to think about: How was it decided what belonged to the canon and what did not? Who decided? How did they know? What do you think?
- When was the Jewish canon decided upon? (Cf. WH, p. 139.)
Episodes in the history of early Christianity that play an important role in Augustine's picture of universal history
- Luke's account of the conversion of Saul of Tarsus (into person eventually known as "Saint Paul the Apostle") is to be found in Acts 9:1-31. Notice how this is understood as an instance of advent.
- Something to consider: Suppose this had never occurred. What else would not have happened (unless of course it were accomplished in some other fashion)?
- For example: would Augustine's life have taken the course it did, some 3 centuries later?
- What would you expect Augustine to understand as the providential role of this episode in universal history? (What larger purpose was God accomplishing in bringing about the conversion of Paul?)
- Something to think about: Why would anyone who is not a Christian feel inclined to protest this scheme of dating (except as an arbitrary convention of convience)?
Relations between Jews and Christians in the early Christian era
Relations between early Christianity and Greco-Roman Religions and Philosophies