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The evolution of early Christianity; a…
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The evolution of early Christianity; a genetic study of first-century…

by Shirley Jackson Case

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Shirley Jackson Case (1872-1947) was a Liberal church historian, born in Canada, he studied theology at Yale. From 1908 to 1938 he taught NT and early church history at the University of Chicago Divinity School, and became dean there in 1933. He once remarked he was “born a liberal” and he contributed much to the development of the liberal “Chicago School” of theology. He spurned "atheism", and also rejected the supernatural element in Christian belief. Much of his work attempts to explain the development of Christianity in terms of natural environmental influences. Among Case's many books are The Evolution of Early Christianity (1914), Jesus-A New Biography (1927), Bibliographical Guide to the History of Christianity (1931), and The Christian Philosophy of History (1943).

In "Evolution of Early Christianity", the author describes the work as a "Genetic Study". That phrase referred more broadly to environmental relationships in his pre-gene-splicing generation. As explained by his Introduction, and in discussing "ideas", Case apparently refers to a method which largely overlooks the territorial, doctrinal, ecclesiastical, and literary developments of early Christianity, and seeks instead "to analyze and interpret the environmental forces which stimulated, nourished, or directed the growth of the new religion."

Case further claims to center his interest "mainly in the lives of actual persons whose activities were related to a specific setting within which they worked out their various problems." However, this work not simply a series of individual biographies. It does deal primarily with the origins of the Christian movement and does not jump into the weeds with the writings which the movement produced, sporadically and sometimes quite incidentally, in the process of expansion.

The "Religious Environment" is beautifully and fairly presented. Details concerning the Judaic and Hellenic influences, and the dynamic Roman pagan catholicism, are included. However, Case notes that "there are no books treating the Hellenistic environment of the early Christians in the same comprehensive way that Schurer and numerous other writers expound the Jewish setting". [vii] He notes that resources "vast in extent" of Greek and Latin authors, inscriptions, and papyri remain to be explored. ( )
  keylawk | Aug 6, 2016 |
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