Thursday, September 14, 2006

Issues in the Study of Early Christianity

This evening I've been browsing over Gerd Luedemann, Primitive Christianity: A Survey of Recent Studies and Some New Proposals (London: Continuum, 2003) and it has got me thinking about the field of study itself.

First, what should the discipline be called:

1. New Testament History
2. Christian Origins
3. Primitive Christianity
4. Urchristentum
5. Beginnings/Anfängen of Christianity

Are these terms synonymous or are we talking about different fields? Is NT History limited to the NT canon while Christian Origins is broader?

Second, what is the content of this discipline, is it Theologiegeschichte (theological history), Religionsgeschchte (religious history), Literarischegeschichte(literary history), or Sozialgeschicte (social history). Does it have to be only one and how do these sciences interact?

Third, what is the terminus for a study of early Christianity: 70 AD, 100 AD, the death of Ignatius, the time of Justin Martyr, Constantine - is there a clear end point which marks the transition from "early Christianity" to "early church history"?

1 comment:

James Crossley said...

I'm not usually that bothered about labels but isn't NT History a bit misleading? A history of the NT text would be a fairly literal understanding, I suppose.

As for the content (why use German by the way?), theological history is dominant and there are obvious overlaps with religious history and literary history. I would want to add a more conventional history, though grounded in social history, involving why things changed and happened, away from descriptive history. I'm just not sure there's too much of that around in the historical study of Christian origins.