redemption and need for future hope, and even the adequacy and inadequacy ofreligious language itselfto express truth.
Church and world. Early Christian discourse as we have come to know it is both worldly and other-worldly. The apostle Paul said 'the form of this world is passing away' even as he founded churches and spoke of 'laying a foundation' (1 Cor 7:31; 3:10-11). While some think it was Constantine who 'sold out' and transformed a counter-cultural church into an enfranchised political establishment,4 the relationship between Christians and the social order was from the start much more complex and mutually influencing. It was to remain so, with some figures fleeing the city for the desert,5 and others finding in the city the proper home for Christian life and vocation. The tension between living in this world and hoping for the next is reincarnated by Christians in each age, always impacted by the current political situation and events, and triggered by key figures, like the Montanists, who rekindle apocalyptic fervour for their times when it seems to have faded. This view is unfailingly greeted by a mixed response: some applaud them as the true faithful, others as extremist heretics.
Beginnings and endings, old and new. The earliest Christians sought to defend their faith as simultaneously very ancient, rooted in the prophets of Israel, and a novelty of cosmic divine revelation in recent times. Christian self-identity, rooted as it was in scriptures appropriated from the Jews, was then and always thereafter would be defined in relation to Jews and Judaism; though the parameters have continually changed, tragically the ancient mode of apologetic invective has been continually re-enacted in quite different historical epochs. The project of self-definition, in antiquity and beyond, has always involved the construction of beginnings, and a claim of unique or special fidelity to them. In that sense the present volume stands in a malleable relationship to the ones which follow. The complex analytical framework we have sought to provide here is an aggregate scholarly reconstruction of ancient events and developments. But, in the history of Christianity, this narrative has been written - in texts and in lives - in Christian communities in every time and place. Ancient Christianity provides the raw materials - Peter and Paul, Jerusalem and Rome, Alexandria and Antioch, martyrs and monks, bishops and prophets - that will be reconfigured and recast in the mosaic self-portraits of each generation to come in manifold ways.
4 Crossan, Jesus: a revolutionary biography, 201: 'Is it time now, or is it already too late, to conduct, religiously and theologically, ethically and morally, some basic cost accounting with Constantine?'
5 Brown, Body and society.
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