never played one text off against the other and obviously never detected any contrast, let alone contradiction, between them. This confirms our point that the early church reflected on her relation with the 'state', if at all, in her own way, not in ours. Or, to give it a positive formulation: the first four centuries ce are the period during which the problem of the relation between 'church and state' has simply been detected, as a result of a long historical development.

Presuppositions of early Christian 'political' thinking

According to a strong and influential research tradition,2 there were mainly three concepts that were the basis for early Christian thinking as to 'church and state'. All three, it is said, can be traced back to current Hellenistic Jewish attitudes towards the Roman empire. As their main representatives, on the one hand, rank the Jewish philosopher Philo of Alexandria (c.25 BcE-40 ce),3 a great admirer of the Roman empire, especially of the emperor Augustus (as unifier of the human race and bringer of peace after a long period of civil wars), and, on the other, the apostle Paul, and his younger Jewish contemporary, Rabbi Hananiah. Paul and Hananiah shared the opinion that the empire is a God-given institution, destined to protect and discipline humanity; otherwise 'everybody would swallow his neighbour alive'.4 But there was also, according to this interpretive tradition, already in pre-Christian Judaism a third attitude. This attitude was much more revolutionary and hostile, or at least more critical, vis-a-vis the civil power than the aforementioned two. It is that of apocalyptic, as found e.g. in the book of Daniel,5 in the Jewish passages of the Sibyllines,6 and in the apocalypses of Ezra7 and of Baruch.8 Although to some extent overlapping, by and large, we are assured:

the categories stand, and it is interesting that the first, most favourable view ofthe empire should predominate almost immediately among the Christians in the Greek east. . . while Paulinist and eschatological (others would prefer to say apocalyptic) attitudes prevailed in Rome and the west.9

2 Cf.e.g. Harnack, Mission und Ausbreitung, esp. 272-81; Frend 'Church and state', esp. 42f.

3 Cf.e.g. Philo, Legat. 8-10,13, 147, 309-11, with Euseb. L.C. 5.1-5.

4 Pirqe avot 3.2.

5 Cf. Dan 2 (the vision ofthe four empires), Dan 6 (the story ofDaniel in the lion's den), or Dan 3 (the three holy children defying Nebuchadnezar in the fiery furnace).

8 Apocalypse of Baruch (also known as 3 Baruch) 40:1-2.

Was this article helpful?

0 0

Post a comment