The chapters in this volume of the Cambridge History of Christianity present the 'golden age' of patristic Christianity. After episodes of persecution by the Roman government, Christianity emerged as a licit religion enjoying imperial patronage and eventually became the favoured religion of the empire. It was during this period (c. 300-600) that the so-called Great Church emerges in the midst, as it were, of a great and vibrant flourishing of Christianities; the stories of the Great Church, the anonymous masses within it and indeed the countless numbers beyond it are retold in these pages.
Christianity was rapidly transformed during this period, and these transformations will be considered under several headings; artistic (ch. 29), cultural (chs. 12, 26-8), inter-religious (chs. 5,1-11), literary (ch. 13), philosophical (chs. 10,18-19), political (chs. 14-17), social (chs. 6-9,17,20-5) and, of course, theological aspects (chs. 18-20) are specifically considered. This coverage is in keeping with the multidisciplinary character of modern research into this time period, widely known now as 'late antiquity'. Accordingly, chapters in the book have been contributed by specialists in doctrinal theology, historical theology, social history, art history, liturgics, archaeology, philosophy, comparative religion, and philology.
Also in keeping with contemporary standards in the study of late ancient Christianity, the presentation in this volume moves away from simple dichotomies and reductive schematisations (e.g., 'heresy v. orthodoxy') and toward an inclusive description of the diverse practices and theories that made up Christianity during the period under consideration. Our coverage of Christianity therefore aims at inclusiveness insofar as surviving evidence allows (and, again, the wide range of expertise among the contributors promotes the consideration of correspondingly broad-based evidence). Thus, while proportional attention is given to the emergence of the Great Church within the Roman empire, other topics are also treated - such as divergent beliefs and
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