The Church in Ancient Society provides a full and enjoyable narrative history of the first six centuries of the Christian Church. Ancient Greek and Roman society had many gods and an addiction to astrology and divination. This introduction to the period traces the process by which Christianity changed this and so provided a foundation for the modern world: the teaching of Jesus created a lasting community, which grew to command the allegiance of the Roman emperor. Christianity is discussed in relation to how it appeared to both Jews and pagans, and how its Christian doctrine and practice were shaped in relation to Graeco-Roman culture and the Jewish matrix. Among the major figures discussed are Tertullian, Clement of Alexandria, Origen, Constantine, Julian the Apostate, Basil, Ambrose, and Augustine. Following a chronological approach, Henry Chadwick's clear exposition of important texts and theological debates in their historical context is unrivalled in detail. In particular, theological and ecclesial texts are examined in relation to the behaviour and beliefs of people who attended churches and synagogues.
Christians did not find agreement and unity easy and the author displays a distinctive concern for the factors - theological, personal, and political - which caused division in the church and prevented reconciliation. The emperors, however, began to foster unity for political reasons and to choose monotheism. Finally, the Church captured the society.
Henry Chadwick is Emeritus Regius Professor of Divinity at the University of Cambridge