To read more about life in the Roman Empire for both Christians and pagans, check out Peter Brown, The World of Late Antiquity, AD 150–750 (1971), Late Antiquity (1998), and Poverty and Leadership in the Later Roman Empire (2002); Ronald F. Hock, The Social Context of Paul’s Ministry (1980); Wayne Meeks, The First Urban Christians (1983); Florence Dupont, Daily Life in Ancient Rome (1993); Gregory S. Aldrete, Daily Life in the Roman City (2004); James W. Ermatinger, Daily Life of Christians in Ancient Rome (2006); Thomas Oden, How Africa Shaped the Christian Mind (2007); L. de Ligt and S. J. Northwood, eds., People, Land, and Politics (2008); and Kyle Harper, The Fate of Rome (2017).
For more on the growth and development of Christianity, look at Peter Brown, Augustine of Hippo (1967, 2000), Power and Persuasion in Late Antiquity (1992), The Rise of Western Christendom (1995, 2002), Religion and Society in the Age of St. Augustine (1972, 2007), and Through the Eye of a Needle (2012); Rex Butler, The New Prophecy and “New Visions” (2006); Rodney Stark, The Rise of Christianity (1996), Cities of God (2006), and The Triumph of Christianity (2011); and Alan Kreider, The Patient Ferment of the Early Church (2016).
Christians engaged in charity to their neighbors figure in Ronald Numbers and Darrel Amundsen, Caring and Curing (1986); Darrel Amundsen, Medicine, Society, and Faith in the Ancient and Medieval Worlds (1995); Gary Ferngren, Medicine and Health Care in Early Christianity (2009) and Medicine and Religion (2014); Peter Brown, The Ransom of the Soul (2015) and Treasure in Heaven (2016); and Helen Rhee, Loving the Poor, Saving the Rich (2012) and Wealth, Poverty, and Early Christianity (2017).
For Christians in art and architecture, see John Beckwith, Early Christian and Byzantine Art (1970); Cyril Mango, Art of the Byzantine Empire 312–1453 (1972); John Lowden, Early Christian and Byzantine Art (1997); Linda Safran, ed., Heaven on Earth (1998); and Allan Doig, Liturgy and Architecture from the Early Church to the Middle Ages (2008).
And for relations between church and state in the Roman Empire, read Sidney Ehler, Twenty Centuries of Church and State (1957); Roland Bainton, Christian Attitudes toward War and Peace (1960); Agnes Cunningham, The Early Church and the State (1982); and Hugo Rahner, Church and State in Early Christianity (2006).
It’s worth reading some important reference works about the early church that illumine its context: the Encyclopedia of Early Christianity edited by Everett Ferguson (1990); and the Historical Atlas of Ancient Christianity (2014) and Encyclopedia of Ancient Christianity (2013) edited by Angelo Di Berardino. The Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, The Ancient Christian Doctrine, and The Ancient Christian Text series are excellent references edited by Tom Oden and/or Gerald Bray.
Finally you can hear from some leaders promoting modern civic engagement in Andy Crouch, Culture Making (2008); William Droel, Church, Chicago-Style (2008); Amy Sherman, Kingdom Calling (2011); Miroslav Volf, A Public Faith (2011); Timothy Keller, Center Church (2012); Steven Garber, Visions of Vocation (2014); Peter Greer and Chris Horst, Entrepreneurship for Human Flourishing (2014) and Rod Dreher, The Benedict Option (2017).
Christian History on the early church
Read these past issues of Christian History online; some hard copies are still available for purchase:
• 17: Women in the Early Church
• 27: Persecution
• 37: Worship
• 51: Heresy
• 57: Early Church Growth
• 64: Desert Fathers
• 80: First Bible Teachers
• 85: Council of Nicaea
• 94: Building the City of God
• 96: The Gnostics
• 105: Christianity in Early Africa
Videos from Vision Video
Videos on the theme of this issue include The Apocalypse, Augustine, Crossing Rome, Exploring Ephesus, In the Footsteps of St. Peter, History of Christian Worship, Paul the Apostle, Paul the Emissary, Perpetua, Pioneers of the Spirit: Augustine of Hippo, Polycarp, Restless Heart, The Story of the Twelve Apostles, Trial and Testimony of the Early Church, and Torchlighters episodes on Augustine and Perpetua.
The Fordham Ancient History Sourcebook and the Christian Classics Ethereal Library are, as always, great sources for primary texts discussed in this issue. Early Christian Writings focuses on texts from both orthodox Christianity and other varieties of belief up to the Council of Nicaea. The Center for Early African Christianity has timelines, maps, and other resources, and Bibliographies for Theology by William Harmless gives many suggestions for further reading on the early church. There are also extensive sites devoted specifically to Tertullian and Augustine.
PBS has a good introductory site on the Roman Empire in the first century, and you may also want to look at the Illustrated History of the Roman Empire. The BBC Bitesize guide to ancient Rome is great for kids.
This article is from Christian History magazine #124 Faith in the City. Read it in context here!
By the editors
[Christian History originally published this article in Christian History Issue #124 in 2017]
How they love one another
An excerpt from Tertullian's ApologyTertullian
The Epistle to Diognetus describes the extraordinary character of early ChristiansUnknown
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fruitcakes, red eggs, jell-O, Christian fish, and communion machinesThanks to those who contributed tidbits, including Kristen Roth Allen, Elesha Coffman, Suzanne Estelle-Holmer, Martha Manikas-Fo
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