The following is the continuation of my Introduction (chapter 1) of my book After the New Testament. In it I start to explain each of the chapters of the book, all of which deal with a variety of aspects of Christianity in the second and third centuries. I will give the remainder of the Introduction in my next post, since I don’t want to make these too long to be manageable. After that I will talk about what I’m doing new in the second edition that I’m producing now.


It might be useful to say a word about the nature of the rubrics under which the chapters of the book are organized, and the logic of their sequencing. This need not entail a lengthy discussion: each chapter begins with a sketch of the important historical aspects of the topic, and each individual text is introduced with brief comments concerning its historical context and significance.

One of the first things to consider about early Christianity is how it spread so far and wide in its early years. Starting out as a Jewish sect — a handful of followers of Jesus of Nazareth located in the Jewish homeland of Judea — it somehow managed to convert masses of people, so that in less than three centuries it could number nearly three million adherents. But how did this happen? What did the Christians say, and how did they make their message convincing — especially to audiences that were overwhelmingly non-Jewish, that is, who were Gentiles following the various polytheistic religions scattered throughout the empire? No complete answers can be found in our surviving texts, but it may at least be worth seeing what Christians themselves said about their message and the reasons for its success. Several texts that narrate conversions to Christianity — representative of the few such texts that survive — are given in Chapter 2.


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