Review Of "The Origins Of Christian Morality: The First Two Centuries" W. A. Meeks

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An absorbing and groundbreaking study of early Christian moral discourse. Meeks (Yale, and author of The First Urban Christians, CH, Jun'93) not only places the ancient texts in their specific cultural and religious settings but also calls on contemporary philosophical discussion to illuminate features of the emerging Christian moral vision. Since early Christians did not produce a systematic discussion of their ethical perspective, its contours must be discerned in its legacies--letters, testaments, moral stories, rituals--and in its charitable institutions and its attitudes toward celibacy, sex, and female roles. Meeks frames his discussion with two additional considerations. Conversion to Christianity meant radically separating from one's past life and taking seriously the prospect of the end of the world. These viewpoints heightened Christians' sense of being members of "an alien nation." In addition, Meeks assesses the contributions from Jewish and Greco-Roman sources, as well as their similarities and contrasts to Christian ideas. This fine, comprehensive study should be a standard for many years. Upper-level undergraduate and above.


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