The Origins of Christian Morality
The Origins of Christian Morality   -     By: Wayne A. Meeks
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Yale University Press / 1993 / Paperback
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The Origins of Christian Morality

Yale University Press / 1993 / Paperback

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Stock No: WW0651X


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Product Description

This wise eloquent book describes the formative years of Christianity when Christians beliefs and practices shaped their unique moral order. Wayne Meeks illuminates the process of socialization that produced the early forms of Christian morality, showing what is distinctive about the Christian viewpoint and what is similar to the moral components of Greco-Roman or Jewish thought.

Product Information

Format: Paperback
Number of Pages: 285
Vendor: Yale University Press
Publication Date: 1993
Dimensions: 9 1/4 X 6 (inches)
ISBN: 0300065132
ISBN-13: 9780300065138

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Publisher's Description

By the time Christianity became a political and cultural force in the Roman Empire, it had come to embody a new moral vision. This wise and eloquent book describes the formative years—from the crucifixion of Jesus to the end of the second century of the common era—when Christian beliefs and practices shaped their unique moral order.
Wayne A. Meeks examines the surviving documents from Christianity's beginnings (some of which became the New Testament) and shows that they are largely concerned with the way converts to the movement should behave. Meeks finds that for these Christians, the formation of morals means the formation of community; the documents are  addressed not to individuals but to groups, and they have among their primary aims the maintenance and growth of these groups. Meeks paints a picture of the process of socialization that produced the early forms of Christian morality, discussing many factors that made the Christians feel that they were a single and "chosen" people. He describes, for example, the impact of conversion; the rapid spread of Christian household cult-associations in the cities of the Roman Empire; the language of Christian moral discourse as revealed in letters, testaments, and "moral stories"; the rituals, meetings, and institutionalization of charity; the Christians' feelings about celibacy, sex, and gender roles; and their sense of the end-time and final judgment. In each of these areas Meeks seeks to determine what is distinctive about the Christian viewpoint and what is similar to the moral components of Greco-Roman or Jewish thought.

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  1. Philip Tutt
    Sacramento, CA
    Age: Over 65
    Gender: male
    2 Stars Out Of 5
    Disappointing and Irritating
    August 5, 2012
    Philip Tutt
    Sacramento, CA
    Age: Over 65
    Gender: male
    Quality: 2
    Value: 1
    Meets Expectations: 1
    This book began as a series of lectures given by Prof. Meeks at Oxford, in 1990 and 1991, with some earlier lecture material included. Unfortunately it reads pretty much like that throughout--more of a windy academic exercise than an informative journey of discovery into the origins of "Christian morality".

    For example, the author has an irritating habit of populating his development of a point with Greek (and occasional Latin) terms, usually centering around a New Testament text. This is the sort of thing one gets at a graduate seminar; it is to that venue that it should be confined. If I do not know Greek (or Latin), I am not thereby enlightened. If I do, I then I do not need the author's quote. The overall analysis suffers as a result.

    I had higher expectations of the book. The stated purpose, "to attempt to construct a kind of ethnography of Christian beginnings", is largely unmet, or works at cross-purposes with the analysis of some well and succinctly stated major themes in and underlying Christian thinking.

    For example, the author points out (in so many words) that there is a substantial and influential residue of superstition in Christian ritual. The challenge to the reader is to say why these are thought to reflect "truth", as opposed to their pagan counterparts. One thing that the author does suggest (a point with which I heartily agree) is that the mere persistence of Christianity over time is not an adequate answer.

    If I had my way with a revision, I would suggest that the author jettison chapters 1-8, and focus on the material (much of it admirable) in chapters 9-11. The "thesis" segment of the Postscript, which contains much of value, would be better stated and developed as a separate work.
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