Most readers of this book will find themselves on foreign ground. In the first volume of this series, they had been at home. They knew the players and they knew the roles they played because the first book mostly furnished a historical background for the New Testament. With this volume, however, they venture forth into unknown lands, where both the people and many of the places are unfamiliar. The reader may even become suspicious of the individuals encountered here, inwardly asking: Were Ignatius and Irenaeus really Christians? Did Origen believe the same things I believe? Did Justin have the same ideas of right and wrong? Were Blandina and Perpetua born again?
What they were, the reader must decide. But one thing is clear. Never before or since has the Word of God been preached with such startling, positive, and sweeping effect. By the volume’s end, the early believers are well on the way to converting the world as they knew it, though at a fearful price, most of it paid by “little people,” undistinguished by anything beyond their astonishing courage and heroism.
It was an age when faith and commitment were measured, not only in words, but in terms of blood, suffering, sorrow, humiliation, and pain. And had they not paid this price, the very word Christian would probably be unknown today. As one of them said, “The blood of the martyrs is seed.” It was indeed, and Christians today are the distant fruit, born of that seed.
We have been careful in this volume to place the growth of the faith in its political, social and cultural context, so careful that some readers may wonder whether they’re reading a history of Christianity or a history of imperial Rome. But we believe you cannot understand the one without the other, any more than you could understand the role of twentieth-century Christianity in modern America without describing the vast cultural and moral change that went on around it. For neither then nor now can Christians divorce themselves from the world–a world for which, they say, Christ died.
“It is finished!” he cried, in his all-but-last word from the cross, meaning that it was completed, accomplished, that his human job was done. But for his followers, it was not finished. It was barely started, and with this volume they begin to discover the staggering magnitude of the work he has assigned them to do.
To read any of the stories contained in Volume Two of The Christians, Their First Two Thousand Years click on its title on the menu to the right. If you prefer to experience the stories beautifully laid out in print with hundreds of magnificent illustrations of the period then we encourage you to support this project by ordering the book from The Christians website.