Gonzalez, Justo L. The Story of Christianity: The Early Church to the Reformation. Revised and Updated ed. Vol. 1. New York: HarperCollins, 2010. Kindle Electronic Edition.
Ch. 2, “The Fullness of Time.” Loc. 358-549
The earliest home of the Church was in Palestinian Judaism. Therefore, Gonzalez starts his survey there (Gonzalez 2010, Loc. 366). Because of its geography the territory had been sought after. The contention of Syria and Egypt, the invasion of Alexander, all shaped the society. Hellenism was seen as a threat to Israel due to their inclusiveness of deities (Ibid., Loc. 381). In the second century BC the Maccabees revolted, trying to establish more pure Judaism (Ibid., Loc. 390). Rome became involved in the first century BC (Loc. 395). From that time there were frequent revolts, discussed in brief by Gonzalez. Finally in the 70s AD Rome took the territory decisively in a series of military actions (Ibid., Loc. 414).
In this time the more progressive Pharisees arose, wanting to implement social change through emphasis on the La. The more conservative Sadducees also arose, holding to political conservatism and property rights (Ibid., Loc. 418). There were several other sects as well, all thoroughly Jewish (Ibid., Loc. 432). “Most kept the messianic hope, and firmly believed that the day would come when God would intervene in order to restore Israel” (Ibid., Loc. 436).
Outside of Palestine, Judaism was growing (Ibid., Loc. 445). These scattered people were referred to as the “Diaspora,” the Dispersion (Ibid., Loc. 450). They had spread Judaism using the Greek language (Ibid., Loc. 461), producing the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament, which was important in the spread of Christianity.
Gonzalez introduces his readers to the Greco-Roman world as well (Ibid., Loc. 479). The Romans sought unity but allowed their subjects some freedoms in order to quell violence. There was relative freedom of commerce and safe travel (Ibid., Loc. 484). This aided in the spread of Christianity but the Roman syncretism made the Christians appear as “unbending fanatics who insisted on the sole worship of their one God” (Ibid., Loc. 501). This syncretism resulted also in the growth of mystery religions and emperor worship (Ibid., Loc. 515). Some Christians began to borrow from Plato for the explanations of an immortal soul (Ibid., Loc. 529). Bringing pagan philosophy into Christianity led to seeing Christianity as a philosophy. It tended then to become moralistic rather than grace-centered (Ibid., Loc. 543). This became a fairly serious problem as time went on.