The Origins of Christian Morality: The First Two Centuries

Front Cover
Yale University Press, 1993 - Religion - 275 pages
1 Review
This 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.--From publisher's description.

What people are saying - Write a review

Disappointing and Irritating

User Review  - Philip Tutt -

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 ... Read full review

The origins of Christian morality: the first two centuries

User Review  - Not Available - Book Verdict

Promoting the thesis that the processes of moral and community formation are inseparable, Meeks (biblical studies, Yale Univ.) has written "an ethnography of Christian beginnings,'' analyzing specific ... Read full review


Morals and Community
Moral Consequences of Conversion
City Household People of God
Loving and Hating the World
The Language of Obligation
The Grammar of Christian Practice
Knowing Evil
The Body as Sign and Problem
Senses of an Ending
The Moral Story
POSTSCRIPT History Pluralism and Christian Morality
Bibliography of Secondary Works Cited
Index of Early Christian Literature
Subject Index

A Life Worthy of God

Common terms and phrases

References to this book

All Book Search results »

About the author (1993)

General editor Wayne Meeks, PH.D., is Woolsey Professor of Biblical Studies at Yale University and the author of many books. He lives in New Haven CT. The Society of Biblical Literature is a 5,500 member international group of experts on the Bible and related fields.

Bibliographic information