Tim's Reviews > A History of Christianity

A History of Christianity by Paul  Johnson
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Quotes Tim Liked

Paul  Johnson
“If Paul brought the first generation of Christians the useful skills of a trained theologian, Origen was the first great philosopher to rethink the new religion from first principles. As his philosophical enemy, the anti-Christian Porphyry, summed it up, he 'introduced Greek ideas to foreign fables' -- that is, gave a barbarous eastern religion the intellectual respectability of a philosophical defense. Origen was also a phenomenon. As Eusebius put it admiringly, 'even the facts from his cradle are worth mentioning'. Origen came from Alexandria, the second city of the empire and then it's intellectual centre; his father's martyrdom left him an orphan at seventeen with six younger brothers. He was a hard working prodigy, at eighteen head of the Catechetical School, and already trained as a literary scholar and teacher. But at this point, probably in 203, he became a religious fanatic and remained one for the next fifty years. He gave up his job and sold his books to concentrate on religion. he slept on the floor, ate no meat, drank no wine, had only one coat and no shoes. He almost certainly castrated himself, in obedience to the notorious text, Matthew 19:12, 'there are some who have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven's sake.' Origen's learning was massive and it was of a highly original kind: he always went back to the sources and thought through the whole process himself. This he learned Hebrew and, according to Eusebius, 'got into his possession the original writings extant among the Jews in the actual Hebrew character'. These included the discovery of lost texts; in the case of the psalms, Origen collected not only the four known texts but three others unearthed, including 'one he found at Jericho in a jar'. The result was an enormous tome, the Hexapla, which probably existed in only one manuscript now lost, setting out the seven alternative texts in parallel columns. He applied the same principles of original research to every aspect of Christianity and sacred literature. He seems to have worked all day and though most of the night, and was a compulsive writer. Even the hardy Jerome later complained: 'Has anyone read everything Origen wrote?'
Paul Johnson, A History of Christianity

Paul  Johnson
“How could the Christian Church, apparently quite willingly, accommodate this weird megalomaniac [Constantine] in it's theocratic system? Was there a conscious bargain? Which side benefited most form this unseemly marriage between church and state? Or, to put it another way, did the empire surrender to Christianity, or did Christianity prostitute itself to the empire? It is characteristic of the complexities of early Christian history that we cannot give a definite answer to this question.”
Paul Johnson, A History of Christianity

Paul  Johnson
“Julian recognized that the strength of the orthodox Church rested to a great extent on the imperial discrimination in its favour. According to Ammianus, he tried to atomize the Church by ending the system:

'He ordered the priests of the different Christian sects, and their supporters to be admitted to the palace, and politely expressed his wish that, their quarrels being over, each might follow his own beliefs without hindrance or fear. He thought that freedom to argue their beliefs would simply deepen their differences, so that he would never be faced by a united common people. He found from experience that no wild beasts are as hostile to men, as Christians are to each other.'

Paul Johnson, A History of Christianity

Paul  Johnson
“Augustine was struck by the fact, when they first met, that Ambrose read to himself, a habit unknown to the classical world: 'His eyes scanned the page, and his mind penetrated its meaning, but his voice and tongue were silent.' There were other impressive things about Ambrose.”
Paul Johnson, A History of Christianity

Paul  Johnson
“He [Augustine] admitted: 'I am the sort of man who writes because he has made progress, and who makes progress by writing.'
Paul Johnson, A History of Christianity

Paul  Johnson
“This was all very well: Columbanus's success indicates the appeal of his mission. But his activities, for the first time, brought the nature of Celtic monasticism firmly to the attention of the Church authorities -- to western bishops in general, and to the Bishop of Rome in particular. The Irish monks were not heretical. But they were plainly unorthodox. They did not look right, to begin with. They had the wrong tonsure. Rome, as was natural, had 'the tonsure of St Peter', that is, a shaven crown. Easterners had the tonsure of St Paul, totally shaven; and if they wished to take up an appointment in the West they had to wait until their rim grew before being invested. But the Celts looked like nothing on earth: they had their hair long at the back and, on the shaven front part, a half-circle of hair from one ear to the other, leaving a band across the forehead.”
Paul Johnson, A History of Christianity


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