The Mission and Expansion of Christianity in the First Three Centuries

by Adolph (von) Harnack
translated and edited by James Moffatt
Second, enlarged and revised English edition;
London: Williams and Norgate / New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1908 (from the 2nd German edition)..
Theological Translation Library, volumes 19-20

From the German, Die Mission und Ausbreitung des Christentums in den ersten drei Jahrhunderten (1902, revised 1906, 1915, and finally 1924)

[[being updated (also consulting the 4th German edition) and adapted by RAK for use in 2004 America;
Greek needs to be inserted, using side by side format?]]



The unity and the variety which characterized the preaching of Christianity from the very first constituted the secret of its fascination and a vital condition of its success. On the one hand, it was so simple that it could be summed up in a few brief sentences and understood in a single crisis of the inner life; on the other hand, it was so versatile and rich, that it vivified all thought and stimulated every emotion. It was capable, almost from the outset, of vieing with every noble and worthy enterprise, with any speculation, or with any cult of the mysteries. It was both new and old; it was alike present and future. Clear and transparent, it was also profound and full of mystery. It had statutes, and yet rose superior to any law. It was a doctrine and yet no doctrine, a philosophy and yet something different from philosophy. Western Catholicism, when surveyed as a whole, has been described as a complexio oppositorum, but this was also true of the Christian propaganda in its earliest stages.Consequently, to exhibit the preaching and labours of the
Christian mission with the object of explaining the amazing success of Christianity, we must try to get a uniform grasp of all its component factors.

We shall proceed then to describe:-

1. The religious characteristics of the mission-preaching.

2. The gospel of salvation and of the Saviour.

3. The gospel of love and charity. [[85]]

4. The religion of the Spirit and power, of moral earnestness and holiness.

5. The religion of authority and of reason, of mysteries and transcendentalism.

6. The message of a new People and of a Third race (or the historical and political consciousness of Christendom).

7. The religion of a Book, and of an historical realization.

8. The conflict with polytheism and idolatry.

In the course of these chapters we hope to do justice to the wealth of the religion, without impairing or obscuring the power of its simplicity. \1/ One point must be left out, of course: that is, the task of following the development of Christian doctrine into the dogmas of the church's catechism, as well as into the Christian philosophy of religion propounded by Origen and his school. Doctrine, in both of these forms, was unquestionably of great moment to the mission of Christianity, particularly after the date of its earliest definition (relatively speaking) about the middle of the third century. But such a subject would require a book to itself. I have endeavored, in the first volume of my History of Dogma (third edition) \2/ to deal with it, and to that work I must refer any who may desire to see how the unavoidable gaps of the present volume are to be filled up.

\1/ At the Scilitan martyrdom the proconsul remarks; "Et nos religiosi sumus, et simplex est religio nostra" ("We also are religious people, and our religion is simple"). To which Speratus the Christian replies : " Si tranquillas praebueris aures tuas, dico mysterium simplicitatis" ("If you give me a quiet hearing, I shall tell you the mystery of simplicity ").

\2/ Cp. my Grundriss der Dogmengeschichte (4th ed., 1905).

//end of bk2 Intro