|About the Book|
An Excerpt from the book-A history of the Origin of Christianity ought to embrace all theobscure, and, if one might so speak, subterranean periods which extendfrom the first beginnings of this religion up to the moment when itsexistence became a public fact, notorious and evident to the eyes ofall. Such a history would consist of four books. The first, which Inow present to the public, treats of the particular fact which hasserved as the starting-point of the new religion, and is entirelyfilled by the sublime person of the Founder. The second would treat ofthe apostles and their immediate disciples, or rather, of therevolutions which religious thought underwent in the first twogenerations of Christianity. I would close this about the year 100, atthe time when the last friends of Jesus were dead, and when all thebooks of the New Testament were fixed almost in the forms in which wenow read them. The third would exhibit the state of Christianity underthe Antonines. We should see it develop itself slowly, and sustain analmost permanent war against the empire, which had just reached thehighest degree of administrative perfection, and, governed byphilosophers, combated in the new-born sect a secret and theocraticsociety which obstinately denied and incessantly undermined it. Thisbook would cover the entire period of the second century. Lastly, thefourth book would show the decisive progress which Christianity madefrom the time of the Syrian emperors. We should see the learnedsystem of the Antonines crumble, the decadence of the ancientcivilization become irrevocable, Christianity profit from its ruin,Syria conquer the whole West, and Jesus, in company with the gods andthe deified sages of Asia, take possession of a society for whichphilosophy and a purely civil government no longer sufficed. It wasthen that the religious ideas of the races grouped around theMediterranean became profoundly modified- that the Eastern religionseverywhere took precedence- that the Christian Church, having becomevery numerous, totally forgot its dreams of a millennium, broke itslast ties with Judaism, and entered completely into the Greek andRoman world. The contests and the literary labors of the thirdcentury, which were carried on without concealment, would be describedonly in their general features. I would relate still more briefly thepersecutions at the commencement of the fourth century, the lasteffort of the empire to return to its former principles, which deniedto religious association any place in the State. Lastly, I would onlyforeshadow the change of policy which, under Constantine, reversed theposition, and made of the most free and spontaneous religious movementan official worship, subject to the State, and persecutor in its turn.