In this volume, John Behr treats the first three centuries of the Christian era. Part I examines the establishment of Christianity in the first century based on the tradition of the Gospel, and briefly sketches the scriptural Christ as inscribed in the New Testament. Part II analyzes selected figures from the second century—Ignatius of Antioch, Justin Martyr, and Irenaeus of Lyons—considering how they understood Christ to be the Word of God. Part III turns to the third century, treating Hippolytus and the debates in Rome, Origen and his legacy in Alexandria, and Paul of Samosata and the Council of Antioch. These debates form the background for the controversies and councils of the following centuries.
“The Christian confession is not simply about who a figure of the past was, what he did and said, but rather who he is; the Christian faith confesses the living Lord: ‘Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today and for ever’ (Heb 13:8).” (Page 49)
“There are two basic axioms that determine this model and the theological reflection of the centuries covered in this series. The first is that only God can save. It is God who is at work in Christ; Christ himself is the very Word of God, just as the Gospel is of God not of man (Gal 1:11; Rom 1:1). The second axiom is that only as a human being can God save human beings. While forgiveness could be bestowed from afar, the last enemy, death, was not overcome except by Christ voluntarily dying on behalf of all, so demonstrating his divinity (Rom 5:6–8), ensuring his victory over death, and transforming death itself, for all those who die with Christ, into a life-giving death.” (Page 75)
“The ‘real Jesus’ inscribed in the writings of the New Testament is already interpreted, and to understand him more deeply, we must turn primarily to the symbolic world of Scripture, in and through which Christ is, from the first, understood and explained—revealed.” (Page 12)
“But what is established as normative Christianity in the second century takes this in a much stronger sense: If God acts through His Word, then that Word needs to be heard, to be read, to be understood—the relationship with God is, in a broad sense, literary.” (Page 15)
“For Justin, then, if human beings possess a ‘seed of the Word,’ it is not as a natural property implanted in them. It is rather, as he specifies, through encountering the words conveying the Logos spermatikos, Christ, that some have received these seeds.” (Page 108)