What did the early Christians wear? What did they eat? What did they talk about over the dinner table? What recreations did they enjoy? These are among the questions answered in this study, which reveals the social background to the first five hundred years of the Church’s development, through six vividly recounted, biographical portraits.
Applying the methods of the social historian to the early Church, the author describes the daily life of the first believers, personifying the general facts and depicting them in these composite portraits of specific individuals, who are taken as representatives of different strands of early Christian life:
- Clement, a philosopher and teacher in Alexandria at the end of the 2nd century
- Paul of Samosata, A.D. 268, who taught heretically in Antioch
- Virginia, A.D. 304, whose last day on earth is set against the background of Diocletian’s persecutions
- Diogenes, a sexton of Rome
- John Chrysotom, A.D. 400, a great Bishop of the Church
- John Cassian, a friend of Chrysotom and resident of Marseilles.
The author uses contemporary documents and authorities to construct the biographies, which animate and illuminate the early development of the Church. By conducting the reader through the daily routines of these individuals, the past is recreated as a living reality.
A little rest is now obviously called for, and Paul goes up to the roof where a couch is placed beneath an awning. The air is pleasantly warm and filled with the mingled scent of lilies, jacinths and pinks which rises from the many gardens of Antioch.
From Chapter Two: Paul, A Heretic of Antioch