For the historian, insurmountable difficulties surround Jesus himself.
Too little information about the actual man in his day can be verified and too many people care about the interpretation of Christ's life and teaching, a situation which leaves historians with no real hope for achieving consensus.
The gospels themselves only exacerbate the problem, since they entail numerous difficulties starting with the very language in which they were published.
For all practical purposes, then, Christianity enters history with the appearance of Saint Paul whose writings are the earliest dated Christian documents.
In the next three centuries, as the new religion slowly spread across the Roman world, it becomes easier and easier to track its development up to its consummate political triumph, Constantine's conversion in the early fourth century.
Research on the evolution of early Christianity and the complex path it followed up to its eventual domination of the West has uncovered an unparalleled wealth of diverse perspectives on Christ, many of which were branded heresies and subsequently disappeared from the historical record.
But now archaeology has brought to light several of the texts composed by authors later denounced as subversives. These so-called Gnostic Gospels demonstrate the immense creativity of early Christians and the rich abundance of possibilities inherent within the religion itself.
Attribution to Mark L. Damen
Professor of History and Classics
Utah State University, Logan, UT 84322-0710
For more information please visit: https://www.usu.edu/markdamen/1320Hist&Civ/chapters/09WOMEN.htm
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