Front Page Titles (by Subject) 12.: On Early Christianity - Judgments on History and Historians
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12.: On Early Christianity - Jacob Burckhardt, Judgments on History and Historians 
Judgments on History and Historians, ed. Alberto R. Coll (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 1999).
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On Early Christianity
When, where, and by whom was the decision made to collect the three synoptic Gospels separately? It could only have happened at a time when their texts were already regarded as too sacred for anyone to dare to work them into one volume. In what communities did one previously have the gospels separately? Of the Apocrypha, the Gospel of the Hebrews had an especially wide dissemination; according to Eusebius, the Ebionites read it exclusively.
Islam immediately assumed a worldly position of power which at the same time took care not to permit any deviation from the faith. Christianity, on the other hand, set the imaginations of many in competitive motion at a time of great religious ferment, and for three centuries had to contend with heresies of all kinds, all sorts of secondary religions, magicians, Gnostics, and visionaries, who, in a body, were able to sweep many a community along, and it had to carry on this fight with no resources other than its own strength. People could be enraptured through the mere promise of the imminent Second Coming of Christ on Judgment Day, chiliasm, and the like, but notably through prophecy, as with the Montanists, and with sudden inspirations. Montanus regarded himself as the Paraclete.
With all this, however, one probably kept before him that the most outstanding men belonged to the right-thinking center, and especially the persecutions probably strengthened this center. If any authority ever came into being with enormous dedication, it is that of the church.
All Christendom at the time professes the faith; where there is any worldly-wise concealment, any participation in pagan rituals, etc., we are dealing with heretics, such as Basilides.
Bar Kochba’s rebellion was, first and foremost, a bloody persecution of the Christians. A constant danger for the Christians was the pagans’ belief, which became very strong in time, that calamities of all kinds stemmed from the diffusion, or toleration, of the Christians.
Miracles, including raising the dead, presented no problems to the Christians from the beginning, and in the community one actually thought that one saw charismata like prophecy and the healing of the sick continue, while all pagan miracles appeared as mere magic.
The mutual support of the Christians (until Constantine placed at their disposal the benefices of the state) may, practically speaking, have come quite close to the short-lived community of property of Apostolic times. Whoever became a Christian hardly remained rich. In Rome under Commodus there were a few conversions of wealthy people and aristocrats.
Upon martyrdom there follows immediately the worship of martyrs’ bodies. At the persecutions of Lyon (Pothinus, Blandina, etc.) the persecutors burned the corpses and threw the ashes into the Rhône—not so much in order to prevent their worship as to prevent a resurrection.
Of the demonic, pagans and Christians held much the same views, but the pagans were here governed by a wild and colorful imagination, whereas the Christians harbored a rather uniform conviction.
Church literature was evidently very abundant from the beginning. Undoubtedly the collections of letters to colleagues and communities constituted a prime genre; then the refutations of heresies and apologetics directed against the pagans must be considered. Hebrew must have sunk into deep obscurity once there were no longer any real converted Jews. That Origen studied Hebrew is especially emphasized. By the third century there were already many scholarly theological works and commentaries.
After the persecution of Decius, on the occasion of the Novatian dispute, a synod of sixty bishops and numerous presbyters and deacons could already be held in Rome. They came from Italy, Africa, “and other places.” Apropos of this, Eusebius also gives the statistics of the Roman community. The Antiochean synods concerning Paul of Samosata (after 270) were very large and well attended. Now the disputes over the treatment of the lapsi [backsliders] and the rebaptism of converted heretics increased, and in addition there was a continual dispute over the nature of Christ.
Christian influences made themselves felt at the imperial court under Commodus, Philip the Arab, Alexander Severus, and also under Valerian about whom Eusebius reports in his Historia Ecclesiastica, VII, 9: “In the beginning his entire court was full of pious people, indeed, had become a church of God, until Egyptian priests induced him to turn about completely and indulge in horrible secret sacrifices and persecutions.” Aurelian was an arbiter in Christian affairs and among other things decided against Paul of Samosata.