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From Christ to Christianity

How the Jesus Movement Became the Church in Less Than a Century

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How did the movement founded by Jesus transform more in the first seventy-five years after his death than it has in the two thousand years since?

From Christ to Christianity offers an informative and understandable summary of the development of Christianity in the New Testament and post-Apostolic eras. James Edwards tells the story of how the Christian movement--which began as relatively informal, rural, Hebrew and Aramaic speaking, and closely anchored to the Jewish synagogue--became primarily urban, Greek speaking, and gentile within the first Christian generation, spreading through the Greco-Roman world with a mission agenda and church organization distinct from its roots in Jewish Galilee.

This book not only demonstrates how, by the early second century, the church attained the characteristic qualities to become the Christian church as we generally know it today but also shows how the witness of the early church can encourage today's church. It also includes several maps.

Introduction: Two Profiles of One Reality
1. From Rural to Urban
2. From Jerusalem to Rome
3. From Jerusalem to the East and South
4. From Hebrew to Greek
5. From Jesus Movement to Gentile Mission
6. From Jesus Movement to Roman Persecution
7. From Torah to Kerygma
8. From Synagogue to Church
9. From Jewish to Christian Ethos
10. From Passover to Eucharist
11. From Apostles to Bishops
12. From Sabbath to Sunday
13. From "Way" to "Christian"
14. From Scroll to Codex
Conclusion: New Wine in New Wineskins


"What transformed the Galilean Jesus movement into global Christianity? Within a period of about seventy-five years, a small group of followers of Jesus became a major religious movement that thrived within its challenging context. In this concise and readable history of the rise of early Christianity, James Edwards looks at the many factors that contributed to this radical transformation. He convincingly shows that this period--often seen as a hazy and undefined period--was the most dynamic that Christianity has ever seen. This volume will be enlightening reading for anyone interested in Jesus, Paul, and what became the Christian church."

Stanley E. Porter, president, dean, professor of New Testament, and Roy A. Hope Chair in Christian Worldview, McMaster Divinity College, Ontario, Canada

"Lucid and learned, From Christ to Christianity is a valuable alloy of Edwards's biblical and historical acumen. Edwards is an adept guide to the tectonic shifts that gave rise to the now-familiar features of Christian faith; he makes a compelling case for the striking metamorphosis the early church underwent in its infancy. Yet while this book's domain is the past, its stakes are in the future. At the same time that he undoes assumptions about the given forms of Christian faith, Edwards witnesses to the surprising power of the gospel to take seed and bear new fruit. Written at the cusp of a post-Christendom, postmodern, and post-Covid era of great change, From Christ to Christianity is a welcome and instructive reminder of the enduring changelessness of the gospel through the vicissitudes of time."

Amy J. Erickson, lecturer in theology, St. Marks National Theological Centre, Barton, Australia

"Scholars have thoroughly worked the ground of the apostolic period, almost turning it into fine dust. That same thoroughness predominates once we arrive at the end of the second century. But the post-apostolic period has suffered relative scholarly neglect. It seems a strange world, as evidenced, for example, by the writings of Ignatius. James Edwards's new book fills in the empty space as no other has done. He traces the dramatic changes that occurred in the Christian movement from the close of the apostolic period to the year 140 or so: from Jewish to Gentile, from Hebrew to Greek, from rural to urban, from scroll to codex, from Sabbath to Sunday, and so much more. And yet, in spite of these dramatic changes, he shows the continuity that prevailed too. It is clearly the same faith. The fruit looks much riper; but it is still the same fruit. James Edwards is at his scholarly and literary best in this book. He knows the literature, writes with precision, and makes the story come alive. He is a master of writing engaging narrative without sacrificing accuracy and good judgment. From Christ to Christianity kept me spellbound from beginning to end."

Gerald L. Sittser, professor emeritus, Whitworth University; author of Resilient Faith: How the Early Christian "Third Way" Changed the World

"In this absorbing work, James Edwards, in mastery of a wealth of ancient materials, traces how the small, rural movement of followers of Jesus in Galilee became, in less than a century, an expansive network of churches throughout the great urban centers of the Roman Empire and in regions far beyond. Edwards's work demonstrates both meticulous historical research and judicious theological conclusions, singularly marked by an unwavering attendance to the truth that it was the proclamation and exaltation of Jesus as Lord, and a Christology in correspondence to that witness and worship, that remained at the center of the church amid all ensuing changes. In writing on the New Testament and the Apostolic Fathers, Edwards demonstrates that which J. B. Lightfoot, his predecessor in this task, lifted up as the ideal for such work: 'The highest reason and the fullest faith.' This work embodies this ideal, and as such it will be a gift not only to students of the history of Christianity but also to the church at large."

Kimlyn J. Bender, professor of Christian theology, George W. Truett Theological Seminary, Baylor University

"For such a time as this. . . . As epochal changes in our world challenge the Christian movement to seek deeper transformation than it has experienced in centuries, James R. Edwards invites us to learn from the amazing changes that took place in the movement's first seventy-five years of life. With careful scholarship and communicative skills honed by a lifetime in podium and pulpit, Edwards shows how the movement centered in the person and work of Jesus Christ adapted almost all of its forms while preserving its essential message. Understanding the movement's 'ability to be adaptive without becoming captive' (p. 251) to its environment is the gift and challenge that Edwards makes accessible to followers of Christ today."

Stanley D. Slade, global consultant for theological education, American Baptist International Ministries

"Anyone eager to take a deep dive into one of the most creative, fascinating periods of the development of the early church will find this book well worth their investment of time and attention. This study takes up the question of what transpired within the seventy-five-year period between the death of Jesus and the death of Ignatius to account for the strikingly creative transitions that shaped the church's evolving self-identity. Sharing an affinity with Lohmeyer's depiction of the church as marked by 'unchanging essence amid changing forms, adaptive to culture but not captive to culture,' Edward pinpoints and fleshes out fourteen facets of the emerging church in which that insight seems most clearly evident. Readers hungry for a thorough, rigorously well-researched, astutely analytical study that is meticulous in scholarly details while not overreaching about historical lacunas where literary evidence is scant will be amply rewarded. His writing style is both erudite and elegant. I highly recommend this clearly organized, illuminating wealth of information and insights that could justifiably be regarded as a standard resource for early church historical studies yet to come."

Jeannine M. Graham, associate professor emerita, George Fox University

The Author

  1. James R. Edwards

    James R. Edwards

    James R. Edwards (PhD, Fuller Theological Seminary) is Bruner-Welch Professor Emeritus of Theology at Whitworth University in Spokane, Washington. A noted New Testament scholar, he taught Bible and religion classes for more than three decades. His books...

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