Chapter 1. Jesus and Christian Beginnings (First to Fourth Centuries)

  1. W. Barnes Tatum

Published Online: 28 MAY 2009

DOI: 10.1002/9781444311044.ch1

Jesus: A Brief History

Jesus: A Brief History

How to Cite

Tatum, W. B. (2009) Jesus and Christian Beginnings (First to Fourth Centuries), in Jesus: A Brief History, Wiley-Blackwell, Oxford, UK. doi: 10.1002/9781444311044.ch1

Author Information

  1. Jefferson-Pilot Professor of Religion and Philosophy, Greensboro College, Greensboro, North Carolina, USA

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 28 MAY 2009
  2. Published Print: 17 APR 2009

ISBN Information

Print ISBN: 9781405170192

Online ISBN: 9781444311044



  • Jesus and Christian beginnings;
  • disciples, receiving Jesus as “the messiah” and “the Son of God” after his crucifixion and resurrection;
  • Paul, persecuting “the church of God”;
  • Paul, succeeding in creating small communities of believers among Gentiles;
  • Biblical scholarship, considering core of seven letters;
  • Paul's letters, various expressions of pre-Pauline traditions;
  • The Gospel of Mark, focusing on Jesus' activity;
  • after baptism and testing, Jesus proclaiming the coming kingdom of God;
  • Christianity, establishing in Greco-Roman world


This chapter contains sections titled:

  • A Strange Case: Paul and his Letters

  • Anonymous Narratives: Three Gospels and One Sequel

  • An Author Called John: A Fourth Gospel, More Letters, and an Apocalypse

  • Christianity's Earliest Writings: Literary Diversity, Theological Unity

  • Christianity's Transformation: From a Jewish Sect to a Gentile Religion

  • Emerging Christianity: A “Catholic” Church

  • “Gnosticism”: The Nag Hammadi Library

  • Living as Christians in the Roman Empire: The Threat of Persecution

  • Christianizing the Roman Empire: Constantine the Great

  • Material Culture: Manuscripts, Architecture, and the Visual Arts