David Bottorff, Loyola University Chicago Institute of Pastoral Studies | M.A. Pastoral Counseling Student
Early Christianity proved to be a profound pivotal point around which the social, political, economic, and spiritual lives of many people living in the Mediterranean Basin turned. This shift is characterized by a typology of orientation, disorientation, and reorientation. At the same time, this pattern of change was mirrored by one of enslavement, freedom, and reverse discrimination. Reconciling the truth of these two concurrent yet contrasting typologies, whether over the course of centuries or mere moments, has proved to be both a great personal challenge and the key to my subjective appreciation of Early Christianity. This essay explores the tension between what Early Christianity was for its seminal proponents and the gravity it exerts in the life of this post-modern author. Further, it attempts to convey my relationship with a monumental and personally challenging question: How could one man, who by all rights should have been lost in the annuls of history, effect such tremendous change in the way we appreciate salvation of the human soul? This subject remains near to the heart of my lifelong spiritual quest.
Uncovering Early Christianity
Early Christianity precipitated catalytic change in the way much of the world relates to the great metaphysical forces shaping our human condition. For many, including myself, the concepts of mystery, hope and meaning were profoundly altered by the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, as told by his seminal biographers. Biblical scholars use many tools to examine scripture, including historical, political, ideological, psychological, form, and redaction approaches (Pregeant, 2009). The conclusions can be widely divergent. To express my personal take on Early Christianity, I rely not only on these academic findings, but also on the Buddhist epistemological hermeneutic through which I read scripture.
To articulate what Early Christianity was, and what it means to me, I turn to the recurring typologic analogue described by Brueggemann (1984) in his Psalms exegesis—that of orientation, disorientation and reorientation. This organic sine pattern repeats time and again throughout human history, and finds expression at the fulcrum point around which spirituality in the Mediterranean Basin pivoted some two millennia ago—the life and times of Jesus. (more…)