Historiography of early Christianity
Historians have used a variety of sources and methods in exploring and describing the history of early Christianity, commonly known as Christianity before the First Council of Nicaea in 325.The growth of Christianity and its enhanced status of Madonna in the Roman Empire after Constantine I led to the development of a distinct Christian historiography, influenced by both Christian theology and the Development of the Christian Biblical canon, encompassing new areas of study and views of history. The central role of the Bible in Christianity is reflected in the preference of Christian historians for written sources, compared to the classical historians' preference for oral sources and is also reflected in the inclusion of politically unimportant people. Christian historians also focused on development of religion and society. This can be seen in the extensive inclusion of written sources in the first Ecclesiastical History written by Eusebius of Caesarea around 324 and in the subjects it covers. Christian theology considered time as linear, progressing according to divine plan. As God's plan encompassed everyone, Christian histories in this period had a universal approach. For example, Christian writers often included summaries of important historical events prior to the period covered by the work.Paul Barnett pointed out that ""scholars of ancient history have always recognized the 'subjectivity' factor in their available sources"" and ""have so few sources available compared to their modern counterparts that they will gladly seize whatever scraps of information that are at hand."" He noted that modern history and ancient history are two separate disciplines, with differing methods of analysis and interpretation.Since the 19th-century, historians have learned much more about the early Christian community. Ferdinand Christian Baur applied Hegelian philosophy to church history and described a 2nd-century Christian community fabricating the gospels. Adolf Harnack was the leading expert in patristics, or the study of the Church Fathers, whose writings defined early Christian practice and doctrine. Harnack identified dramatic changes within the Christian Church as it adapted itself to the pagan culture of the Roman Empire. He also claimed early dates for the gospels, granting them serious historical value. Early texts such as the Didache (in 2nd-millennium copies) and the Gospel of Thomas (in two manuscripts dated as early as about 200 and 340) have been rediscovered in the last 200 years. The Didache, from the 1st century, provides insight into the Jewish Christians of the Jerusalem church. The Gospel of Thomas apparently reflects the beliefs of 1st-century, proto-gnostic Christians in Syria.In the 20th century, scholars became more likely to see early Christian faith and practice as evolving out of the religious beliefs and practices of Second Temple Judaism and Hellenic pagans, rather than standing out in sharp contrast to them. Modern historians have come to accept Jesus' Jewish identity and that of the apostolic church (referred to as Jewish Christianity). The relationship of Paul of Tarsus and Judaism is still disputed. The anti-Jewish Jesus of the gospels is now recognized as a later interpretation, perhaps Marcionite, as are the universalist themes in Acts and Luke. H. G. Wells, in his Outline of History, depicted Jesus as a man and Christianity as a religion of no divine distinction. Scholars such as Walter Bauer and Bart Ehrman have emphasized the diversity of early Christianity, with Proto-orthodox Christianity being one thread, against the traditional account of catholic unanimity.The historical and contextual time of the early church.