Where and when did Christianity begin? What role did Jesus of Nazareth play in the origins of Christianity? Where does early Christian literature fit into this? The popular picture of Christian origins seems to dictate obvious answers to these seemingly elementary questions. Historical reflection and scholarship during the past two centuries have convincingly demonstrated that all is not so simple. Christianity might be a religion of the Book. It might also be a religion of a person. Viewed historically, however, the link between Jesus Christ and Christianity is not as secure as might seem at first glance. Early Christian literature, too, does not provide immediate access to the origins of Christianity or the person of Jesus Christ. Rather, early Christian discourse presents an astonishing variety of religious imaginings of social formation and world making, in the course of which Christian culture and images of Jesus Christ were constructed in dialogue with social and cultural contexts.
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