chapter
INTRODUCTION
Pages 12

Hospitality, loving kindness, and cheerful conviviality on the one hand and on the other contempt for the world, mortification of the flesh, weeping and groaning are held up by the authors of these passages as ideal patterns of Christian behaviour. Approximately three hundred years passed between the writing of these Christian texts and a veritable abyss seems to separate the attitudes expressed in them.3 The two quotations above roughly bracket the turbulent history of the formation of the Christian Church, from the early appearance of groups of followers of Christ in the Roman Empire outside Palestine, to the closing years of the fourth century when it became, within a few years after the conversion of Constantine (AD 312), the ruling state religion and, even more importantly, the provider of a coherent ideology for the entire Roman Empire.4