The Catechumenate and the Rise of Christianity
- Volume 6
- Issue 2, Fall 2013
- The Catechumenate and the Rise of Christianity
Over the past two centuries historians of Christianity have offered various theories concerning why and how the early Christian movement took root and flourished in the Greco-Roman world, which was surprising considering its modest beginning, its small size, its lack of cultural resources, and its bad reputation among the elites. This article argues that the formation of the early Christian catechumenate enabled the church not only to reach pagans but to transition them to the very different world of Christianity and to keep them in that world. The catechumenate was necessary because the difference between paganism and Christianity was great enough to require that some kind of bridge be built between the two worlds if Christians hoped to win new converts to the faith and then establish them securely in that faith, and it was effective because it struck just the right balance between making Christianity attractive and accessible and yet setting high standards for membership, which in the long run made the church leaner and stronger.
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