Brown vs. Hurtado [Dawson]

While reading both The Conversion of Christianity, 300-363 by Peter Brown and Larry Hurtado’s The Earliest Christian Artifacts side by side, it is easy to see how both writers have very similar topics however each piece takes a different route to how they present their findings to their audience.

In “The Conversion of Christianity, 300-363”, a chapter from the book The World of Late Antiquity, Peter Brown presents his ideas on the society of Christians in the Roman antique period. Brown writes to an educated audience, rarely stopping to clarify or define. In fact, the only words he stops to define are the ones of Greek origins such as: kyriakos oikos, didaskaleion, and paideia. He defines these words and yet does not define the Latin, Italian, and French words like modus vivendi, aggiornamento, razzias,and demi-vierge further showing that the audience he is addressing is well-educated, enough so that they understand the latin words and their pertinence to the subject. Brown presents his information personally, taking his own understanding of history and using that to write this chapter. He uses no citations and no outside sources. All of the information in the passage is his own knowledge and opinion. In doing so Brown presents his own thought process on the earliest conversions of Christianity which leaves any reader not familiar with who Brown is and his work in the field of Christian history questioning where all of the information in the chapter came from.

Larry Hurtado’s book The Earliest Christian Artifacts presents a different way of writing. In chapter two, “The Early Christian Preference for the Codex” Brown presents a deluge of information and statistics on the clear preference Christians had for the codex over the scroll. At one point in his piece, after bombarding the readers with endless facts and numbers, he states “At the risk of dizzying readers, I have included all these figures to try to give somewhat greater precision to the familiar judgements previously offered by scholars about Christian book-form preferences”. He acknowledges his readers and then proceeds to explain the facts and figures in a more comprehensive way, he also includes the graphs at the end of the chapter as another clarifier. Hurtado’s audience is different from Brown’s, he assumes the audience is not as well versed in the material that he is presenting and proceeds to explain much of what he writes. He also utilized evidence in a very different way from Brown, he uses facts, figures, and tangible data, all backed up by the citations at the bottom of each page, to prove his points and to outline the usage of codices by early Christians.

While both Brown and Hurtado present very similar topics on how Christianity evolved in the earliest of times, they do so in strikingly different ways. Brown takes a direct approach, using his comprehensive knowledge of early Christian life to present a new argument to scholars who know exactly what he is talking about. Hurtado, however, takes a different approach. He uses facts and figures to clarify what is already known to most and then uses others’ arguments to either strengthen his position or to explain why those arguments are irrelevant. In doing so Hurtado builds rapport with his audience by showing a clear line of evidence which can not be disputed easily whereas in Brown’s writing he comes off as haughty and distant, with his lack of citations or any other outside information and his reluctance to explain much of his writing, to anyone who is not a Christian scholar.

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