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Dr Harnack opened the course of lectures which have been translated in this library under the title What is Christianity? with a reference to John Stuart Mill. The present work might also be introduced by a sentence from the same English thinker. In the second chapter of his essay upon “Liberty,” he has occasion to speak with admiration and regret of the Emperor Marcus Aurelius, confessing that his persecution of the Christians seems “one of the most tragical facts in all history.” “It is a bitter thought,” he adds, “how different a thing the Christianity of the world might have been, if the Christian faith had been adopted as the religion of the empire under the auspices of Marcus Aurelius instead of those of Constantine.” Aurelius represents the apex of paganism during the first three centuries of our era. Chronologically, too, he stands almost equidistant between Christ and Constantine. But there were reasons why the adjustment of the empire to Christianity could not come earlier than the first quarter of the fourth century, and it is Dr Harnack's task in the present work to outline these reasons in so far as they are connected with the extension and expansion of Christianity itself. How did the new religion come to win official recognition from the state in A.D. 325? Why then? Why not till then? Such is the problem set to the historian of the Christian propaganda by the ante-Nicene period. He has to explain how and why and where, within less than three centuries, an Oriental religious movement which was originally a mere ripple on a single wave of dissent in the wide sea of paganism, rose into a breaker which swept before it the vested interests, prejudices, traditions, and authority of the most powerful social and political organization that the world hitherto xhad known. The main causes and courses of this transition, with all that it involves of the inner life and worship of the religion, form Dr Harnack's topic in these pages.

In editing the book for an English audience I have slightly enlarged the index and added a list of New Testament passages referred to. Wherever a German or French book cited by the author has appeared in an English dress, the corresponding reference has been subjoined. Also, in deference to certain suggestions received by the publishers, I have added, wherever it has been advisable to do so, English versions of the Greek and Latin passages which form so valuable and characteristic a feature of Dr Harnack's historical discussions. It is hoped that the work may be thus rendered more intelligible and inviting than ever to that wider audience whose interest in early Christianity is allied to little or no Greek and Latin.

The first edition of this translation was issued in 1904-1905, and the first volume is now out of print. Meanwhile, Dr Harnack published, in 1906, a new edition of the original in two volumes, which has been so thoroughly revised and enlarged that, with its additions and omissions, it forms practically a new work. His own preface to the second edition gives no adequate idea of the care and skill with which nearly every page has been gone over in order to fill up any gaps and bring the work up to date. The present version has been made directly from this edition. I have taken the opportunity of correcting some misprints which crept into the first edition of my translation, and it is hoped that English readers will now be able to find easy access to this standard history in its final form.

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