By 100 C.E., Christianity seemed to have little to recommend itself in the eyes of the world. Often caught in in-fighting, Christians constituted a weird flock and clearly had bad press. Some of their beliefs (e.g., the belief in resurrection), some of their practices (e.g., the “cannibalistic” eating of “flesh” and “blood”), and some of their attitudes (e.g., their exaltation of virginity and continence) inspired repulsion and verged on the scandalous. Their books were odd and could certainly not match the great productions of Greco-Roman culture.
Keeping aloof from society while deploying an unavailing aggressiveness, those aliens seemed to have no positive contribution to make. Hence labeling, name-calling, and stereotyping were soon to be the easy way of dealing with the early Christians.As it entered the second century, the Christian movement had to assert and define itself in relation to the surrounding world; otherwise its identity threatened to fade into invisibility. In the process it was exposed to a double challenge. On the one hand, its relation to Judaism, which it was gradually abandoning, remained still largely unreflected on and had to be explicitly worked out. On the other hand, its relation to Hellenistic culture and especially to the more or less popular moral philosophy, which seemed to offer it support and expression, still had to be clarified. This double relationship must now be examined.