Libraries at University of Nebraska-Lincoln


Date of this Version


Document Type



A THESIS Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College in the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements For the Degree of Master of Arts, Major: Classics, Under the Supervision of Professor John Turner. Lincoln, Nebraska: July 26, 1993

Copyright (c) 1993 James Edward Shaul

Updated 2018 to include a table of contents and small edits needed due to hasty proofreading.


Rather than construct a moral monolith, or argue for any specific ethical position, the goal of this thesis is to lay a foundation upon which an ethical system can be built. The goal of this thesis is to construct a solid base of information that will inform and help direct discussion in Christian ethics. In finding a common base, the Christian community may not necessarily find moral consensus, but it certainly is hoped that is can find common understanding and therefore some measure of intellectual unity. This thesis attempts to examine the actual writings of the early Christian church, describing the extant structure of ethics. Based on this examination, patterns of historical ethical processes should yield a possible paradigm for present day ethical reasoning. This thesis will examine ethical statements on the basis of five levels of structure. These five structural levels are as follows: grammatical, rhetorical, literary, theological, and philosophical. The broader question of content, or what ethical standards were promoted and required in the establishment and formulation phases of the church will treated more cursorily, except when content is necessary to structure (most notably within the theological and philosophical levels). This omission does not stem from a disregard for its importance, but because this question logically should be answered in a second work. The plan of this thesis is to move through the five levels of structure following an analytical path from the grammatical level to the philosophical. Each level, in its turn, will be scrutinized for its own sake, then the results will be compared with and incorporated into the next level. After examining all five, a synthesis and global analysis will be offered, as well as suggestions for further study.