Two trends of Soviet studies in the field of Early Christianity came in touch in that book. The original texts were published by A. B. Ranovich in the form of two separate collections in 1933 and 1935. ‘Original Sources on the History of Early Christianity’ and ‘Classical Critics of Christianity’. In both anthologies, the professionalism of the author who got education as a classical philologist and became an expert in classical history went to a controversy with a specific ideological component, which in later Soviet publications was called ‘vulgar materialism’ and which by the early 1930-s had been already dogmatized. Accordingly, when reprinting both anthologies in the end of 1980-s, the editor, I. S. Sventsitskaya, was faced with the task of separating those two strata, retaining the historical, philological and source study of the work, separating it from what was delicately called ‘echoes of primitive anti-religious propaganda of the 1920-s – 1930-s’ (p. 12) That comment primarily concerned introductions to documents and commentaries.
‘Original Sources on the History of Early Christianity’ contains two parts. The first one covers the economical and social conditions of the Roman Empire at the turn of the new era: economical crisis, a decay of its provinces, reduction of the population, taxes, liturgy and service, trade and agriculture, common-day life, slavery, unions and collegia, evolution of the system of colonate. The author relies on testimonies of ancient authors, but to a greater extent – on the data of inscriptions and papyri. The second section contains evidences of the cultural and religious context of the Early Christianity period: religious syncretism, spread of magic, pagan (Alexandrian) martyrdom and religious persecution of Jews, anti-Christian literature, the structure of Christian Church, Talmudic references to Jesus and Christians, ‘Christians about themselves’, apocalyptic, and heresies. The second part of this anthology is rather eclectic (it applies, for instance, to the ‘Apocalyptic’ section). The characteristic feature of the science of the early-twentieth century, the absence of the Jewish background of Early Christianity, even in the framework where that background was known before the discovery of the Dead Sea manuscripts, draws attention to itself. The second anthology includes texts by Lucian, Celsus, Cecilia, Porfiry, Hierokles, an anonymous author of the third century, Julian, and Libania.