The First Urban Christians

The First Urban Christians: The Social World of the Apostle Paul, Second Edition

WAYNE A. MEEKS
Copyright Date: 1983
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 320
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt32bfz6
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    The First Urban Christians
    Book Description:

    In this classic work, Wayne A. Meeks analyzes the earliest extant documents of Christianity-the letters of Paul-to describe the tensions and the texture of life of the first urban Christians. In a new introduction, he describes the evolution of the field of New Testament scholarship over the past twenty years, including new developments in fields such as archaeology and social history.Praise for the earlier edition:"Many readers are likely to join me in feeling that they have never been so close to their mixed and mixed-up spiritual ancestors as Meeks helps them to be. For those who are open to the possibility that they can find fresh angles on the familiar, this book is not only recommended; it is urged."-Martin E. Marty,Christian Century"A much-needed authoritative study."-J. L. Houlden,Times Literary Supplement"Those with any historical bent will be intrigued by the way a story usually overlaid with thick layers of theological speculation is unraveled. . . . And those who simply have an interest in how groups form in any era . . . will be fascinated by this case study of one particular community that has ramifications for understanding all other communities."-Robert McAfee Brown,New York Times Book Review

    "Should fascinate any reader with an interest in the history of human thought."--Phoebe-Lou Adams,Atlantic Monthly

    eISBN: 978-0-300-16091-8
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. PREFACE TO THE SECOND EDITION
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. PREFACE
    (pp. xiii-xvi)
  5. INTRODUCTION
    (pp. 1-8)

    In the early decades of the Roman Empire, a new sect of Judaism appeared and spread rapidly, though not in great numbers, through the cities of the East. It did not stand out among the many “Oriental” cults being carried from place to place by immigrants and traders. Few people of importance paid attention to it. Its origins were unnoticed by writers of the day. Yet it was to become a new religion, separate from, even hostile to, the Jewish communities that gave it birth. In a few centuries it would become not only the dominant religion of the Roman...

  6. 1 THE URBAN ENVIRONMENT OF PAULINE CHRISTIANITY
    (pp. 9-50)

    Paul was a city person. The city breathes through his language. Jesus’ parables of sowers and weeds, sharecroppers, and mud-roofed cottages call forth smells of manure and earth, and the Aramaic of the Palestinian villages often echoes in the Greek. When Paul constructs a metaphor of olive trees or gardens, on the other hand, the Greek is fluent and evokes schoolroom more than farm; he seems more at home with the clichés of Greek rhetoric, drawn from gymnasium, stadium, or workshop.¹ Moreover, Paul was among those who depended on the city for their livelihood. He supported himself, at least partially,...

  7. 2 THE SOCIAL LEVEL OF PAULINE CHRISTIANS
    (pp. 51-73)

    Celsus, the first pagan author we know of who took Christianity seriously enough to write a book against it, alleged that the church deliberately excluded educated people because the religion was attractive only to “the foolish, dishonourable and stupid, and only slaves, women, and little children.”¹ The Christian evangelists, he said, were “wool-workers, cobblers, laundry-workers, and the most illiterate and bucolic yokels,” who enticed “children … and stupid women” to come along “to the wooldresser’s shop, or to the cobbler’s or the washerwoman’s shop, that they may learn perfection.”² Celsus lived in the second century, but he was sure that...

  8. 3 THE FORMATION OF THE EKKLĒSIA
    (pp. 74-110)

    One cannot read far in the letters of Paul and his disciples without discovering that it was concern about the internal life of the Christian groups in each city that prompted most of the correspondence. The letters also reveal that those groups enjoyed an unusual degree of intimacy, high levels of interaction among members, and a very strong sense of internal cohesion and of distinction both from outsiders and from “the world.”

    The aim of this chapter and the next is to describe the social structure of those groups. The Pauline congregations belong to the category studied extensively by modern...

  9. 4 GOVERNANCE
    (pp. 111-139)

    In the previous chapter we considered some of the elements that gave the Pauline Christians a sense of belonging, a cohesiveness both in the intimate household groups in particular cities and in their knowledge of being part of a larger movement, the “ekklēsiaof God.” We now need to examine the organizational dimension of their solidarity. No group can persist for any appreciable time without developing some patterns of leadership, some differentiation of roles among its members, some means of managing conflict, some ways of articulating shared values and norms, and some sanctions to assure acceptable levels of conformity to...

  10. 5 RITUAL
    (pp. 140-163)

    Was early Christianity a religion? Not at all, declares E. A. Judge. To first-century observers,

    the talkative, passionate and sometimes quarrelsome circles that met to read Paul’s letters over their evening meal in private houses, or the pre-dawn conclaves of ethical rigorists that alarmed Pliny, were a disconcerting novelty. Without temple, cult statue or ritual, they lacked the time-honoured and reassuring routine of sacrifice that would have been necessary to link them with religion.¹

    To use religion as a model for describing early Christian groups would amount, in Judge’s view, to “mislocating them under … an unhistorical rubric.”² This is...

  11. 6 PATTERNS OF BELIEF AND PATTERNS OF LIFE
    (pp. 164-192)

    Studies of Pauline theology, which are legion, have all but universally neglected the social context and functions of doctrine. That neglect has led to serious distortions. The force of a belief-statement is determined by the whole matrix of social patterns within which it is uttered. The matrix includes conventions of language but is not limited to them. Abstracted from that setting or placed in a different one, the stated belief is liable to mean something quite different—a happy fact for the religious communities that have had to reinterpret canonical texts in all sorts of new settings and occasions, but...

  12. LIST OF ABBREVIATIONS
    (pp. 193-196)
  13. NOTES
    (pp. 197-242)
  14. BIBLIOGRAPHY OF SECONDARY WORKS CITED
    (pp. 243-278)
  15. SUPPLEMENTARY BIBLIOGRAPHY
    (pp. 279-282)
  16. INDEX OF BIBLICAL REFERENCES
    (pp. 283-290)
  17. INDEX OF MODERN AUTHORS
    (pp. 291-296)
  18. SUBJECT INDEX
    (pp. 297-303)