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The First Urban Christians: The Social World of the Apostle Paul Paperback – February 8, 2003


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Editorial Reviews

Review

"A much-needed authoritative study." J. L. Houlden, Times Literary Supplement "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

From the Publisher

Co-winner of the 1986 annual Award for Excellence given by the American Academy of Religion; Co-winner of the 1984 Biblical Archaeology Review Publication Award
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press; 2 edition (February 8, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300098618
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300098617
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 0.8 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #262,344 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

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I can recommend it whole-heartedly to pastors, students and laity.
Waldo
The book is laid out by subject, so it's easy to go back and find information.
Amazon Customer
Meeks studies the earliest Christian communities established by St. Paul.
Timothy Kearney

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

49 of 49 people found the following review helpful By Timothy Kearney VINE VOICE on July 17, 2004
Format: Paperback
Biblical scholar Wayne Meeks wrote the first edition of THE FIRST URBAN CHRISTIANS in the mid 1980's. He collected not only scriptural information, but also historical and sociological information to reconstruct the world of the earliest Christians. At the time it was considered to be groundbreaking research. Today this work is considered by many to the standard bearer of sociological studies concerning first century Christians.
Meeks studies the earliest Christian communities established by St. Paul. Meeks acknowledges that in the minds of most people, the first Christians were poorer peasant and agrarian people, but the reality is probably different. While the gospel may have been first preached in such settings, the faith started in urban areas and spread first from one city to another, then to the countryside. While Meeks does mention many of the early Christian leaders in his work, his primary focus is on the writings of St. Paul and the day to day life behind these writings, since historically these writings are the earliest Christian sources.
Topics in the book include the urban environment of Pauline Christianity, social life of the early Christian community, the formations of churches, conflicts, rituals, and how belief shaped the lives of the early Christians. The book also has an index to help with information on specific subjects and a scriptural reference index for people who need to use the book for a quick reference for study or preparation of preaching.
Meeks has a scholar's attention to detail and provides a great deal of information in this work. He also has the reader in mind. Knowing that the work will be read both by scholars, students, and those interested in a deeper knowledge of scripture, the work is informative and readable.
While the information in the book is no longer new, it is still current. Students and those wishing further study will find Meeks' copious notes as well as his bibliography helpful for further study.
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31 of 32 people found the following review helpful By FrKurt Messick HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on May 12, 2004
Format: Paperback
Wayne Meeks, professor of Biblical studies at Yale, looks at the world of the first century Christian church in this book, 'The First Urban Christians'. He has a follow-up volume, 'The Origin of Christian Morality', that progresses into the world of the second century Christian church. Together these volumes give a rare insight into the earliest development of the church -- as so many denominations take as their authority the actions, decisions, and conventions of this time (as they understand them), a look at the formative years of Christianity (and later Christendom) is valuable indeed.
This book looks at social description of early Christianity, bringing in history, politics, sociology and philosophy in various degrees. Meeks is looking for the 'ordinary Christian' in the early church, something he claims we do not often find in the scriptures or other writings of the time. This requires that we know as much as possible about the general cultural setting in which early Christians found themselves, as their writings and practices handed down to us constitute a response, if not directly then at least indirectly, to their times.
Despite the pastoral setting of many of the gospel stories and parables, Christianity was largely an urban phenomenon in its earliest days (as would be true of most any sect or cult that would grow in early times -- it would take root in and transfer by movement between cities; indeed, Antioch, one of the major cities of the time, was where the term Christian was first coined). Meeks looks at the issues of city growth, from village to city to empire (it is no mistake that the Roman Empire derived its name from a city). Urban Judaism had unique traits that are examined here as influential in early Christianity.
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42 of 50 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 10, 1999
Format: Paperback
Meeks takes a look at the first Christians from a perspective rarely found in typical Christian Bible dictionaries, encyclopedias, and commentaries. The strength of this work lies in the fact that Meeks is specifically unveiling the social customs and mores of the first century. Especially helpful are his discussions on the living and working conditions of the first Christians.
Since we are nearly 2000 years removed from the social context on the early church, a book such as this helps us to see what we have been missing.
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9 of 12 people found the following review helpful By B. Marold HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWER on December 29, 2009
Format: Paperback
Meeks, Wayne A., The First Urban Christians, The Social World of the Apostle Paul (New Haven, Yale University Press, Second Edition, 2003)

We are concerned about reversing the decline in respect and attention given to the faith which sustained our parents, and we should be. If our witness to that faith no longer merits attention, there may be something wrong with our understanding and evangelism on behalf of that faith. One source of answers may be to return to the beginning to see how Christianity was so remarkably successful in its growth over the first century after its revelation. That is the subject of this book, written by one of the top two or three top Biblical scholars in English in the latter half of the 20th Century.

This is primarily a study in the social sciences, which uses the scriptures and other Christian writings as source documents to analyze the nature of the early Christian communities. By this kind of analysis, one can, to some extent, understand ancient events by seeing similarities in more recent developments. One may speculate, for example, that the rise of Russian communism may have been due to opportunities similar to those present in Imperial Rome. The irony is that both movements developed in arenas which were opposite to the milieu where each was born. Marxism was born in the industrial cities of Germany and England. Christianity was born and raised in a rural setting. But, to quote professor Meeks: `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.
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