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The First Urban Christians: The Social World of the Apostle Paul Paperback – February 8, 2003
30 of the World's Greatest Historical City Maps
A beautifully illustrated history of the world's most celebrated historical city maps, from the hubs of ancient civilization to sprawling modern mega-cities, created in association with the Smithsonian Institution. Learn more
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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
From the Publisher
Top Customer Reviews
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.
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.Read more ›
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.
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.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This is clearly a great book for anyone desiring to understand the
world Paul lived and wrote in.
Fascinating facts about the urban context of the letters of Paul and the world of the early Christians. Read morePublished on May 31, 2014 by Amazon Customer
When first published in 1983, this scholarly monograph provided new insight into the apostolic world as reflected in Paul's letters. Read morePublished on May 26, 2014 by Waldo
This seems to be a landmark book on the subject of the social world of Paul, and I can see why - it's very readable, I found it informative and enlightening, and after getting into... Read morePublished on February 13, 2014 by Just a Putz in WI
Ground-breaking, original research which opened our eyes to the beginnings of the church in the First Century and enriches the background for New Testament study.Published on February 8, 2014 by Don Bitsberger
I did not like this book. The author seems full of himself. He uses unnecessary haughty language, and does not fully string out some of his thoughts. Read morePublished on February 5, 2013 by Seeking First
A good background to understanding the world in the early history of the church in the time of the apostle Paul.Published on December 17, 2012 by ridge runner