Who Were the First Christians?: Dismantling the Urban Thesis
For an understanding of the early Christian movement, two matters are essential. One is the size of the movement. The other is the distribution of the movement. In regard to the first matter, it has been widely assumed that there were 6 million Christians (or 10% of the population of the RomanEmpire) around the year 300. But those kinds of calculations have no substantial ancient bases or any modern method by which such numbers can be established. As to the distribution of the movement, the consensus view is that Christianity was an urban movement until the conversion of EmperorConstantine. On close examination, these two popular views-an urban Christianity of 6 million-would nearly saturate every urban area of the entire Roman Empire with Christians, leaving no room for Jews or pagans. That scenario simply does not work. But where does the solution lie? Were there fewerChristians in the Roman world? Was the Roman world much more urbanized that we previously thought? Did large numbers of Jews convert to Christianity? Or, as Thomas Robinson argues, is the urban thesis defective, and the neglected countryside must now be considered in any reconstruction of earlyChristian growth? In Who Were the First Christians? Robinson deconstructs the "urban thesis," and then goes further; he asks what was the makeup of the typical Christian congregation, and whether it was a lower-class movement or an upwardly mobile middle-class movement. In answering these questions, Robinsonengages with the influential writings of Wayne Meeks, Rodney Stark, and Ramsay MacMullen, among others. He argues persuasively that more attention needs to be given to the countryside and to the considerable contingent of the marginal and the rustic even within urban populations. The result is thatthis book effectively dismantles the long-accepted urban thesis, and proves that a profoundly revised vision of early Christian growth and development is required.
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Must Historians Count?
2 The Urban Thesis
3 Counting Romans and Christians
4 Counting the Jewish Population
5 Urban and Rural Relationships
6 Supposed Barriers to Christian Success in the Countryside
7 The PreConstantinian Evidence
8 Dismissing the Evidence of Christianity in the Countryside
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Alexandria ancient world Antioch argued Asia Minor Athanasius Barriers to Christian Brill Cambridge University Press chorepiscopoi Christian assemblies Christian church Christian message Christian movement Christian Number Christian population Christian Success Christianity’s Constantine context conversion Coptic count country bishop culture Demography diaspora Jews Dionysius dismiss Donatists early Christian eastern eccl Egypt Eusebius Frend Greco-Roman Greek groups Harnack Hist History Hopkins Irenaeus Jesus Jewish diaspora Jewish population Judaism largely urban Late Antiquity Leiden matter Meeks million monasticism Montanism Montanist Mormonism Nepos North Africa Novatian number of Christians numbers offered Origen Oxford pagan Palestine Paul Paul’s perhaps persecution Phrygia points Pre-Constantinian Evidence Ramsay MacMullen religion religious Rise of Christianity Rodney Stark Roman Empire Rome Routledge rural areas rural Christian presence rustic scholars Second Church simply Social speak synagogue term Tertullian third century tion towns urban and rural urban areas urban character Urban Christians urban population urban thesis villages W. H. C. Frend