Journal Article

Plurality and Ethnicity in Early Christian Mission

Harry W. Eberts

in Sociology of Religion

Published on behalf of Association for the Sociology of Religion

Volume 58, issue 4, pages 305-321
Published in print January 1997 | ISSN: 1069-4404
Published online January 1997 | e-ISSN: 1759-8818 | DOI:
Plurality and Ethnicity in Early Christian Mission

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Christianity has never been a monolithic movement. From its beginning, at least four groups were active in its mission, and each addressed itself to a particular ethnic segment of the Roman Empire. The Twelve of Galilee, under Peter, went to Galilee and beyond, to the village culture existing there. The Brethren, under James, addressed themselves to “Hebrews” — Jews who spoke Aramaic in their homes, used Hebrew in their synagogues, and tended to isolate themselves from the prevailing Greek society. The Hellenists, led by Stephen and Philip, directed their mission to “Hellenists” — Jews who spoke Greek at home, used that language in the synagogue, and related themselves to Hellenistic culture. The last, the Apostles, under Barnabas and Paul, worked with synagogues in what is now Turkey and Greece, ministering especially to “godfearers” — Greek men and women attracted to Judaism but who were not proselytes. These groups developed distinctive theologies, worship practices, and methods of governance. They cooperated with each other, and they fought each other. Luke, writing in the latter part of the first century CE, glossed over the differences as he tried to present the Christian movement as “one Lord, one faith, one church.” A concluding section relates this thesis to the work of Rodney Stark (1996), The rise of Christianity.

Journal Article.  0 words. 

Subjects: Religion ; Sociology of Religion

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