social setting of Pauline Christianity

Gerd Theissen discusses the development of early Christianity in its social context. Theissen describes how early Christianity was a movement dominated by wandering charismatics, whose mission was largely concentrated on the rural area of Palestine, and how, with Paul's mission, it entered a new phase which would ultimately qualify it to become the religion of the Empire. He suggests that Paul resolved conflicts within the community at Corinth through a form of 'love-patriarchalism': a hierarchical pattern of social relations was softened by his emphasis on the unity of all in the body of Christianity. There are fascinating studies of, for example, the means of subsistence available to the missionaries, the class membership of the Christians in Corinth and the conflicts in the Corinthian congregation. Theissen complements these detailed studies with more general reflections on how such sociological questions can illuminate the historical religious texts.

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