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Early Christian Models of Community

Howard Clark Kee

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In this provocative book, an eminent scholar examines the complex factors that shaped Judaism and early Christianity, analyzing cardinal Judaic and Christian texts and the cultural worlds in which they were written. Howard Clark Kee's sociocultural approach emphasizes the diversity of viewpoint and belief present in Judaism and in early Christianity, as well as the many ways in which the two religions reacted to each other and to the changing circumstances of the first two centuries of the Common Era.

According to Kee's interpretation of Jewish documents of the period, Jews began to adopt various models of community to bring into focus their group identity, to show their special relation to God, and to articulate their responsibilities within the community and toward the wider culture. The models they adopted—the community of the wise, the law-abiding community, the community of mystical participation, the city or temple model, and the ethnically and culturally inclusive community—were the means by which they responded to the challenges and opportunities for reinstating themselves as God's people. These models in turn influenced early Christian behavior and writing, becoming means for Christians to define their type of community, to understand the role of Jesus as God's agent in establishing the community, and to outline what their moral life and group structure, as well as their relations with the wider Jewish and Greco-Roman culture, ought to be.

Howard Clark Kee is William Goodwin Aurelio Professor of Biblical Studies Emeritus at Boston University. Among his eighteen previous books is Miracle in the Early Christian World, published by Yale University Press.

"This book is original, comprehensive, and judicious, a clear and satisfying account of Christian origins within their cultural context. It will have a salutary impact on the study of early Christianity and Judaism."—Anthony J. Saldarini, Boston College

"An especially lucid and important contribution."—Booklist

"A good introduction to early Christianity for the serious student."—Leslie Houlden, Theological Book Review

"This guide to reading the New Testament writings and related literature in their historical and literary context is comprehensive, interdisciplinary and occasionally polemical"—America

"[A] highly competent analysis of major aspects of what used to be called doctrines of the church, verging on church history."—Robert M. Grant, Church History

"The social world of the first Christians is thus reconstructed on the solid basis of Jewish texts in their respective sociocultural contexts. An impressive approach to sociocultural models of early Christianity. It belongs in every seminary library."—Jens Schröter, Religious Studies Review

"Kee enables readers to gain a glimpse of the earliest Christian church forming itself and establishing the parameters of orthodoxy."—Rob Messick-Watkins, Interpretation

ISBN: 9780300070637
Publication Date: January 31, 1997
288 pages, 6 x 9