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The First Urban Christians: The Social World of the Apostle Paul

3.74  ·  Rating Details  ·  167 Ratings  ·  17 Reviews
What was it like to be an ordinary Christian in the beginning decades of the Roman Empire? In this absorbing and authoritative book, Meeks analyzes the earliest extant documents of Christianity--the letters of Paul--to describe the tensions and the texture of life of the first urban Christians.
Paperback, Second Edition, 320 pages
Published February 8th 2003 by Yale University Press (first published 1983)
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Oct 18, 2007 Brett rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: anybody who is studying Paul, his letters, his theology
Awesome book. It is early '80's. So it doesn't seem that novel now, but it was a turning point in Pauline and biblical scholarship as he was one of the pioneers of the social-critical approach. It is a must read for anybody reading Paul.

I was particularly fascinated his first chapter about urban life at the time.
Milk Badger
Jul 24, 2015 Milk Badger rated it liked it
A fascinating, though at times scholarly, sociological and historical study of the religious communities founded by Paul in a dozen or so cities around the Mediterranean basin. Meeks compares them with a number of other contemporary social phenomena in the Hellenistic world (patrifamilial households, voluntary associations, synagogues, rhetorical schools), describing how the Pauline ekklēsiai were in some ways similar to these groups but also unprecedented. Although much is still unknown about t ...more
Dan Lacich
Sep 02, 2014 Dan Lacich rated it really liked it
Very insightful look at early Christianity. Meeks tends to take the most liberal and skeptical of views on dating New Testament books as well as questions of authorship. This impacts how he interprets certain events but is not a reason to reject the basic work.
Tsun Lu
Nov 30, 2012 Tsun Lu rated it it was ok
REVIEW AND CRITIQUE Meeks, Wayne A. The First Urban Christians: The Social World of the Apostle Paul. New Haven: Yale, 1983.

In The First Urban Christians Meeks offered a ground-breaking social history model of explaining the growth of the Pauline-Christian movement, studying the sociological conditions (urban lives, social classes, rituals and household conventions) of the ordinary Pauline Christians in the Greco-Roman environment.

The distinctive orientation of Meek’s study is to “describe” th
Bruce Morton
Sep 05, 2011 Bruce Morton rated it liked it
Wayne Meeks provides much helpful information regarding the first century world. The weakness in the study (even the revised version) shows up in the almost complete lack of attention he gives to the powerful ancient mystery religions such as the Artemis and Dionysus cults. The omissions seriously weaken some of his conclusions.
Nov 04, 2012 Gretchen rated it it was ok
I started out excited by the title, thinking I'd get some insight into Paul's world. Well. I did, but it was work. Dry read. Really more of a research paper feel. Really felt like I was back in college and HAD to read it for the class. Nothing compelling about it for me. (Maybe I'm not intellectual enough...)
Brent Wilson
Nov 15, 2013 Brent Wilson rated it liked it
Shelves: religion
This book has been influential among New Testament scholars - helping to open up new ways to understand Paul's ministry. My personal response though was - a little too academic and not direct enough for my interests.
I read it all, but it was somewhat tedious compared to works aimed more at lay readers.
Jan 22, 2013 Brian rated it really liked it
I'm very curious about the few hundred years of Christianity. This is four stars and not five because I'm not expert enough to evaluate it, but I certainly enjoyed it and found it informative. I don't know what group is the contemporary counterpart to the very early church -- the holiness churches?
Nicholas Quient
Absorbing, center/left, and ultimately compelling overview of the early Christians within the Pauline communities. He tends to have a rather dim view of Paul (one I don't share) but this book, when taken after a pinch of salt, is illuminating.
Jul 27, 2008 Chantee rated it it was amazing
One of the most interesting books on the early Christian/Pauline community I have ever read. The roles of urban ecology and "low-status crystallization" are particularly thought-provoking so I recommend this book without hesitation.
May 30, 2013 jon rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very meaningful content. A better reference work, imho, than a left to right read--too dense even for this academic. It was groundbreaking sociological work at the time and warrants its voice in pauline study.
Jun 05, 2010 Jason rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
As a standard in the field, it is a worthwhile read. Full of useful information. Meeks' approach, however, necessitates that a grain of salt (read: healthy skepticism)be applied to his evaluations.
Nov 02, 2012 Marcelo rated it it was amazing
Wonderful scholarship on the first century church by Yale's Wayne A. Meeks. It is difficult reading, but if the scholastic style can be deciphered, it is nothing short of enlightening.
Jan 04, 2015 Jocelyn rated it it was amazing
Shelves: religion
Classic work on the types of social organization reflected in the Pauline epistles. I'm embarrassed that I never read it until now.
Anna Ellis
May 27, 2013 Anna Ellis rated it liked it
Really interesting, full of lots of information. Presented as a thesis, tough, not a book you would just volunteer to read.
May 12, 2010 Irene rated it really liked it
Good overview of the social context of the communities that would have made up the first generation of Christians.
An outstanding, detailed social history of the eastern Mediterranean in the New Testament period.
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