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The Christians Who Became JewsActs of the Apostles and Ethnicity in the Roman City$
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Christopher Stroup

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9780300247893

Published to Yale Scholarship Online: September 2020

DOI: 10.12987/yale/9780300247893.001.0001

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Jews and Christians in the Polis

Jews and Christians in the Polis

Chapter:
(p.1) Introduction Jews and Christians in the Polis
Source:
The Christians Who Became Jews
Author(s):

Christopher Stroup

Publisher:
Yale University Press
DOI:10.12987/yale/9780300247893.003.0001

This introductory chapter provides an overview of the importance of ethnicity and ethnic rhetoric to the formation of ancient Christian identity. The cities of the Roman Empire were filled with gods and the citizens who honored them with festivals, processions, buildings, and benefactions. The followers of Jesus—later called Christians—lived and moved in these cities, navigating avenues lined with statues honoring various deities, organizing their days and months around the feast days that structured civic calendars, and wandering past (and through) the many temples and shrines that populated the busy urban landscape. The importance of this urban context should not be overlooked: civic, ethnic, and religious identities were intertwined with these visible, material, and practical signs of communal life, wherever one was placed within the city's bustling topography. Connections between life in the city and daily religious practices were therefore fundamental to the development of Christian identity. This book then compares the literary construction of Jewish and Christian identity in Acts of the Apostles with the material construction of various ethnic and civic identities by inhabitants of Roman-era cities. It argues that Acts represents Jewish identity as hybrid and multiple in order to situate the earliest Christians within the Greco-Roman city as members of an ideal Jewish community, which was both ancestral and accepted in the city.

Keywords:   ethnicity, ancient Christian identity, Roman Empire, Christians, civic identities, ethnic identities, religious identities, Jewish identity, Acts of the Apostles, Jewish community

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