Who Are the People of God?: Early Christian Models of Community

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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 ...
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Overview

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.
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Editorial Reviews

Booknews
Kee (biblical studies emeritus, Boston U.) 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. His 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. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
Steve Schroeder
Kee promises a synthesis of scholarly research that runs counter to "contemporary attempts to discover (invent?) a simple conceptual core out of which Christianity developed." He delivers on both counts. He combines sociologically informed reflection on ancient history and contemporary historiography with a carefully articulated description of five models of community--these five models having developed in the context of formative Judaism and early Christianity, both of which drew freely on the Hellenistic world in which they emerged for philosophical frameworks within which to answer the question posed by Kee's title. Kee is not willing to limit philosophical influences to a single school but points to Stoicism, Cynicism, Neoplatonism, and apocalypticism as influences on ideas of community that gained prominence in the early church and in rabbinic Judaism after the destruction of the temple. He returns at the end to the question of Christianity's "core" in a critical note on priority in the Gospel tradition. That note locates his work in the ongoing conversation about Christian origins and, together with the body of the text, makes this an especially lucid and important contribution to that conversation.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780300059526
  • Publisher: Yale University Press
  • Publication date: 1/28/1995
  • Pages: 288
  • Product dimensions: 6.31 (w) x 9.54 (h) x 0.91 (d)

Table of Contents

Preface
Introduction: Ancient History and Contemporary Historiography 1
Ch. 1 Models of Community in the Literature of Postexilic Judaism 17
Ch. 2 The Community of the Wise 55
Ch. 3 The Law-abiding Community 88
Ch. 4 The Community Where God Dwells among His People 121
Ch. 5 The Community of Mystical Participation 145
Ch. 6 The Ethnically and Culturally Inclusive Community 179
Ch. 7 The Community Models Develop in the Post-New Testament Period 208
Critical Note: Priority in the Gospel Tradition 229
Notes 235
Index 271
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