Why Christianity Happened

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Overview

Looking beyond theological narratives and offering a sociological, economic, and historical examination of the spread of earliest Christianity, James Crossley presents a thoroughly secular and causal explanation for why the once law-observant movement within Judaism became the beginnings of a new religion. First analyzing the historiography of the New Testament and stressing the problematic omission of a social scientific account, Crossley applies a socioeconomic lens to the rise of the Jesus movement and the centrality of sinners to his mission. Using macrosociological approaches, he explains how Jesus' Jewish teachings sparked the shift toward a gentile religion and an international monotheistic trend. Finally, using approaches from conversion studies, he provides a sociohistorical explanation for the rise of the Pauline mission.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
In his first chapter, Crossley (biblical studies, Univ. of Sheffield, U.K.; The Date of Mark's Gospel) narrates the decline of social-scientific explanations for Christianity in the early 20th century and their resurgence in recent years, a trend to which Crossley eagerly contributes in the subsequent chapters. Drawing on sociology, history, archaeology, and linguistics, he proffers secular explanations for three stages of the Jesus movement. First, he interprets Jesus's activity itself as one instance of a generalized "peasant unrest" provoked by imperial Roman exploitation. Second, the rapid spread of the movement is attributed to the receptivity to monotheism of advanced agrarian societies like the Roman Empire. Third, empirical studies of religious conversion suggest to Crossley that the inclusion of a critical mass of gentiles caused the transformation of Christianity from a Torah-observant Jewish sect to a nonobservant church. Crossley's knowledge of rabbinic Judaism is impressive and furnishes much detail for his discussion of Jesus's attitude to the Law, but his acquaintance with the social sciences is second-hand, and his hypotheses are hardly novel. An optional purchase for academic libraries.-Charles Seymour, Mabee Learning Resources Ctr., Wayland Baptist Univ., Plainview, TX Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780664230944
  • Publisher: Westminster John Knox Press
  • Publication date: 5/3/2011
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 250
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.53 (d)

Meet the Author


James G. Crossley lectures in the Department of Biblical Studies at the University of Sheffield. His publications include The Date of Mark's Gospel: Insight from the Law in Earliest Christianity and Writing History, Constructing Religion.
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