Philip A. Harland and Richard Last consider the economics of early Christian group life within its social, cultural and economic contexts, by drawing on extensive epigraphic and archaeological evidence. In exploring the informal associations, immigrant groups, and guilds that dotted the world of the early Christians, Harland
and Last provide fresh perspective on the question of how Christian assemblies and Judean/Jewish gatherings gained necessary resources to pursue their social, religious, and additional aims.
By considering both neglected archaeological discoveries and literary evidence, the authors analyse financial and material aspects of group life, both sources of income and various areas of expenditure. Harland and Last then turn to the use of material resources for mutual support of members in various groups, including the importance of burial and the practice of interest-free loans. Christian and Judean evidence is explored throughout this book, culminating in a discussion of texts detailing the internal financial life of Christian assemblies as seen in first and second century sources, including Paul, the Didache, Justin Martyr, and Tertullian. In shedding new light on early Christian financial organisation, this volume aids further understanding of how some Christian groups survived and developed in the Greco-Roman world.
This volume is a much-needed supplement to our understanding of communal form of Judaeans and Christians in the first centuries of the Common Era, and to that end, it is overflowing with epigraphical and papyrological comparanda from ancient Mediterranean associations ... Though the study is primarily for specialists, anyone interested in the social history of early Christ groups will benefit from engaging with this book. With its careful structure and lucidly written prose, they will find it a pleasure to read. * The Classical Review * This book pursues an important question with impressive rigor ... Harland and Last succeed in exposing a number of exaggerations and misunderstandings sometimes advanced by scholars ... Of final note, it should be said that the authors desire for their readers to engage with the primary sources themselves and have drafted the book in a way that is conducive to that end. Thus, this book could be profitably used in a classroom context (especially among students of religion with only a more introductory knowledge of economic dynamics in the ancient world). * Reading Religion * In this erudite and smart study, Last and Harland explore the material dynamics of associations in antiquity, which played critical social, economic, and political roles mediating the vast space between the family and imperial authorities. Judicious and accessible, this study brings to life the inner workings of these associations, throwing light in particular on how groups of both Judeans and early followers of Jesus fit into a larger cultural context. * MICHAEL SATLOW, Brown University, USA * Drawing on an extensive corpus of epigraphic and papyrological sources-recently made accessible by Harland to scholars and students across the globe-Last and Harland show what can be achieved with this material. They
offer a clear and systematic study of the material and financial conditions of a wide range of associations. This book is a must-read for social historians of the Graeco-Roman world. * ONNO M. VAN NIJF, University of Groningen, Netherlands * In this brilliant and methodologically sophisticated book, Last and Harland invite the reader to look beyond ideologically imaginative understandings of ancient groups devoted to Israel's God-including followers of Jesus. They discover on the local level economic, social, and cultural factors crucial to the early formation and survival of what would develop into two world-religions: Judaism and Christianity. An outstanding contribution to scholarship and a must-read for anyone interested in early Judaism and Christian origins, as well as more generally ancient Mediterranean society. * ANDERS RUNESSON, author of The Origins of the Synagogue: A Socio-Historical Study, University of Oslo, Norway *