Benjamin Schliesser

Innovation und Distinktion im frühen Christentum

Rubrik: Articles
Early Christianity (EC)

Jahrgang 13 () / Heft 4, S. 393-432 (40)
Publiziert 20.12.2022

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Why did Christianity survive in antiquity? Why did the cult of Christ spread with remarkable speed in the Roman Empire while other quite successful cults such as those of Mithras, Isis, Sarapis, and Jupiter declined, albeit under quite different circumstances? Metatheories that blame the decline of the Roman Empire or, vice versa, glorify the superiority of Christianity belong to the past. This article draws on theories of emergence, according to which changes in complex systems – such as the rise of a new religious movement in a society – cannot be entirely explained through its antecedent conditions. New and distinct features occur. An emerging religious movement, early Christianity was deeply rooted in its Jewish and Greco-Roman habitats but at the same developed unique characteristics, including social forms that are not congruent with those of other associations, specific opportunities for participation and structures of authority, a distinctive group identity, a characteristic ethical stance, and some novel religious-theological beliefs. Overall, twelve aspects are identified that illustrate the social, ethical, ideological, and communicative distinctiveness of early Christianity.

Benjamin Schliesser Geboren 1977; Studium der Ev. Theologie in Tübingen, Glasgow und Pasadena; 2006 Promotion; 2010–16 Oberassistent in Zürich; 2020 Habilitation; seit 2016 Ausserordentlicher Professor für Neues Testament am Institut für Neues Testament der Universität Bern.