Early Christian Distinctiveness

During his lecture [1] based on his book entitled, Destroyer of the Gods: Early Christian Distinctiveness in the Roman World, Larry Hurtado presents several distinctives of early Christianity. First, early Christianity was distinctive in its impiety towards the worship of the Greco-Roman gods. For example of such a denial of the worthiness of worship of the gods and their status as mere idols, Hurtado quotes 1 Thessalonians 1:9b “They tell how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God” (NIV). Second, early Christianity was distinct as a new religious identity. In the early Christian movement, people could be followers of Jesus while maintaining their ethnic identity. Third, early Christian bookishness was also a main distinctive. While oral tradition played a major role in the early development of Christianity, the Christian writings quickly became the standard for the early church.  Thus, Christian writings were constantly being copied and distributed to churches. Lastly, Hurtado explains that early Christianity was behaviourally distinct in how they lived out their Jesus-y ethic. Christians spoke out against the mistreatment of infants and the sexual abuse of children. They cared for the infants who were abandoned and left to die, and they challenged the sexuality norms of the culture by living a chaste life before God and the Christian community.

Three insights of Hurtado’s lecture that I found helpful for understanding early Christianity and/or the New Testament are 1) Hurtado’s comments about the early Christians being charged as atheists and deviant for not respecting and worshipping the gods. 2) That the Greco-Roman world had no concept of a separable religion due to the gods being so interwoven into the fabric of society. 3) The use of codex by early Christians as a counter-cultural move in their endeavor to present the accessibility of the Christian faith.


[1] https://youtu.be/tb96kYfk628