Larry Hurtado's Blog

A new book by Thomas A. Robinson, Who Were the First Christians?  Dismantling the Urban Thesis (Oxford University Press, 2017) takes a virtual wrecking ball to the theories of a number of prominent scholars in early Christianity.  (The publisher’s online catalogue here.)

His most direct and effective critique goes at the numbers and accompanying assumptions widely touted about the growth of early Christianity.  Asking whether historians can count, Robinson shows that the numbers often invoked just don’t add up.  Many scholars posit that by 300 CE Christians made up ca. 10% of the population of the Roman Empire, and that somewhere between 5% and 15% of the population lived in urban settings, and that Christianity was almost entirely an urban religion.  But, as Robinson cleverly notes, putting these figures together would require that by 300 CE the population of urban centres of the Empire would have been totally Christian…

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