"I am a Christian": what did this confession by the early Christian martyrs mean? How was early Christian identity constructed? Using insights from contemporary discussions of how identity is formed, this innovative study explores how early "Christian" literature creates a sense of what it is that defines "a Christian". Drawing attention to the centrality of texts in shaping early Christianity, it discovers both continuities and discontinuities with the ways in which Jewish and Craeco-Roman identities were also being constructed through their texts, and ask how we might move from those texts to the individuals and communities who preserved them. This book challenges traditional emphases on the development of institutions, whether structures or credal and ethical formulations, showing how they fail to recognize the rhetorical function of the texts, and assume too quickly that these reflect the actual practice and experience of individuals and communities. Confirming recent recognition of the diversity of early Christianity, this book goes on to explore whether it is possible to speak of a distinctive Christian identity both across the range of early texts and as a pressing historical and theological question in the contemporary world.
'I am a Christian' is the confession of the martyrs of early Christian texts and, no doubt, of many others; but what did this confession mean, and how was early Christian identity constructed? This book is a highly original exploration of how a sense of being 'a Christian', or of 'Christian identity', was shaped within the setting of the Jewish and Graeco-Roman world. Contemporary discussions of identity provide the background to a careful study of early Christian texts from the first two centuries. Judith Lieu shows that there were similarities and differences in the ways Jews and others were thinking about themselves, and asks what made early Christianity distinctive.
Judith Lieu is Professor of New Testament Studies at King's College London.
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