In Stone and Story: Early Christianity in the Roman World

Bruce W. Longenecker. Baker Academic, $32.99 (320p) ISBN 978-1-5409-6067-2
In this bracing analysis, Longenecker (The Crosses of Pompeii), professor of religion at Baylor University, uses the archaeological remains of two cities preserved in Vesuvius’s 79 CE eruption to explore “the machinery of the world” in which early Jesus followers operated. In each chapter, Longenecker considers a pair of interrelated social factors, such as “Money and Influence” and “Sacrifice and Sin,” rooting his analysis in the material culture of Pompeii and Herculaneum, followed by a consideration of how the beliefs and practices of early Jesus devotees shaped the way they engaged with those aspects of Roman society. For instance, inscriptions listing the benefactors of Pompeii’s amphitheater and temples show that “it was clear to all that new money flooding Pompeii was linked to a pro-Roman agenda.” Some of the book’s most stimulating comparisons are drawn between the followers of Jesus and the members of other contemporary Roman subcultures that occupied similar ideological spaces. For instance, a resurgent devotion to the ancient Egyptian goddess Isis meant that Jesus followers were not the only minority religious group promoting a belief in life after death. Clear structure, along with helpful citations to digital versions of the artifacts discussed, makes this an enriching, accessible history for students and casual readers alike. (Feb.)
Reviewed on : 10/04/2019
Release date: 02/01/2020
Genre: Religion
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