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The Rise of Christianity. Rodney A. Stark. Growth of Christianity. Question: how did Christians grow from a tiny percentage of the Roman empire population to its majority by the year 350? Factors Conversion through social networks “primary” and “secondary conversions Birth rates

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growth of christianity
Growth of Christianity
  • Question: how did Christians grow from a tiny percentage of the Roman empire population to its majority by the year 350?
  • Factors
    • Conversion through social networks
      • “primary” and “secondary conversions
    • Birth rates
    • Urban networks
    • Epidemics
    • Role of women
estimates of population roman empire 60 million people
Estimates of population (Roman empire = 60 million people)

From Stark, The Rise of Christianity, p. 7

the role of women in christian growth
The role of women in Christian growth
  • More women converted (primary)
    • Led husbands in secondary conversions
    • Could use their wealth (widows) for church
    • Christian women had higher status?
      • Women had more to gain in converting, men had more to lose?
  • Christians had higher fertility rates
    • Spoke out against infanticide; had more girls
    • Lower rate of (v. dangerous) abortions and use of birth control
what did early christians do
What did early Christians do?
  • Meetings
    • Originally met in synagogues
    • After 70CE, met in house churches
    • By 300s, met in basilicas
  • Liturgy (work of the people; worship)
    • Met on Sundays
    • Had readings, “agape” meal (eucharist)
    • Needed to be baptized to participate fully
      • Big deal
      • Long preparation
      • Elaborate ritual
practice continued
Practice, continued
  • Ministries
    • Presbyters/priests
      • Some groups allowed female presiders, many did not
    • Deacons: servants
      • Helped in liturgies
      • Served needs of the community, especially poor and widows
      • Could be male or female
    • Bishops
      • Head of church in a city
      • Main cities: Rome, Jerusalem, Constantinople, Antioch, Alexandria
      • Public symbol of continuity of apostle’s teachings
    • Itinerant preachers
      • Careful: some were frauds and freeloaders
    • Prophets
developments
Developments
  • Growth
  • Move from margins to mainstream
    • Church community starts looking more mainstream
      • Ex: limitation of women’s ministries as deacons: can only work with women
  • More resources: bigger church buildings
for next time
For next time
  • Life of Antony
    • Why does he convert?
    • How is his story similar to Perpetua and Thecla’s? How different?
    • Why is he so focused on demons?
  • Chidester
    • How does monasticism contribute to the growth of Christianity?
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