Tuesday, 15 May 2018

Emiliano Urciuoli is going to present a working paper on ' The (Good) People Next Door - Neighborhoods, Urban Religion and Early Christ-Religion'

Archeologists agree that “the spatial division of cities into residential zones is a universal feature of urban life from the earliest cities to the present” (Smith 2010). Yet, ubiquitous and longstanding though they may be, city-centered research on “urban Christians” has thus far paid little attention to neighborhoods. A neighborhood-focused analysis of the communication of early Christ religion within imperial cities is a most recent analytical enterprise. House-based descriptions have been largely preferred and taken as though they can tell the whole truth about the city life of Jesus followers and, eventually, the “citification” of their cult. As is often the case, the prolific writer Tertullian comes to the rescue: in a fleeting passage of his Apology, he states that, when it comes to “benevolence” and “good actions”, “we Christians, are the same to the Emperors as we are to our neighbors (Idem sumus imperatoribus qui et vicinis nostris)”. Good deeds Christians did and/or claimed to do for emperors are well known (payment of taxes, military enlistment, prayers, sometimes even sacrifices). What about the neighbors? What can we know about what a Jesus follower did for her/his vicinis? Introducing some contextualizing snapshots of neighborhood issues and explaining the potential of a neighborhood-scaled analysis conducted with an Urban Religion approach, this paper’s aim is to probe how material evidence from Greco-Roman urban environments and literary texts produced by Jesus followers have been critically surveyed in order to sharpen or question the knowledge on early Christ religion as viewed from a street-level perspective. Some final notes will show the extent to which our “sources” can be further surveyed in order to shed more light on this crucial aspect of an urban religion and eventually answer the following question: how did the need to establish neighborly neighboring relationships in densely populated urban districts affect Christ religion and its self-representation?

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