The First Urban Churches: Roman Corinth (In the Works)

A couple of years ago, I had the good fortune of participating in a session at the Society of Biblical Literature (SBL) conference on the theme of Polis and Ekklesia: Investigations of Urban Christianity. The paper I delivered outlined new perspectives on the diolkos and the implications of this research for understanding the commercial backdrop of the early Christian communities at Corinth.

The good news is that this session will soon be published by SBL as part of a multi-volume series on Polis and Ekklesia edited by James R Harrison and L.L. Welborn. The first three volumes are either in the works or forthcoming:

The First Urban Churches. Volume 1: Methodology: As the editors

have summarized this volume, “This book, comprising all the invited papers of SBL Consultation Polis and Ekklesia (SanFranciso, 2011) and with the addition of other solicited contributions, concentrates on the responsible use of documentary (papyrological, epigraphic), numismatic, iconographic, and archaeological evidence in reconstructing the historical, social, cultural, and economic life of cities, their inhabitants and neighbours in antiquity. This volume forms a preface to the study of the significant biblical cities in the first-century AD, charted in the subsequent eight volumes of the series.”

The First Urban Churches. Volume 2: Roman Corinth. According to the editors, “This book, comprising all the papers of SBL Consultation Polis and Ekklesia (Chicago, 2012) and with the addition of other solicited contributions, concentrates on the epigraphic, numismatic, iconographic, and archaeological evidence in reconstructing the historical, social, cultural, and economic life of Roman Corinth in the early Christian era.”

The First Urban Churches. Volume 3: Ephesus. According to the editors, “This book, comprising all the papers of SBL Consultation Polis and Ekklesia (Baltimore, 2013) and with the addition of other solicited contributions, concentrates on the epigraphic, numismatic, iconographic, and archaeological evidence in reconstructing the historical, social, cultural, and economic life of Ephesus in the early Christian era.”

Here’s an outline for the second volume on Roman Corinth, which is scheduled for delivery to the press later this year: 

1. Laurence L. Welborn, “Polis and Ekklesia: Investigating Roman Corinth in Its Urban Context”

2. Cavan Concannon, “Negotiating Multiple Modes of Religion and Identity at Roman Corinth”

3. Kathy Ehrensperger, “Negotiating Polis and Ekklesia: Challenge and Re-Assurance in 1 Cor 12:1-11”

4. Michael Peppard, “Roman Controversiae about Inheritance Disputes and 1 Corinthians 6”

5. David Pettegrew, “Lost in the Country: Corinthian Territory and the Early Christian Communities of the 1st Century CE”

6. Annette Weisenreider, “Bodies and Space: Sitting or Reclining in 1 Corinthians 14:30”

7. Brad Bitner, “Τὰ γραφέντα PRO ROSTRIS LECTA: Bilingual Inscribing in Roman Corinth”

8. Fredrick J Long, “‘The god of This Age’ (2 Cor 4:4) and Paul’s Empire-Resisting Gospel”

9. Laurence L. Welborn, “Paul, the Politics of ‘Equality’ and the Power Monopoly of the Corinthian Elite”

10. James R Harrison, “The Cursus Honorum in the Roman Colonies of Corinth and Philippi: Consequences for Paul’s Gospel and Rhetoric”

I spent much of January revising my 2012 conference paper and adding substance. My chapter, “Lost in the Country: Corinthian Territory and the Early Christian Communities of the 1st Century CE,” offers case studies in how the countryside / landscape might intersect with the study of the first Christians. In particular, I want to highlight the territory as a fundamental part of the “polis” in Roman times. Here’s the working abstract.

“Corinthian territory has occupied a paradoxical role in the modern scholarship surrounding Paul’s mission to Corinth and the Christian community in conflict. In one respect, the isthmian crossroads has functioned as an essential backdrop to understanding the population’s maritime orientation, commercial proclivities, and general tendencies to immorality and division. The twin harbors of Lechaion and Kenchreai, the pan-Hellenic sanctuary at Isthmia, and the diolkos allegedly made Corinth a city of transients at a great crossroads of the ancient world. In another respect, scholars have regularly disregarded the territory in their discussions of the Corinthian correspondence as though the region beyond the city’s boundaries was of little concern or interest to the earliest Christians. In this paper, I propose a different way of thinking about the intersections of the early Christian community with the countryside. Through a series of case studies on the diolkos, canal, harbors, and agriculture, I highlight the contingent developments of the territory and their effects on the developing ekklesia. The region was not a timeless commercial thoroughfare but developed historically in the course of the first century CE. This paper, then, recommends greater attention to the historical developments of the territory and their influence on the local religious communities.”

I’ll post more as this collection of essays moves toward publication.

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Categories: Agriculture, Books and Articles, Periods, Roman, Religion, 1 Corinthians, Religion, 2 Corinthians, Religion, Churches, Religion, St. Paul, Sites, Canal, Sites, Diolkos, Sites, Urban Center, Territory

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