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Cambridge University Press
Online publication date:
October 2023
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Book description

The early Christians were by no means a homogeneous group, let alone a church. This is the fascinating story of the beliefs, practices and experience of individual Christians of antiquity, their relationships to Jewish tradition and the wider Roman world, and the shockwaves they caused among their contemporaries. Ancient Christians are closely connected to today's world through a living memory and a common textual heritage - the Bible - even for those who maintain a distance from Christianity. Yet, paradoxically, much about the early Christians is foreign to us and far removed from what passes for this faith as it currently stands. The distinguished historian Hartmut Leppin explores this paradox, and considers how such a small, diverse band of followers originating on the edge of the Roman Empire was able within less than three centuries to grow and become its dominant force under Emperor Constantine and his successors.


‘Leppin's The Early Christians is a monumental attempt at conceptualising the development of one of the most influential religious movements in history through, and in open acknowledgment of, its rather messy origins. The lively narrative gives centre stage to individual historical actors to open a refreshingly human perspective on the world of the early Christians. The book's English translation will facilitate renewed engagement with this important topic across the wide readership that it deserves.'

Ulrike Roth - University of Edinburgh

‘Hartmut Leppin has written a richly stimulating book that brings to life the colourful variety of early Christian groups and individuals as they explored what allegiance to Christ meant for all aspects of their daily lives, beliefs and identities and negotiated their place among Jewish and pagan neighbours in society.'

Thomas Graumann - University of Cambridge

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