in elaborate catacombs, rather than a birthplace of theology. No wonder that, in a city of so much influx, rivalry between individuals, schools and career aspirants was frequent.
When did followers of Jesus, Jewish and non-Jewish alike, arrive for the first time in the city? This is far from clear. When Paul wrote his letter - the earliest evidence we have - Christians must already have been there.17 Another riddle is linked to the complexity of the city, namely the question about the uniformity, or rather diversity, of the Christian cells.18 IfJudaism, out of which Christianity was born, was as diverse in Rome as in Jerusalem, with numerous synagogues representing a broad variety of languages, cultures and Jewish traditions, then they provided the basis for diverse beginnings of Christianity in Rome as well.19 This assumption is supported by Paul's letter and the description provided in Acts (28:15-30).
This variety does not necessarily imply that there was no inner coherence linkingpeople of different languages, socialbackgrounds, as well as families and groups of quite different origin. Whereas scholars of the nineteenth century thought of institutions providing the link (e.g. hierarchy, creeds, doctrinal statements, sacraments), those of the twentieth century pointed to a common Christian ethic, pneumatic power, missionary success or social environment. Recent scholarship, however, has highlighted the tensions and struggles that arose from disputes (Gal 2; Acts 13-15, 18), and, if Peter Lampe's thesis is right, that applies to Rome too. The data from archaeology, epigraphy, ancient historical records, the writings of early Christians and church history support him in suggesting that
Christianity in Rome flourished in several of the poorest and most densely populated districts ... [It] indicates social 'fractionation' between many small cells that lacked central coordination . . . The largest proportion of Christians were Greek-speaking immigrants of low socio-economic status, though higher-class leaders, including some upper-class women, were active in smaller numbers.20
Even in the third century, at least until Hippolytus, who compares Christians to a 'school group' (Haer. 9.12), social 'fractionation' seems to have prevailed.21 Yet, the different groups certainly thought ofthemselves as cells ofone
18 Lampe, Paul to Valentinus, versus Scholten, 'Gibt es Quellen'.
19 Lampe, Paul to Valentinus.
20 Jewett, in Lampe, Paul to Valentinus, xiii.
21 Brent, Hippolytus.
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