The Holy Community

Scope: From the beginning, Christianity was social in character. It took the form of an organized community called the church (ekklesia). The church was an intentional community that shared some structural features with the Jewish synagogue and the Hellenistic household. A major challenge to the new religion was establishing and maintaining its boundaries. It needed to signal its distinctive character in contrast both to Greco-Roman clubs and religious associations and to Jewish synagogues. Despite the diversity in the Christian movement in the first generations, a fellowship was maintained among communities on the basis of a network of leaders, communication through letters, a sharing of possessions, and a broad agreement concerning basic beliefs and moral standards. Metaphors for the church (God's Temple, Household of God, Body of Christ) indicate some dimensions of early Christian self-understanding.

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