16. The Social Setting of Pauline Communities

  1. Stephen Westerholm
  1. Gerd Theissen

Published Online: 20 APR 2011

DOI: 10.1002/9781444395778.ch16

The Blackwell Companion to Paul

The Blackwell Companion to Paul

How to Cite

Theissen, G. (2011) The Social Setting of Pauline Communities, in The Blackwell Companion to Paul (ed S. Westerholm), Wiley-Blackwell, Oxford, UK. doi: 10.1002/9781444395778.ch16

Editor Information

  1. McMaster University, Canada

Author Information

  1. University of Heidelberg, Germany

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 20 APR 2011
  2. Published Print: 29 APR 2011

ISBN Information

Print ISBN: 9781405188449

Online ISBN: 9781444395778



  • the social setting of Pauline communities;
  • New Testament, insight into social groups - that have otherwise left few writings;
  • genuine Pauline letters, regarded as the more reliable source - need for reckoning with rhetorical stylizing of social matters, even in Paul;
  • second instance of tension between our sources - the silence of Acts, requiring explanation;
  • the Acts of the Apostles - saying nothing about the collection for Jerusalem;
  • general developmental tendencies - in the Social History of primitive Christianity;
  • four developmental tendencies - summarily interpreted as, within Judaism, the first adherents of Jesus being regarded as a “sect”;
  • social structure of Greco-Roman society;
  • social composition of the Pauline Communities;
  • Early Christian communities - developed between the two fundamental institutions of Antiquity, the oikos (household) and the polis (state)


This chapter contains sections titled:

  • General Developmental Tendencies in the Social History of Primitive Christianity

  • The Social Composition of the Pauline Communities

  • Socially Determined Conflicts

  • The Attractiveness of the Community

  • Models for the Self-understanding of Early Christian Churches

  • References