“This is an important work. It makes the major advance of comparing the approaches of biblical scholars to the history of Christian origins with the approaches of historians in other periods and aspects of history. . . . Crossley’s whole discussion constitutes in its own right a significant advance in knowledge. He is crucially effective in sorting out useful insights in the secondary literature from the ideological concerns that generally dominate conventional scholarship.” —Maurice Casey, Professor of New Testament Languages and Literature, University of Nottingham, UK “The reasons why Christianity included people who were no longer observing major commandments were largely social rather than the result of an individual genius like a Jesus or a Paul finding ‘something wrong’ with Jewish law. But these social reasons for the shift from a law-observant movement to one that included people no longer observing the law require a full explanation. This book is an attempt to do just that.” —from the introduction Looking beyond theological narratives and offering a sociological, economic, and historical examination of the spread of earliest Christianity, James Crossley presents a thoroughly secular and causal explanation for why the once law-observant movement within Judaism became the beginnings of a new religion. First analyzing the historiography of the New Testament and stressing the problematic omission of a social scientific account, Crossley applies a socioeconomic lens to the rise of the Jesus movement and the centrality of sinners to his mission. Using macrosociological approaches, he explains how Jesus’ Jewish teachings sparked the shift toward a gentile religion and an international monotheistic trend. Finally, using approaches from conversion studies, he provides a sociohistorical explanation for the rise of the Pauline mission.
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