Scholars across many fields have come to realize that ritual is an integral element of human life and a vital aspect of all human societies. Yet, this realization has been slow to develop among scholars of early Christianity. Early Christian Ritual Life attempts to counteract the undervaluing of ritual by placing it at the forefront of early Christian life. Rather than treating ritual in isolation or in a fragmentary way, this book examines early Christian ritual life as a whole. The authors explore an array of Christian ritual activity, employing theory critically and explicitly to make sense of various ritual behaviors and their interconnections. Written by leading experts in their fields, this collection is divided into three parts:
• Interacting with the Divine
• Group Interactions
• Contesting and Creating Ritual Protocols.
This book is ideal for religious studies students seeking an introduction to the dynamic research areas of ritual studies and early Christian practice.
"Framed by a clear discussion of theories and definitions of ritual, Early Christian Ritual Life is a set of essays probing the rituals of early Christianity. The questions pursued by the editors and authors are valuable for advancing critical reflections on ritual." Ronald L. Grimes, Emeritus Professor of Religion and Culture, Wilfrid Laurier University, Canada.
"This book consists of a rich collection of essays, each of which combines theoretical discussion with careful analysis of textual and/or material evidence. The contributions illustrate how members of Christ groups copied, adapted, transformed or in some cases, transgressed, aspects of ritual life present in their respective environments. Together the essays underscore how important ritual practices, in all of their diversity, were for the formation and maintenance of ancient Christ groups." Alicia J. Batten, Conrad Grebel University College, University of Waterloo, Canada.
"A truly major contribution to the study of early Christian ritual in the context of Mediterranean religion, society, and culture during the first three centuries CE. It contains substantive guidance toward major theories about ritual in personal lives, social groups, and small and large institutions along with very helpful applications of selected theories to particular issues and texts. A major strength is significant coverage of issues beyond the New Testament into the second and third centuries CE." Vernon K. Robbins, Emory University, USA.
"This volume is deeply infused with ritual theory and understanding of the quest for divine knowledge in the ancient world. The study of ritual in Early Christianity is a crucial area of scholarship which has not received the attention it deserves. This valuable collection of essays makes an important contribution in addressing the gap. Early Christian Ritual Life is sure to stimulate many new conversations and investigations." Margaret Y. MacDonald, Dean of Arts, Saint Mary’s University, Halifax, Canada.
"This new collection of studies introduces wonderful insights into a fundamental element of human society, tracing it from home to temple, from dealing with divinity to negotiating community, and situating early Christians firmly within their social world. It challenges many traditional assumptions of older scholarship and paves the way for new understandings of thinking so different from ours, and yet so much the same." Carolyn Osiek, Charles Fischer Professor of New Testament Emerita, Brite Divinity School, USA.
"The study of Christian origins has tended to center on ideology and rhetoric while sidelining more enactive features of religious movements. This volume helpfully shifts the center of gravity to ritual action by exploring how concrete behaviors help to instantiate such abstract concepts as honor, personal transformation, power, marking and maintaining social boundaries, and managing death; as well as practical matters of how rituals are generated, revised, and rejected. A valuable reconsideration of the field." Dr. Colleen Shantz, St Michael's College, University of Toronto, Canada.
"The contributions to this volume merge social-scientific and ritual studies in a novel attempt to illuminate how groups and group boundaries were defined, maintained and protected in early Christianity. Issues that vary from baptism and funerary rituals to dietary and dining practices are analysed in a creative and innovative merging of insights." Pieter F. Craffert, University of South Africa.
"Christianity, like all religions, consists not only of beliefs but also of rituals by which human beings access the divine. Early Christian Ritual Life is by far the best book written on the topic thus far. Its various chapters carefully examine early Christian ritual practices in their particular historic, socio-religious contexts. This is a must-read book for anyone wanting to know what rituals were intended to accomplish for the earliest Christian individuals and communities." Rev. Dr. William Tabbernee, Religious Studies Faculty, the University of Oklahoma; Past President North American Patristics Society.
"This book is an interesting and lively collection of essays that seek to open new perspectives, new insights, and new issues in the study of earliest Christianity through the specific lens of ritual studies."Susan Ashbrock Harvey, Brown University
"This is an ambitious collection that provides promising perspectives to the consideration of early Christianity. Ascough’s essay is particularly brilliant in applying ritual theories to a narrative analysis of Luke and an exploration of history. The essays by Schwiebert, Muir, Choi, Lamoreaux, and DeMaris are also theoretically rigorous and fruitful in illuminating the text and the world behind the text through the lens of ritual. Other essays are informative in their surveys of ancient practices. While their familiarity with the New Testament and its scholarly issues is usually assumed, graduate students would be benefited by this book. Taussig’s conclusion also addresses more advanced scholars who are interested in early Christian ritual life and continues the methodological dialogue with cognitive approaches to ritual." Toronto Jounral of Theology
With Respect to Ritual
Richard E. DeMaris
Part I: Interacting with the Divine
Chapter 1: Honoring the Divine
Chapter 2: Accessing Divine Power and Status
Steven C. Muir
Chapter 3: Accessing Divine Knowledge
Ritva H. Williams
Part II: Group Interactions
Chapter 4: Boundary-Crossing in Christian Baptism
Chapter 5: Rituals for Communal Maintenance
Erin K. Vearncombe
Chapter 6: Early Christian Funerary Ritual
Part III: Contesting and Creating Ritual Protocols
Chapter 7: Ritual Negotiation
Jason T. Lamoreaux
Chapter 8: Ritual Transgression
Richard E. DeMaris
Chapter 9: Ritual Modification and Innovation
Richard S. Ascough
Steps Forward in the Study of Early Christian Ritual Life