In Stone and Story

Early Christianity in the Roman World

Materials available for professors by request only


Chapter 18: Powers and Protection

Class Activities

  1. The modern, secular world is generally less accepting of spiritual realities than societies of the first century. Have students identify (or bring in) instances of modern manipulation of (what first-century people would have considered to be) the spiritual realm. How do these differ from those used in the first century? How are they the similar?
  2. Chapter 18 of In Stone and Story ends with the words of the Lord’s Prayer, “Deliver us from evil.” Divide students into two groups and have them debate: “This house believes that this request from the Lord’s Prayer is more relevant to people in the ancient world than people in the western world today.”

Discussion Questions

  1. Within a first-century world replete with the physical manifestations of spiritual dangers, how does Paul reject, reflect, or refract such thinking within his presentation of the gospel?
  2. Within the synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke), Jesus is often depicted as a powerful exorcist, overturning the powers of Satan and his harmful spiritual world. How does this presentation reject, reflect, or refract the broader understanding of demons and the spiritual realm?
  3. How does the ancient understanding of spiritual powers and protection differ from those in your context? To what spiritual realities were the ancients attuned? How might this have allowed them a more nuanced and vigorous understanding of the Christian message than understanding found, generally, in Western twenty-first-century contexts?