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In Stone and Story

Early Christianity in the Roman World

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This beautifully designed, full-color textbook introduces the Roman background of the New Testament by immersing students in the life and culture of the thriving first-century towns of Pompeii and Herculaneum, which act as showpieces of the world into which the early Christian movement was spreading. Bruce Longenecker, a leading scholar of the ancient world of the New Testament, discusses first-century artifacts in relation to the life stories of people from the Roman world. The book includes discussion questions, maps, and 175 color photographs. Additional resources are available through Textbook eSources.


Looking Ahead: An Introduction
Part 1: Protocols of Engagement
1. Human Meaning in Stone and Story
2. Fire in the Bones
3. Accessing the First-Century
Timeline of Events
Part 2: Protocols of Popular Devotion
4. Deities and Temples
5. Sacrifice and Sin
6. Peace and Security
7. Genius and Emperor
8. Mysteries and Knowledge
9. Death and Life
Part 3: Protocols of Social Prominence
10. Prominence and Character
11. Money and Influence
12. Literacies and Status
13. Combat and Courts
14. Business and Success
Part 4: Protocols of Household Effectiveness
15. Household and Slaves
16. Family and Solidarity
17. Piety and Pragmatism
18. Powers and Protection
19. Banqueting and the Dead
Looking Further: A Conclusion
Appendix: Questions to Consider


"Toggling between Roman urban culture (as mediated through archaeological evidence) and various forms of the early Jesus-movement (as mediated through New Testament texts), Bruce Longenecker provides a lively introduction to the formative social, material, and moral world of the early Christians."

Paula Fredriksen, author of When Christians Were Jews: The First Generation

"Longenecker's work has always provided a model for the thoughtful, careful, and persuasive use of material culture as key evidence to explore issues of religious observance in the Roman world. His current book is no exception. Its masterful treatment of the material culture from Pompeii and Herculaneum and the role of that material in informing us about early Jesus-worship is once again superb. Although this lavishly illustrated book is written for an interested nonprofessional audience, I found new insights and perspectives that will shape my own research and teaching."

Steven L. Tuck, Miami University; author of Pompeii: Daily Life in an Ancient Roman City

"This clearly written and beautifully illustrated work masterfully interweaves the texts from earliest Christianity with the rich archaeological remains of Pompeii and Herculaneum. Longenecker is careful both to introduce the reader to everything needed to grasp such connections and also to note where they are absent. Simply as an introduction to everyday life in the Roman empire, this book is of great value."

Luke Timothy Johnson, Robert W. Woodruff Professor of New Testament and Christian Origins, Emeritus, Emory University

"Longenecker has made an outstanding contribution to understanding the development of early Christianity in the Roman world, taking seriously both stone and story. True to its goal, select texts are examined alongside detailed archaeological evidence from Pompeii and Herculaneum. The book is beautifully enriched with images of frescoes, monuments, inscriptions, and 'newsy' graffiti. Appreciation for student perspectives and questions guides the style and organization of the volume. Interpretative challenges are addressed with great lucidity on topics ranging from ancient deities to spiritual identities to literacy and concepts of housing and space. Longenecker's study is deeply informed by his knowledge of early Christianity and his breadth of understanding of contemporary scholarship. The thematic approach offers innovative opportunities for teaching and learning, with the emergence of new associations and interfaces that can shed light on the rise of early Jesus-devotion. I know of no other book like it, and I am eager to discuss its rich contents with students."

Margaret Y. MacDonald, Dean of Arts, Saint Mary's University

"Longenecker uses the evidence from Pompeii to craft a fascinating account of the rise of early Christianity within its broader Roman context."

Joanne Berry, Swansea University; author of The Complete Pompeii

"The circumstances of Pompeii's destruction in 79 CE meant that the city and the adjacent towns of Herculaneum and Oplontis were frozen in time, and houses, shops, temples, and industrial complexes were preserved along with their contents and decorations. Pompeii thus provides better and more detailed evidence of ancient urban life than any other site from the ancient world. Longenecker expertly employs the findings from Pompeii not only to produce an engaging picture of the social, religious, economic, and political life of this town but also to show how a detailed understanding of ancient urban life casts light on the activities and beliefs of early Jesus-followers, who in some respects fit comfortably into ancient society and in other respects offered different perspectives on social relationships, piety, politics, and commerce. In Stone and Story normalizes the picture of early Christians by giving due scope to the many ways they were aligned with ancient society, which allows their distinctives to stand out with particular clarity. An excellent teaching resource."

John S. Kloppenborg, University Professor of Religion, University of Toronto

The Author

  1. Bruce W. Longenecker

    Bruce W. Longenecker

    Bruce W. Longenecker (PhD, University of Durham) is the W. W. Melton Chair of Religion at Baylor University in Waco, Texas.

    Continue reading about Bruce W. Longenecker


"[Longenecker] uses the archaeological remains of two cities preserved in Vesuvius's 79 CE eruption to explore 'the machinery of the world' in which early Jesus followers operated. . . . Some of the book's most stimulating comparisons are drawn between the followers of Jesus and the members of other contemporary Roman subcultures that occupied similar ideological spaces. . . . Clear structure, along with helpful citations to digital versions of the artifacts discussed, makes this an enriching, accessible history for students and casual readers alike."

Publishers Weekly