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Paul's Idea of Community, 3rd Edition

Spirit and Culture in Early House Churches

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This highly readable investigation of the early church explores the revolutionary nature, dynamics, and effects of the earliest Christian communities. It introduces readers to the cultural setting of the house churches of biblical times, examines the apostle Paul's vision of life in the Christian church, and explores how the New Testament model of community applies to Christian practice today. Updated and revised throughout, this 40th-anniversary edition incorporates recent research, updates the bibliography, and adds a new fictional narrative that depicts the life and times of the early church.

Preface to the Third Edition
Preface to the Second Edition
Preface to the First Edition
1. The Sociocultural and Religious Settings
2. The Gospel of Other-Directed
3. Church in Family Business Residences
4. Church as Present Heavenly Reality
5. The Community as a Loving Household
6. The Community as an Organic Harmony
7. Mutual Learning and Testing of Faith
8. Common Meals and Signs of Fellowship
9. The Sharing of Gifts and Ministry
10. The Interplay of Grace and Order
11. Unity and Diversity among the Members
12. The Contribution of Women in Church
13. Abolishing Religious Distinctions between Members
14. Defining Leadership by Function, Not Position
15. The Role of Visiting Missioners
16. The Link between Mission and Church
17. The Nature of Paul's Authority
18. The Exercise of Paul's Influence
Appendix 1: The Drift of the Pastorals
Appendix 2: Going to Church in the First Century


"For years I have required students in a seminary elective I teach to read two books: Paul's Idea of Community and Going to Church in the First Century--both by Robert Banks. Imagine my delight to find the two works in a single volume and to find it now updated to factor in more than twenty-five years of ensuing Pauline scholarship. When I encountered the first edition of the book decades ago, Paul's Idea of Community contributed significantly to my own pilgrimage as a scholar. All of us who are indebted to Banks's seminal work in Christian social history will welcome the third edition of this classic."

Joe Hellerman, Talbot School of Theology

"Banks's book was transformational for students and scholars because of his insight into the house churches, the dynamics of community, and the roles of women in the early church. I have personally used this book with students for many years, and their responses have always been positive and enthusiastic. Banks's writing is even more relevant today because of prevalent restrictive interpretations of Scripture. This contemporary update enhances our understanding of Paul's letters and sheds light on the principles guiding ministry, equality, and leadership that are so necessary in today's world. I highly recommend this readable and challenging work for all who wish to increase their understanding of our biblical tradition."

Helen Doohan, professor emerita, religious studies, Gonzaga University

"A classic just got even better! Robert Banks's Paul's Idea of Community has helped many, many people to understand what it was like to be part of Paul's Christian communities. In this book Banks asks how these communities were similar to other groups in the first-century world--and how and in what ways they were different. This new edition will ensure that Banks's highly valuable insights into these significant questions continue to help us all to understand the dynamics of Paul's Christian communities. And having Banks's wonderful narrative, Going to Church in the First Century, as part of the book is a great bonus too!"

Paul Trebilco, professor of New Testament studies, University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand

"As a Korean translator who introduced the previous editions of the book to Korean readers, I am thrilled by this updated fortieth-anniversary edition. I hope it will bring inspiration and joy to readers around the world, including Korea."

Dongsoo Chang, professor of New Testament, Korea Baptist Theological University/Seminary

The Author

  1. Robert J. Banks

    Robert J. Banks

    Robert J. Banks (PhD, University of Cambridge) has taught at various universities and theological colleges in Europe, North America, and Asia. He is honorary professor at Alphacrucis College in Sydney, Australia, and adjunct professor at the Australian...

    Continue reading about Robert J. Banks