Obviously they weren’t the mega-churches of today but is there any evidence as to their size? I understand that there is some dispute over who authored some of the epistles but this thread isn’t about that. Even if authorship is undetermined, I don’t know if there is any serious thought that the churches themselves didn’t exist.
I was taught that they weren’t “churches” at all – they were handfuls of believers in each city who got together to worship, probably at each other’s homes.
The only even backhand reference to the size of the early churches iis in chapter 6 of the Acts of the Apostles. The believers in Jerusalem had grown large enough that some of them complained they were being ignored, so the original Apostles appointed a group of seven, led by Stephen, to make sure everyone got their daily distribution of food. Even there, there’s no indication of the actual number of people in the group.
That is exactly what is meant by the word “church” in the New Testament.
The NT gives no numbers, and we don’t have any archaelogical data, but Paul’s letters imply that these first congregations were small enough to gather in private homes. Conceivably, larger groups could have pooled resources to live in larger, apartment style dwellings with a central courtyard (similar to the traditional house of Peter in Capernaum), but no one really knows.
Wouldn’t the groups have at least 10 men, the minimum for a minyan, so that (even then?) critical prayers could be recited?
Christianity has no concept of a minyan, or of critical prayers. While Jewish Christians may well have held to such traditions, they would have been able to fill out the number for those Jewish rituals with non-Christian Jews. And of course Gentile Christians would have had no concern for such things.
The size would determine how big the town and how many Jews or Gentiles were converted in any specific area. One thing is true though, there was only one church no mater what part of the region they were from. They all believed the same and were taught the same, not like the many disagreeing denominations there are in the world today. Keep in mind though, “where two or three are gathered in my name there I am also.”(Jesus)
On the contrary, there were contentious factions right from the beginning. Paul himself represented a schism from the original Jerusalem movement, and there were a plethora of squabbling movements after that. It’s completely untrue that they all believed the same or were taught the same.
Read Bart Ehrman’s Lost Christianities to see just how unified early Christian movements were not.
In fact, the main thrust of several of Paul’s letters was to say “Quit forming factions and squabbling about issues that don’t matter anyway.” Whole chapters are direct rebuttals to incorrect teachings that were spreading through the churches.
I was going to bring up these factions as a response to the OP, but I realized that they are in-text evidence of the size of the churches and might not be what he’s looking for. The fact that you could have gnostic groups or groups who follow particular teachers tells me that the early churches must have had at least hundreds of members (even if they were meeting in smaller home groups).
Not hardly. There were disputes while Jesus was still preaching. E.g., Mark 8:27-:28.
"27 And Jesus went out, and his disciples, into the towns of Caesarea Philippi: and by the way he asked his disciples, saying unto them, Whom do men say that I am?
28 And they answered, John the Baptist; but some say, Elias; and others, One of the prophets."
Jesus talked in such an ambiguous way that the disputes were there from the onset.
At the time of Paul’s conversion, virtually all Christians were Jewish (and thought of themselves as such). So Leo Bloom’s point is completely valid.
At the time of his conversion, yes, no doubt, but not by the time he was writing his epistles. He was not writing them when he was a new a new convert, but when he had become an established Christian leader, and, surely, he established his leading role in the Christian community precisely through his efforts to include and convert gentiles. Although he was a Jew himself, Paul’s people would surely have been the gentile Christians that he and his supporters had converted, and it thus seems likely that most of the groups to which he was writing would have been largely gentile.
Hard to say, since nobody kept membership records. Jewish colonies existed in cities across the Med at the time, and Christianty spread quickly through them. Of course, it also quickly spread beyond them. Exactly how fast in known, but there was definitely a significant non-Jewish Christian population by the time Paul was writing his letters. By the time Peter died, it was large enough to cause confusion and hard feelings in Rome. And Peter himself was executed, which seems unlikely unless it there were enough converts to annoy the Roman authorities.
“Blessed are the cheesemakers???”
“Well, it’s not meant to be taken literally, it obviously refers to all manufacturers of diary products.”
I’m just glad the meek are getting something. They have a hell of a time.