One of the many books I’m using as a source for my revised version of The Untold Story of the New Testament Church, due to release in the future, is Coming Out Christian in the Roman World: How the Followers of Jesus Made a Place in Caesar’s Empire.
The book takes an intriguing look at the first-century Roman world in light of Christianity. While I may not agree with all of its conclusions, I value the historical data.
Here’s a description from the publisher:
“The supposed collapse of Roman civilization is still lamented more than 1,500 years later―and intertwined with this idea is the notion that a fledgling religion, Christianity, went from a persecuted fringe movement to an irresistible force that toppled the empire. The “intolerant zeal” of Christians, wrote Edward Gibbon, swept Rome’s old gods away, and with them the structures that sustained Roman society.
Not so, argues Douglas Boin. Such tales are simply untrue to history, and ignore the most important fact of all: life in Rome never came to a dramatic stop. Instead, as Boin shows, a small minority movement rose to transform society―politically, religiously, and culturally―but it was a gradual process, one that happened in fits and starts over centuries.
Drawing upon a decade of recent studies in history and archaeology, and on his own research, Boin opens up a wholly new window onto a period we thought we knew. His work is the first to describe how Christians navigated the complex world of social identity in terms of “passing” and “coming out.” Many Christians lived in a dynamic middle ground. Their quiet success, as much as the clamor of martyrdom, was a powerful agent for change. With this insightful approach to the story of Christians in the Roman world, Douglas Boin rewrites, and rediscovers, the fascinating early history of a world faith.”
“A genuinely thought-provoking and imaginative book.” — Peter Thonemann, The Wall Street Journal
“[Douglas] Boin is a gifted writer with the rare ability to bring ancient history before modern eyes.” — Greg Carey, The Christian Century
“An unusual and sometimes alternative, cultural history of late antiquity for those with an affinity for classical civilization.” — Library Journal
“Boin is an entertaining guide, leading the reader through complex texts, materials, and events with a panoptic gaze, an engaging pace, and humor–like Morgan Freeman narrating March of the Christians.” — John David Penniman, Marginalia (Los Angeles Review of Books)
“A very thorough and detailed picture of what it was like for a Christian living in the early Roman Empire…Very well written.” — Lisa Covington, Manhattan Book Review
“Boin offers a highly original approach to the social and religious anxieties that seized Jesus’ followers in the years after his death. The result is not just another new study of early Christianity. Coming Out Christian in the Roman World takes the history of the Roman empire into a wholly new direction.” ―Reza Aslan, author of Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth
“In this well written and engaging book about late antiquity, Boin provides us with a thought provoking new take on the origins of Christianity with explanatory power for how we think about ourselves today. Anyone who wonders or worries about religious freedom in the modern world should read Coming out Christian.” ―Candida Moss, author of The Myth of Persecution
“The author provides some thought-provoking points and successfully begins a dialogue with conventional wisdom on this subject.” ―Kirkus
“An unusual and sometimes alternative, cultural history of late antiquity for those with an affinity for classical civilization.” ―Library Journal
“Boin has produced a genuinely thought-provoking and imaginative book.” ―Wall Street Journal
“Boin is an entertaining guide, leading the reader through complex texts, materials, and events with a panoptic gaze, an engaging pace, and humor–like Morgan Freeman narrating March of the Christians.” ―John David Penniman, Bucknell University, Marginalia
“Boin is a gifted writer with the rare ability to bring ancient history before modern eyes.” ―The Christian Century
“One of the excellent points he makes concerns how most early Christians were ‘the quieter ones,’ who went along with many of the civic/religious ceremonies, and may well have converted more pagans to their faith than the argumentative martyrs. Other topics include the wide variety of Christianities in those early years, Judaism, the cults of Mithras and Isis, and, most of all, just how complex religious life on the ground really was during late antiquity.” ―The Historical Novel Society
About the Author
Douglas Boin is an expert on the religious history of the Roman Empire. He is currently assistant professor of ancient and late antique Mediterranean history at Saint Louis University and he has worked extensively as an archaeologist in Rome, studying the site of the synagogue at Ostia Antica. From 2010 to 2013, he taught in the department of classics at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. This is his first trade book. He lives in St. Louis.