chapter  12
Cultic Elements in Early Christianity: Rome, Corinth, and the Johannine Community
ByW. W. Meissner
Pages 22

In previous essays, I discussed the cultic aspects of the origins of Christianity, particularly as they relate to and derive from extant Palestinian religious movements (Meissner, 1988), and the early manifestations of the cultic process in the evolution of the churches of Jerusalem and Antioch (Meissner, 1989). This analysis will follow further variations of the cultic process as it evolved in the emergence and forming of the Christian communities within the hellenistic culture of the first century Mediterranean basin and within the political structure of the Roman empire. Christian communities of the first centuries experienced periods of instability and unrest, marked by the ebb and flow of various ideological influences, which gradually evolved in the direction of a common orthodoxy and delimitation of the limits of heterodoxy. The pressures of persecution called for a degree of unification in the face of a common enemy, but internal factions and their divergent understandings of the nature and direction of the new church set the stage for the dynamic progression from a collection of contending cultic groups toward a organized, structured, unified, and universal church. I will argue that, even in the face of persecution from a common enemy, the cultic process created splits and divisions within the Christian community that threatened the very existence of the nascent church.