Interdisciplinary Journal of Research on ReligionInstitute for Studies of Relgion
IJRR :: 2020 Volume 16 :: Article 5
2020 Volume 16, Article 5
On Early Church Organization: An Economic Analysis of The Didache

Author: Cornelius Christian

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ABSTRACT

According to conservative estimates, early Christianity was extraordinarily successful at evangelization: in its first 200 years, its membership increased by a factor of 28. I offer an explanation for the early Church’s success, based on an economic reading of The Didache, an important 1st Century Christian document that deals with church organization. I argue that early Christians were motivated to evangelize, based on a model of non-price competition (Ekelund and Tollison, 2011), and that the Didache reflects this impetus. Specifically, there are three claims that this paper advances. First, that Christianity's difficult and culturally alienating moral strictures were, paradoxically perhaps, important in winning converts. Second, Chapters 11-12 of The Didache, which deal with church organization, balance the needs of evangelism with the necessity of preventing free-riding (Iannaccone, 1992). Third, early Christians placed much weight on the importance of so-called 'prophets and teachers,' specialized labourers who were instrumental in spreading the faith. In these three ways, the Didache provides full expression to a paradigm that is already taking shape in the New Testament.

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