Richard S. AscoughNov 16, 2023
Early Christ Groups and Greco-Roman Associations
Organizational Models and Social Practices
Cascade Books 2022
Exegetes have long relied on the framework of the Acts of the Apostles to understand the behavior and organization of Paul’s various ekklēsiai (assemblies), or church communities, from which Christ-groups have often been conceptualized as extensions from practices of diasporic Jewish synagogues. However, Richard S. Ascough’s work has been at the forefront of a scholarly movement emphasizing the relevance of data from Greco-Roman associations—occupational, cultic, ethnic, and otherwise—not only as a preferable model for understanding the constitution of early Christ-following communities, but also as fruitful comparanda for interpreting Paul’s letters, such as 1 Thessalonians and Philippians.
On this episode, Dr. Ascough joined the New Books Network to discuss Early Christ Groups and Greco-Roman Associations: Organizational Models and Social Practices (Cascade Books, 2022), a collection of his articles and essays on associations from the last 25 years detailing the road to the acceptance of association data within scholarship as well as the recruitment, self-promotion, socializing, and memorializing practices that these recoveries from antiquity reveal. Ascough discusses how he carved his own niche within biblical studies, from starting as a master’s student with a small group to translate previously unpublished inscriptions and papyri to ultimately showcasing the applicability of association behavior to early Christ-groups, Pauline and otherwise.
Richard S. Ascough (Ph.D., Toronto School of Theology, 1997) is a Professor at the School of Religion at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, Canada. He has written extensively on the formation of early Christ groups and Greco-Roman religious culture, with particular attention to various types of associations. He has published widely in the field with more than fifty articles or essays and thirteen books, including Christ Groups & Associations: Foundational Essays(Baylor U. Press, 2022), Associations in the Greco-Roman World: A Sourcebook (Baylor U. Press, 2012), and Paul’s Macedonian Associations (Mohr Siebeck, 2003). He has been recognized for his innovative and effective teaching in many ways, including the two top teaching awards at Queen’s University and a 3M National Teaching Fellowship (2018).
Rob Heaton (Ph.D., University of Denver, 2019) hosts Biblical Studies conversations for New Books in Religion and teaches New Testament, Christian origins, and early Christianity at Anderson University in Indiana. He recently authored The Shepherd of Hermas as Scriptura Non Grata: From Popularity in Early Christianity to Exclusion from the New Testament Canon (Lexington Books, 2023). For more about Rob and his work, or to offer feedback related to this episode, please visit his website at https://www.robheaton.com.