Questions for reflection: Everyday life in the early church

[Portrait of a young woman in red, AD 90 to 120. Egypt. Encaustic on Limewood with Gold Leaf—Rogers Fund, 1909, Metropolitan Museum of Art]

Use these questions on your own or in a group to reflect on life among the earliest followers of Christ.

1. What surprised you about the fictionalized “day in the life” of an early Christian community in our lead article (pp. 6–11)? What matched your expectations based on what you know about the early church? What aspects of this community life still survive in your church or denomination?

2. What social classes did early Christians come from (pp. 12–15)? How did their giving differ from Greco-Roman philanthropy? How does it compare with the kinds of giving that Christians do today?

3. What was Clement’s attitude toward early Christians dining out and socializing (p. 16)? Have any of these issues ever occurred to you as you have eaten and practiced hospitality?

4. How did early Christian marriage and family life differ from Roman customs around marriage and parenting (pp. 17–20)? How does the early Christian view of these things compare to your own view and your church’s?

5. What was John Chrysostom’s vision of the Christian family (p. 21)? Do you agree? Why or why not?

6. How did early Christians pray (pp. 24–27)? How does this compare to your prayer life and the prayer life of your church?

7. What patterns of daily and weekly worship and prayer did Egeria observe (p. 28)? How do they resemble devotional practices of Christians today?

How are they different?

8. What did you know or assume about the persecution of Christians before you read about it here (pp. 29–32)? Did anything surprise you? What does it mean to confess Christ as Lord in modern society?

9. How did Pliny describe Christians (p. 33)? Do you think he would describe today’s Christians in similar ways? Why or why not?

10. Why did Christians grow interested in asceticism after Christianity was legalized (pp. 34–37)? What are some ways to balance contemplation and action today?

11. Which city mentioned in our gallery would you most like to have lived in (pp. 38–42)? Why?

12. What’s one thing you learned from this issue that surprised you? What’s one thing that confirmed something you already thought?

13. With which of the figures mentioned in this issue do you most identify? If you could ask a historical figure from this issue one question, what would it be and whom would you ask?

By the editors

[Christian History originally published this article in Christian History Issue #147 in 2023]

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