Rodney Stark disputes the claim that early Christianity was a movement of the poor and slaves.
The thing about early Christianity is that, you know, it was committed to helping the poor and the disadvantaged, but it’s quite inaccurate to therefore conclude that it was a movement of the poor and the slaves. It was nothing of the sort.
You know, you’ve got the Gospels being circulated by the year say 70, 80, 90 … who could read them? Well the poor and the slaves couldn’t read. But apparently Christians, most of them or a significant number of them, could read. And you know if you go back to when Paul said “not many of you were wise, not many of you were noble”. He didn’t say none. He said not many, which means some were.
Well in the Roman world not many were noble, not many were educated. And if the Christians had a significant number who were, that made them different. And subsequently there has been a lot of research – as a matter of fact, the man who started all this was an Australian. His name was Judge, and he was the first to note that Paul didn’t say none, he said not many which means some. And his take-off from that, you go into an entirely different direction, and subsequently people have discovered that there were Christians in the imperial family as early as 50. This was not a movement of the ignorant. This was a movement of the privileged for the most part, but the privileged who had a view of life that was sympathetic to all human beings, that was concerned about people in the mines and people in slavery. That was concerned about human life.