Date of Award


Document Type



College of Arts and Sciences

Degree Program


Degree Name

Master of Arts

Thesis Advisor

Dr. Gregory Bell

Committee Member

Dr. Edward Lee

Committee Member

Dr. Peter Judge


temple, priest, early Christianity, sociology, church history, cult

Committee Member

Dr. Robert McEachnie


I will argue that early Christianity more or less comprehensively envisioned itself, across varying traditions, to be a human-temple community, or a series of such communities; and that this word picture, this symbol, to a certain extent ordered their social life and aspirations. I propose three interlocking aspects to this priestly sociology. First, there is the element of unity. From the beginning, the temple model promoted unity, and it became particularly important later among very disparate groups of people within the church Second, the cultic motif generated a fresh kind of priestly ethics appropriate to the self-understanding of the movement. Third, for early Christians the temple framework, fleshing out perception into praxis, both foreshadowed and actualized the future New Creation—in which all such apocalyptically-minded Christians believed. This thesis examines the first 100 years of Christianity in order to observe how and why this group perceived itself as a human temple and how this self-perception played out in the wider Jewish and Greco-Roman worlds.