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date: 28 January 2020

Abstract and Keywords

Study of Christian origins typically separates the development of orthodox doctrines from community rituals of baptism, eucharist, or anointing of the sick and dying. Ritual studies are an appendix to arguments over the truth of teachings about God, the nature of Christ, salvation, and the canon of Scripture. This chapter argues that emerging Christianity was primarily a community that gathered to engage in ritual activities. Its rituals of baptism and eucharist are at the core of community identity in 1 Corinthians and Romans. The energy fuelling intra-Christian disputes reflects anxieties over the effectiveness of ritual celebrations in the pluralistic setting of early Christian assemblies. Both poetic fragments in Christian texts and artistic settings like the baptistery at Dura Europos demonstrate the powers of ritual to reconfigure participants’ vision of the self in the cosmos. Valentinian, Marcionite, and Manichaean authors and their orthodox opponents mirror diverse ritual praxis.

Keywords: baptism, communal meal, eucharist, First Corinthians, identity, Valentinianism

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