Part A

Fig. 1: Grave stele for a family (Archaeological Museum, Athens) Th. Fröhlich, Lararien- und Fassadenbilder in den Vesuvstädten (Mainz 1991), Taf. 7

Mag. Rainer Gugl | Prof. Dr. Markus Öhler


This part of the project focuses on the beginnings of Christian life in houses and households which leads us to a double interest in this regard: First, the house as a place of a living community, and second, the house as a place of a cultic community. The importance of these inquiries results from the fact that up till now research mainly examined the importance of house churches as communities. Less attention was paid to cult pragmatics itself and the social dynamics that result from the fact that the house was also the space where everyday religion was practiced.

The house as a living community lies in the transient area between public and non-public. Every single member of the household had its special social status and function in society and the house itself. The house as a cultic community worshipped their specific deities and performed cultic acts in its home on a day-to-day basis.

The main part of this research will attempt to illuminate two different aspects of being a Christ-believer in a Greco-Roman household.

On the one hand this project will focus Christ-believers as members of pagan households. Considering this difficult relationship, we will pursue the following questions: In which house-cults were people involved and how did they function? Which tensions could result from the coexistence of Christ-believers and pagans? Which role played the status of the members and the correlations between men and women, parents and children, masters and slaves? Special focuses will be e.g. on the problem of mixed marriages, on the attendance of Christ believers in family-ceremonies or on the confrontation with the Emperor-cult in a domestic setting.

On the other hand the project will show how Christ-believers developed their own forms of day-to-day worship. The focus lies here on predominately Christian households. The earliest Christ-believers had an ambivalent attitude to the question of "family" or "austerity". The term "family" increasingly changed into a metaphor in the sense of a "familia dei". Believing in Christ included also a certain ethos that led to a revaluation of the social status of believing household members. We will also scrutinize ritual aspects which originated or were predominately practiced in Christian households, e.g. the Lord’s Prayer or the singing of hymns. Where they used in families and if yes, when and how? At last it will also be necessary to show the relation between households and house churches.

This part of the project focuses on the first two centuries of the Common Era and on the Greek part of the Roman Empire (relevant sources from later centuries and other locations may also be considered). It will mainly cover literary sources such as the New Testament, the Apostolic Fathers, early apocryphal and apologetic texts. To complete the picture it will also be necessary to include non-Christian sources, which includes among literary documents also epigraphic and papyrological material.