Copyright Interpretation Jul 2006
House Church and Mission: The Importance of Household Structures in Early Christianity by Roger W. Gehring Hendrickson, Peabody, 2004. 408 pp. $29.95 (cloth). ISBN 1-56563-812-3.

FROM THE RISE OF Christianity to about 150 C.E., Christians exclusively met in private homes in dwelling rooms that were also used for other domestic purposes. The household model thus strongly influenced the social life, the organizational and leadership structures, and the ecclesiological concepts of early Christians, as well as their missionary outreach. Roger Gehring’s book, which is both exegetical-theologically and sociohistorically oriented, gives an excellent and erudite survey of the past and current scholarship on early Christian house churches.

As most previous studies of the topic have begun with the Pauline mission, Gehring’s new contribution lies primarily in his focus upon the time prior to and immediately after Easter, on household structures as a framework for the ministry and mission of Jesus and his disciples as well as of the primitive church of Jerusalem. He thereby relies heavily on the alleged historical accuracy of the historian Luke, as his Tubingen doctoral mentors do. Gehring then proceeds to the missionary outreach of the “Hellenists” and of the church at Antioch before he discusses the Pauline and post-Pauline churches as well as 2 and 3 John.

The appendix contains five floor plans; three three-dimensional reconstructions; indices of modern authors, subjects, and ancient sources; and an extensive bibliography. This fine book ends in a hermeneutical application, illuminating the importance of home groups and house churches for the church today.

[Author Affiliation]