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  • Early Christianity in Lycaonia and Adjacent Areas: From Paul to Amphilochius of Iconium by Cilliers Breytenbach and Christiane Zimmermann
  • Sabine R. Huebner
Cilliers Breytenbach and Christiane Zimmermann
Early Christianity in Lycaonia and Adjacent Areas: From Paul to Amphilochius of Iconium
Ancient Judaism and Early Christianity, Vol. 101;
Early Christianity in Asia Minor
Leiden: Brill, 2017
Pp. xxx + 977. eBook: $314.00; Hardcover: $345.00.

This is a book about early Christians, however, not about the usual martyrs, saints, or bishops in the great centers of the ancient world, but ordinary Christians in a backwater province of the Roman Empire. In a history from below, crossing the disciplines between New Testament studies, church history, social history, and Greek epigraphy, Breytenbach and Zimmermann are investigating the spread and expansion of Christianity in Lycaonia. Lycaonia was a rough, infertile, and mountainous region in the interior of Asia Minor on the Anatolian plateau. It was visited by the apostle Paul probably traveling along the great highroad across Anatolia, the Via Sebaste. There he is said to have founded the first congregations of Christians. Over the next century, Lycaonia became one of the first strongholds of Christianity, with the earliest inscriptions referring to Christians dating to the second century c.e.

The book carries a hefty price tag with EUR €299.00 or USD $345.00 for the hardcover version, but its nearly 1,000 pages with thirteen maps and sixty-five figures are packed with detailed original scholarship of great interest for both an academic audience and the general reader, as the information is always presented in an accessible manner.

The impressive volume offering a regional approach to the early expansion of Christianity is coauthored by two internationally leading experts in the field: Cilliers Breytenbach, who is Professor of literature, history, and religion of Early Christianity at Humboldt-Universität Berlin and Christiane Zimmermann, Professor of history, theology, and literature of the New Testament at Christian-Albrechts-Universität Kiel. For many years, Breytenbach devoted his research to the earliest testimonies of Christianity among the epigraphic evidence from Asia Minor. Zimmermann's research focuses on the expansion of Christianity in the first Christian centuries on the basis of literary, epigraphic, and archaeological sources. Both joined forces several years ago in the Berlin Excellence Cluster 264 TOPOI; their subproject (B-III-2) "The organization of diversity in the ecclesiastic [End Page 325] space of antiquity" also created a database of early Christian inscriptions from Asia Minor and Greece ( The result of their collaboration is an impressive achievement, the first detailed survey of the rise and expansion of Christianity in ancient Lycaonia and adjacent areas, from Paul the apostle to the Council of Chalcedon in 451.

Following in the footsteps of Ramsay, Harnack, and Calder, Breytenbach and Zimmermann map the expansion of Christianity in the region of Lycaonia. The study is mainly based on the epigraphic evidence, above all, hundreds of funerary inscriptions from Lycaonia and adjacent areas, as the literary and archaeological sources are sparse. It shifts the focus away from the imperial elites to ordinary people, local city councilors, clergy men and women, craftsmen, and peasants who proclaimed their Christian identity (among many other identities) on their tombstones for posterity. The first chapter discusses previous scholarship, followed by a presentation of the sources for the spread of Christianity covering the literary, epigraphic, and archeological evidence. Space is also devoted to discussing the pervasive difficulties that every scholar of early Christianity is acutely aware of: how to identify Christians especially then when these Christians were embedded into a socio-cultural setting from which their customs differed very little. The second chapter is devoted to the political and administrative landscape of the province of Roman Lycaonia, and the history of events from the age of Augustus to the mid-fifth century c.e. Chapter Three treats the apostle Paul's travels through Lycaonia and his potential impact on the rise of Christianity, as well as Christian naming practices in this region. Chapter Four sets out the expansion of Christianity in Lycaonia, grouping the evidence geographically (as far as this is possible, as many stones were not found...