Christian Burial Societies
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Cemetery Tomb Stones 179

Burial Society Rules

Tomb StoneThe rules of Christian burial societies or secular ones according to "Dictionary of New Testament Background" by editors Craig A. Evans and Stanley E. Porter state, "Any member who speaks abusively of another or causes an uproar shall be fined 12 Sesterces, the cost of six loaves of bread in Roman times. The sesterces was a small silver coin issued during the Roman Republic in 211 BC and a large brass coin when it was revalued during the Roman Empire. Any member who uses any abusive or insolent language to a quinquennalis (leader) at a banquet shall be fined 20 sesterces." It was voted further that on the festive days of his term of office each quinquennalis is to conduct worship with incense and wine and is to perform his other functions clothed in white, and that on the birthdays of Diana and Antinous (which were Roman gods) he is to provide oil for the society in the public bath before they banquet except that instead of worshipping Diana or Antinous the Christians would worship Christ in Christian burial societies.✞

Another Club

Cemetery Tomb StonesAgainst this background, it is fair to say that in at least some respects the Christian burial societies would have looked familiar to outsiders. Like the pagan burial societies, members of the Christians burial societies met regularly (weekly rather than monthly) ate food and drank wine together, honored one another by elections to office, addressed the problem of causes of disturbance in the meetings and joined together in activities of worship. Such Christian burial societies, like the house churches in Corinth and elsewhere, provided a social context for people from primarily the non-elite trades and crafts end of the social scale to participate in a common life larger than the household but smaller than the city state. The Christian burial societies were distinctive, however, in the mixed social composition of their groups, the exclusiveness of their focus on devotion to Christ crucified and risen and the seriousness of their commitment to holiness.

"Christian Burial Societies"
by Ron Meacock © 2017

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