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Entertaining Angels: Early Christian Hospitality in Its Mediterranean Setting


This revealing and engaging example of what Arterbury describes as ‘historical audience-oriented criticism’ will be appreciated by scholars and students interested in the reality of life in New Testament times.

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Hospitality in the ancient Mediterranean world was not a matter of entertaining one’s neighbours to dinner. And among the early Christians it was not the same as table-fellowship either, though most modern works confuse that with hospitality. Hospitality was essentially the provision of food and protection for travellers; it could include also a bath, supplies for the traveller’s onward journey, and an escort along the road toward to the traveller’s next destination.

Unlike other writers, Arterbury combs through a broad spectrum of Greek, Roman and Jewish texts — as well as early Christian texts outside the New Testament — for literary depictions of the custom of hospitality. As well, he brings into the picture the Greek novels, which provide us with vivid insights into ancient Mediterranean life. His book presents the most complete analysis of the terms used for hospitality. And he shows how important the practice of hospitality is in understanding the narrative of the conversion of the Gentile Cornelius in Acts 10-11: Luke is here suggesting that Christian communities should employ the traditional custom of hospitality as an effective means of bridging the cultural divide between Jews and Gentiles, evangelizing unbelievers, and forging bonds of friendship with strangers.

This revealing and engaging example of what Arterbury describes as ‘historical audience-oriented criticism’ will be appreciated by scholars and students interested in the reality of life in New Testament times.

Additional information

table of contents

Chapter 1 INTRODUCTION Previous Scholarship on Hospitality The Approach of this Study Methodology An Overview of this Study Part I MEDITERRANEAN HOSPITALITY IN ANTIQUITY Chapter 2 GRECO-ROMAN HOSPITALITY IN ANTIQUITY Describing Hospitality in Ancient Greece Hospitality in Homer's Odyssey Describing Hospitality in the Hellenistic Age Hospitality in the Greek Novels Hospitality in Dio Chrysostom's The Hunter Summary of Greco-Roman Hospitality Chapter 3 JEWISH HOSPITALITY IN ANTIQUITY An Overview of Jewish Hospitality Abraham's Hospitality among Jewish and Early Christian Writers Additional Examples of Hospitality in the Jewish Scriptures Additional Examples of Hospitality Outside of the Jewish Scriptures Summary of Jewish Hospitality Chapter 4 EARLY CHRISTIAN HOSPITALITY Hospitality and Traveling Missionaries References to Hospitality in Paul's Letters Examples of Hospitality in Matthew, Mark, and John Hospitality in the Johannine Epistles Hospitality in Non-Canonical Christian Texts A Brief Word about Later Christian Hospitality Summary of Christian Hospitality Summary of Part I: Mediterranean Hospitality Part II THE CUSTOM OF HOSPITALITY IN LUKE AND ACTS Chapter 5 THE CUSTOM OF HOSPITALITY IN LUKE'S WRITINGS WITH A FOCUS ON ACTS 10-11 Examples of Hospitality in Luke and Acts Summary of Hospitality in Luke and Acts The Custom of Hospitality in Acts 10-11 Chapter 6 CONCLUSION Conclusions about the Custom of Hospitality in Antiquity Conclusions about the Custom of Hospitality in Acts 10-11

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  1. Craig L. Blomberg,Review of Biblical Literature

    Arterbury’s thesis models clarity and simplicity… Many of the references to ancient sources in the summary sections are actually new ones, never previously introduced or discussed… The sheer breadth of background texts assembled and surveyed in one slim volume forms a collection of material for which we can be grateful.

  2. G.J. Brooke, Society for Old Testament Study Book List

    This is an intriguing book with broader implications for the study of the social world of the Greco-Roman Mediterranean, such as ancient views on the presence of angels and how news was spread.

  3. Bruce J. Malina, Biblical Theology Bulletin

    [A] very useful . . . book … Given the travelling that features in so many New Testament narratives, an awareness of hospitality behavior is quite necessary for a modern reader’s understanding of these high context documents.

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Book information

Andrew Arterbury
List Price
£55 / $90 / €80
New Testament Monographs, 8
Scholars' Price
£27.50 / $45 / €40
ISBN 13 hardback
Page Extent
ix + 226
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