Success in the Cities
Meeks correctly notes that Christianity “was predominantly an urban phenomenon after the first beginnings in Palestine.” Thus in Luke’s Gospel, the Greek term, polis, is used 39 times versus only 8 occurrences in Mark. When the communities of the followers of Jesus emerged in the thirties in the Mediterranean societies of the Roman Empire, it is noteworthy that we basically find them only in urban areas and for the most part along major trade routes.
Peter Lampe can state: “The Christian presence in Puteoli and Rome correlates with a twofold background. (a) Jews had lived in Puteoli since Augustan times. Rome and Puteoli accommodated the only pre-Christian Jewish settlements in Italy known to us. This is one confirmation that earliest Christianity spread along routes that Judaism had already followed: the synagogues were the setting for the first Christian mission. (b) The Jewish as well as the Christian “axis” Puteoli-Rome has a particular economic-historical background. The stretch Puteoli-Rome was the main trade route between the East and the city of Rome in the first half of the first century. The road of Judaism and Christianity from the east to Rome followed in the footsteps of trade.” Luke confirms this.
The fact that the movement was successful is explained by one additional fact, which is also confirmed by Luke and Lampe. The house churches established by the followers of Jesus were located near synagogues. Thus we read in Acts 14:1 that Paul and Barnabus went as usual into the Jewish synagogue where they spoke so effectively that “a number of both Jews and Greeks became believers.”