Roman A. Montero: Early Christian Communism

The Disciples gather the Bread

Image by Lawrence OP via Flickr

Updated: Feb. 23, 2018

by Roman A. Montero
Writer, Dandelion Salad
Oslo, Norway
February 22, 2018

I recently did an interview with Stephen Bedard on the History of Christianity podcast, also on youtube about my book All Things in Common: The Economic Practices of the Early Christians. I hope you enjoy it.

Roman Montero on Feb 21, 2018

The book of Acts describes a church in which the members held all things in common. But how seriously should we take those passages? How common was that practice? And how do we interpret those passages in light of modern experiences of communism?

In this episode, I talk to Roman Montero, author of All Things in Common: The Economic Practices of the Early Christians. Roman has researched this topic extensively and places the passages in Acts in both the Greek and Jewish context.


Updated: Feb. 23, 2018

Christian Communism with Roman Montero

Justin Murphy on Feb 22, 2018

from the archives:

The Visual Bible – Acts

Jesus and the Abolition of the Courts by Roman A. Montero

The Difference Between Socialism, Communism, and Marxism Explained by a Marxist

Roman A. Montero: Jesus Was A Communist

Jesus against Hillel on Usury by Roman A. Montero

The Early Christian Communists by Roman A. Montero

Dorothy Day: Our Problems Stem From Our Acceptance of This Filthy, Rotten System by Richard Sahn

14 thoughts on “Roman A. Montero: Early Christian Communism

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  6. Why did sharing, so common in the immediate followers of Jesus, die out after a few centuries? I’m only speculating here — I’m certainly no historian — but I think it might be because in the early years, sharing was done for its own sake, for the pleasure of being friends to people; but in the later years it was done as a method of getting into heaven. Extrinsic rewards, once introduced, tend to displace intrinsic rewards, but they don’t work nearly as well. Alfie Kohn has written and spoken extensively about this phenomenon. Below, I will link one of his lectures against competition; starting around 16:47 he talks specifically about extrinsic motivations displacing and destroying intrinsic ones. Elsewhere he has written about how this means that we should NOT give trophies or other prizes for good performances; doing so makes the student like trophies or other prizes but actually makes the student lose interest in the good performance itself. My conclusion is that kindness and sharing are more likely to happen if the idea of getting into heaven is never mentioned.

      • Lo, it would have been a lot more pleasant to hear you say “he spoke of the absence of hierarchy, I thought of you.”

        On the whole, I found the interview kind of interesting. Personally, my main interest is in promoting the idea of sharing, so I’m interested in different angles of that. I think the contents of this interview help a little in that direction, except I don’t see a way to popularize this interview. It involves a long but sturdy chain of reasoning — you go to the Essenes, you think like Hellenic people, you look at the kind of language they used, etc. Being a mathematician, I have no qualms about a long but sturdy chain of reasoning. But most people are not mathematicians, and they will not sit through a long chain of reasoning, nor will they pay attention to its sturdiness. Instead they will continue to believe whatever they have been taught since they were young — e.g., that sharing is contrary to human nature. That belief is going away, but very slowly, and unfortunately I don’t think this esoteric discussion of the followers of Jesus will help to speed it up much. Rebecca Solnit’s “Paradise Built in Hell” may be more relevant for that goal — it deals not with 2000-year-old history, but with more recent experiences.

        • It does take a relatively long Chain of reasoning, but you have to understand that I’m in the game of historical reconstruction in this book. To do that you have to think historically and try and use the Sources to make a plausable reconstruction.

          Of course there are tons and tons of examples that basically disprove the idea of “homo-economicus” the idea that sharing is contrary to human nature; early Christianity is just one of them. Basically all of economic anthropology that isn’t obviously neo-liberal apologetics will show that the homo-economicus idea is bunk.

          But pick up the book, I think having good solid historical examples is never a bad idea when critiquing the dominant modern ideology.

    • The sharing was always based on eschatological theology. So I don’t think it has anything to do With getting to heaven.

      I’m not so familiar With late antiquity, but from what I have read, it seems to me there are a few reasons it died out.

      1. The seperation between the clergy, the monastics and hermits and the leity.

      2. The Growth of Christianity among the People who had to wield Power.

      3. The “spiritualization” of some ethical principles.

      But keep in mind, “a few centuries” is not small deal.

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