Christianity in Roman Africa: The Development of Its Practices and Beliefs

Christianity in Roman Africa: The Development of Its Practices and Beliefs

Christianity in Roman Africa: The Development of Its Practices and Beliefs

Christianity in Roman Africa: The Development of Its Practices and Beliefs


In-depth, illustrated exploration of how early North African Christians lived out their faith

Using a combination of literary and archeological evidence, this in-depth, illustrated book documents the development of Christian practices and doctrine in Roman Africa -- contemporary Libya, Tunisia, Algeria, and Morocco -- from the second century through the Arab conquest in the seventh century.

Robin Jensen and Patout Burns, in collaboration with Graeme W. Clarke, Susan T. Stevens, William Tabbernee, and Maureen A. Tilley, skillfully reconstruct the rituals and practices of Christians in the ancient buildings and spaces where those practices were performed. Numerous site drawings and color photographs of the archeological remains illuminate the discussions.

This work provides valuable new insights into the church fathers Tertullian, Cyprian, and Augustine. Most significantly, it offers a rich, unprecedented look at early Christian life in Roman Africa, including the development of key rituals and practices such as baptism and eucharist, the election and ordination of leaders, marriage, and burial. In exploring these, Christianity in Roman Africa shows how the early African Christians consistently fought to preserve the holiness of the church amid change and challenge.


This project originated in conversations at the annual meeting of the North American Patristics Society in May 1994. By November of that year, William Tabbernee and Maureen Tilley had joined us in planning. Graeme Clarke and Susan Stevens accepted our invitation to join the team. the National Endowment for the Humanities approved and funded our application for a multidisciplinary and collaborative study. in June 1996 we spent three weeks in Tunisia, exploring the archeological evidence of Christian practice and attempting correlations with the literary sources.

Beginning in November 1996, we arranged seminars at the national meetings of the American Academy of Religion and the North American Patristics Society. Each of these was dedicated to exploring a particular aspect of the practice of Christianity in Roman Africa. the original neh funding, a grant from Florida State University, and a grant from the aar for collaborative research supported these seminars and additional meetings of the central team. the research was enriched by the contributions of specialists in the topics of the seminars: William Harmless, David Hunter, Thomas Martin, Andrew McGowan, Jane Merdinger, Claudia Setzer, Alistair Stewart, and Jonathan Yates. the papers and images prepared for each of these sessions were made available through the Christianity in Roman Africa (CHROMA) Web site, now hosted by the Augustinian Institute of Villanova University. in April 2001, we joined Maureen Tilley as participants in the international colloquy “Saint Augustin: Africanité et Universalité,” organized by Le Haut Conseil Islamique of Algeria in collaboration with the University of Fribourg and the Institutum Patristicum Augustinianum; it provided an unusual opportunity to visit the ancient city of Hippo Regius and other significant Christian sites in Algeria under the guidance of local scholars.

This project was designed and executed as a collaborative investigation en-

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