The New York Times

Are Christians Supposed to Be Communists?

I RECENTLY TRANSLATED THE NEW TESTAMENT. I LEARNED A FEW THINGS.

It was in 1983 that I heard the distinguished Greek Orthodox historian Aristeides Papadakis casually remark in a lecture at the University of Maryland that the earliest Christians were “communists.” In those days, the Cold War was still casting its great glacial shadow across the cultural landscape, and so enough of a murmur of consternation rippled through the room that Professor Papadakis — who always spoke with severe precision — felt obliged to explain that he meant this in the barest technical sense: They lived a common life and voluntarily enjoyed a community of possessions. The murmur subsided, though not necessarily the disquiet.

Not that anyone should have been surprised. If the communism of the apostolic church is a secret, it is a startlingly open one. Vaguer terms like “communalist” or “communitarian” might make the facts sound more palatable but cannot change them. The

This article originally appeared in .

You're reading a preview, sign up to read more.

More from The New York Times

The New York Times8 min read
36 Hours in Naples, Italy
A city of glorious but tattered beauty, known for its vibrancy and, yes, a frisson of menace, Naples is now humming with visitors. In this Mediterranean capital watched over by the still-kicking Vesuvius volcano, tourist numbers have more than double
The New York Times5 min read
There Is No Single, Best Policy for Drug Prices
A majority of Americans prefer greater regulation of prescription drug prices, meaning government intervention to lower them. But don’t count on a single policy to address a nuanced problem. “All low-priced drugs are alike; all high-priced drugs are
The New York Times2 min read
A David Bowie Barbie: Mattel Unveils Ziggy Stardust Doll
On Thursday, the world learned that Barbie is a Bowie fan. With its release of a doll dressed as David Bowie’s glittering alter ego Ziggy Stardust, Mattel said it was celebrating the 50th anniversary of “Space Oddity,” released in 1969. The new Barbi