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The triumph of Christianity in the Roman empire: An economic interpretation

  • Ferrero, Mario

This paper offers an economic interpretation of Christianity's transformation from sect to universal religion in the Roman empire. It first points out paganism's apparent inability to provide individual security in times of distress, such as the third century C.E., as a reason for the increasing demand for monotheism. It then reviews Christianity's monotheistic competitors and points out the reasons why they lost out. Next, it addresses the Christian church's choice between exclusive membership and open access to all applicants on the day of its triumph and shows, by means of a cooperative model, that open access and universal membership were a superior policy if coupled with doctrinal radicalization. Finally, it analyzes the theological controversies of the fourth and fifth centuries by means of a Hotelling-type linear spatial model of doctrinal strictness ranging from paganism to Judaism, and traces the theological choices that were made back to the church's need to distance itself from its potential competitors.

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Article provided by Elsevier in its journal European Journal of Political Economy.

Volume (Year): 24 (2008)
Issue (Month): 1 (March)
Pages: 73-87

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Handle: RePEc:eee:poleco:v:24:y:2008:i:1:p:73-87
Contact details of provider: Web page: http://www.elsevier.com/locate/inca/505544

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  1. Mario Ferrero, 2005. "Radicalization as a reaction to failure: An economic model of Islamic extremism," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 122(1), pages 199-220, January.
  2. Iannaccone, Laurence R, 1992. "Sacrifice and Stigma: Reducing Free-Riding in Cults, Communes, and Other Collectives," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 100(2), pages 271-91, April.
  3. Laurence R. Iannaccone, 1998. "Introduction to the Economics of Religion," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 36(3), pages 1465-1495, September.
  4. Pedro Pita Barros & Nuno Garoupa, 2002. "An Economic Theory Of Church Strictness," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 112(481), pages 559-576, July.
  5. Robert B. Ekelund, Jr. & Robert F. Hebert & Robert D. Tollison, 2002. "An Economic Analysis of the Protestant Reformation," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 110(3), pages 646-671, June.
  6. Laurence R. Iannaccone, 1998. "Corrigenda [Introduction to the Economics of Religion]," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 36(4), pages 1941-1941, December.
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