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Download Among the Gentiles: Greco-Roman Religion and Christianity by Luke Timothy Johnson PDF

By Luke Timothy Johnson

The query of Christianity’s relation to the opposite religions of the area is extra pertinent and tough at the present time than ever sooner than. whereas Christianity’s old failure to understand or actively have interaction Judaism is infamous, Christianity’s much more shoddy checklist with admire to “pagan” religions is much less understood. Christians have inherited an almost unanimous theological culture that thinks of paganism by way of demonic ownership, and of Christian missions as a rescue operation that saves pagans from inherently evil practices.

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Example text

Hellenistic Judaism in the first century, both within and outside Palestine, is of exceptional importance to any analysis of the relations between Greco­ Roman religion and early Christianity, in two ways. First, it serves as a reminder of how complex and subtle were the modes of cultural and religious cross­ fertilization in the period of the early empire. Even for this most highly defined and resistant tradition, there was a variety of ways in which the dominant Hellenistic culture was negotiated, so that for some Jews, totally loyal to their heritage, it was perfectly natural to think of their own religion as a form of philosophy and as the best of Mysteries.

Like social scientific approaches to religion, but to a still greater degree, they privilege the etic (the perspective and catego­ ries of the observer) over the emic (the perspective and language of the partici­ pant). Although such approaches have undoubtedly opened up new perspectives and generated new knowledge, S it is difficult to think that religious language and practice has adequately been understood as a human phenomenon simply because it has been revealed as politically interested. Nevertheless, the university context has for the most part been good for the study of religion, and the distinctive ways in which religious studies has been able to approach the subject holds the promise of a more fruitful way of think­ ing about paganism and Christianity than did the old context of a divided church and the perspectives of theology.

First, it was pervasive, touching peoples' lives in multiple ways that even the most pious of present-day Christians-unless they were Roman Catholics of a certain age-would find astonishing. 5 Signs of divine presence met a per­ son on every side. 6 The promise of votive offerings to such gods and sh ort prayers such as "if God wills it"-found in Judaism only where influenced by Hellenistic piety-were often on the lips? Religion for Greeks and Romans was not something done only with a part of one's time, space, and attention.

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