University of Pennsylvania Press

Divinations: Rereading Late Ancient Religion

Series Editors: Daniel Boyarin, Virginia Burrus, Derek Krueger

Published by: University of Pennsylvania Press

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Aliens and Sojourners

Self as Other in Early Christianity

By Benjamin H. Dunning

Early Christians spoke about themselves as resident aliens, strangers, and sojourners, asserting that otherness is a fundamental part of being Christian. But why did they do so and to what ends? How did Christians' claims to foreign status situate them with respect to each other and to the larger Roman world as the new movement grew and struggled to make sense of its own boundaries?

Aliens and Sojourners argues that the claim to alien status is not a transparent one. Instead, Benjamin Dunning contends, it shaped a rich, pervasive, variegated discourse of identity in early Christianity. Resident aliens and foreigners had long occupied a conflicted space of both repulsion and desire in ancient thinking. Dunning demonstrates how Christians and others in antiquity capitalized on this tension, refiguring the resident alien as being of a compelling doubleness, simultaneously marginal and potent. Early Christians, he argues, used this refiguration to render Christian identity legible, distinct, and even desirable among the vast range of social and religious identities and practices that proliferated in the ancient Mediterranean.

Through close readings of ancient Christian texts such as Hebrews, 1 Peter, the Shepherd of Hermas, and the Epistle to Diognetus, Dunning examines the markedly different ways that Christians used the language of their own marginality, articulating a range of options for what it means to be Christian in relation to the Roman social order. His conclusions have implications not only for the study of late antiquity but also for understanding the rhetorics of religious alienation more broadly, both in the ancient world and today.

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Apocalypse of the Alien God

Platonism and the Exile of Sethian Gnosticism

By Dylan M. Burns

In the second century, Platonist and Judeo-Christian thought were sufficiently friendly that a Greek philosopher could declare, "What is Plato but Moses speaking Greek?" Four hundred years later, a Christian emperor had ended the public teaching of subversive Platonic thought. When and how did this philosophical rupture occur? Dylan M. Burns argues that the fundamental break occurred in Rome, ca. 263, in the circle of the great mystic Plotinus, author of the Enneads. Groups of controversial Christian metaphysicians called Gnostics ("knowers") frequented his seminars, disputed his views, and then disappeared from the history of philosophy—until the 1945 discovery, at Nag Hammadi, Egypt, of codices containing Gnostic literature, including versions of the books circulated by Plotinus's Christian opponents. Blending state-of-the-art Greek metaphysics and ecstatic Jewish mysticism, these texts describe techniques for entering celestial realms, participating in the angelic liturgy, confronting the transcendent God, and even becoming a divine being oneself. They also describe the revelation of an alien God to his elect, a race of "foreigners" under the protection of the patriarch Seth, whose interventions will ultimately culminate in the end of the world.

Apocalypse of the Alien God proposes a radical interpretation of these long-lost apocalypses, placing them firmly in the context of Judeo-Christian authorship rather than ascribing them to a pagan offshoot of Gnosticism. According to Burns, this Sethian literature emerged along the fault lines between Judaism and Christianity, drew on traditions known to scholars from the Dead Sea Scrolls and Enochic texts, and ultimately catalyzed the rivalry of Platonism with Christianity. Plunging the reader into the culture wars and classrooms of the high Empire, Apocalypse of the Alien God offers the most concrete social and historical description available of any group of Gnostic Christians as it explores the intersections of ancient Judaism, Christianity, Hellenism, myth, and philosophy.

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Augustine's Manichaean Dilemma, Volume 1

Conversion and Apostasy, 373-388 C.E.

By Jason David BeDuhn

Augustine of Hippo is history's best-known Christian convert. The very concept of conversio owes its dissemination to Augustine's Confessions, and yet, as Jason BeDuhn notes, conversion in Augustine is not the sudden, dramatic, and complete transformation of self we likely remember it to be. Rather, in the Confessions Augustine depicts conversion as a lifelong process, a series of self-discoveries and self-departures. The tale of Augustine is one of conversion, apostasy, and conversion again.

In this first volume of Augustine's Manichaean Dilemma, BeDuhn reconstructs Augustine's decade-long adherence to Manichaeism, apostasy from it, and subsequent conversion to Nicene Christianity. Based on his own testimony and contemporaneous sources from and about Manichaeism, the book situates many features of Augustine's young adulthood within his commitment to the sect, while pointing out ways he failed to understand or put into practice key parts of the Manichaean system. It explores Augustine's dissatisfaction with the practice-oriented faith promoted by the Manichaean leader Faustus and the circumstances of heightened intolerance, anti-Manichaean legislation, and pressures for social conformity surrounding his apostasy.

Seeking a historically circumscribed account of Augustine's subsequent conversion to Nicene Christianity, BeDuhn challenges entrenched conceptions of conversion derived in part from Augustine's later idealized account of his own spiritual development. He closely examines Augustine's evolving self-presentation in the year before and following his baptism and argues that the new identity to which he committed himself bore few of the hallmarks of the orthodoxy with which he is historically identified. Both a historical study of the specific case of Augustine and a theoretical reconsideration of the conditions under which conversion occurs, this book explores the role religion has in providing the materials and tools through which self-formation and reformation occurs.

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Augustine's Manichaean Dilemma, Volume 2

Making a "Catholic" Self, 388-401 C.E.

By Jason David BeDuhn

By 388 C.E., Augustine had broken with the Manichaeism of his early adulthood and wholeheartedly embraced Nicene Christianity as the tradition with which he would identify and within which he would find meaning. Yet conversion rarely, if ever, represents a clean and total break from the past. As Augustine defined and became a "Catholic" self, he also intently engaged with Manichaeism as a rival religious system. This second volume of Jason David BeDuhn's detailed reconsideration of Augustine's life and letters explores the significance of the fact that these two processes unfolded together.

BeDuhn identifies the Manichaean subtext to be found in nearly every work written by Augustine between 388 and 401, and demonstrates Augustine's concern with refuting his former beliefs without alienating the Manichaeans he wished to win over. To achieve these ends, Augustine modified and developed his received Nicene Christian faith, strengthening it where it was vulnerable to Manichaean critique and taking it in new directions where he found room within an orthodox frame of reference to accommodate Manichaean perspectives and concerns. Against this background, BeDuhn is able to shed new light on the complex circumstances and purposes of Augustine's most famous work, The Confessions, as well as his distinctive reading of Paul and his revolutionary concept of grace. Augustine's Manichaean Dilemma, Volume 2 demonstrates the close interplay between Augustine's efforts to work out his own "Catholic" persona and the theological positions associated with his name, between the sometimes dramatic twists and turns of his own personal life and his theoretical thinking.

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Beyond the Century of the Child

Cultural History and Developmental Psychology

Edited by Willem Koops and Michael Zuckerman

In 1900, Ellen Key wrote the international bestseller The Century of the Child. In this enormously influential book, she proposed that the world's children should be the central work of society during the twentieth century. Although she never thought that her "century of the child" would become a reality, in fact it had much more resonance than she could have imagined.

The idea of the child as a product of a protective and coddling society has given rise to major theories and arguments since Key's time. For the past half century, the study of the child has been dominated by two towering figures, the psychologist Jean Piaget and the historian Philippe Ariès. Interest in the subject has been driven in large measure by Ariès's argument that adults failed even to have a concept of childhood before the thirteenth century, and that from the thirteenth century to the seventeenth there was an increasing "childishness" in the representations of children and an increasing separation between the adult world and that of the child. Piaget proposed that children's logic and modes of thinking are entirely different from those of adults. In the twentieth century this distance between the spheres of children and adults made possible the distinctive study of child development and also specific legislation to protect children from exploitation, abuse, and neglect. Recent students of childhood have challenged the ideas those titans promoted; they ask whether the distancing process has gone too far and has begun to reverse itself.

In a series of essays, Beyond the Century of the Child considers the history of childhood from the Middle Ages to modern times, from America and Europe to China and Japan, bringing together leading psychologists and historians to question whether we unnecessarily infantilized children and unwittingly created a detrimental wall between the worlds of children and adults. Together these scholars address the question whether, a hundred years after Ellen Key wrote her international sensation, the century of the child has in fact come to an end.

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Border Lines

The Partition of Judaeo-Christianity

By Daniel Boyarin

The historical separation between Judaism and Christianity is often figured as a clearly defined break of a single entity into two separate religions. Following this model, there would have been one religion known as Judaism before the birth of Christ, which then took on a hybrid identity. Even before its subsequent division, certain beliefs and practices of this composite would have been identifiable as Christian or Jewish.In Border Lines, however, Daniel Boyarin makes a striking case for a very different way of thinking about the historical development that is the partition of Judaeo-Christianity.

There were no characteristics or features that could be described as uniquely Jewish or Christian in late antiquity, Boyarin argues. Rather, Jesus-following Jews and Jews who did not follow Jesus lived on a cultural map in which beliefs, such as that in a second divine being, and practices, such as keeping kosher or maintaining the Sabbath, were widely and variably distributed. The ultimate distinctions between Judaism and Christianity were imposed from above by "border-makers," heresiologists anxious to construct a discrete identity for Christianity. By defining some beliefs and practices as Christian and others as Jewish or heretical, they moved ideas, behaviors, and people to one side or another of an artificial border—and, Boyarin significantly contends, invented the very notion of religion.

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Christ Circumcised

A Study in Early Christian History and Difference

By Andrew S. Jacobs

In the first full-length study of the circumcision of Jesus, Andrew S. Jacobs turns to an unexpected symbol—the stereotypical mark of the Jewish covenant on the body of the Christian savior—to explore how and why we think about difference and identity in early Christianity.

Jacobs explores the subject of Christ's circumcision in texts dating from the first through seventh centuries of the Common Era. Using a diverse toolkit of approaches, including the psychoanalytic, postcolonial, and poststructuralist, he posits that while seeming to desire fixed borders and a clear distinction between self (Christian) and other (Jew, pagan, and heretic), early Christians consistently blurred and destabilized their own religious boundaries. He further argues that in this doubled approach to others, Christians mimicked the imperial discourse of the Roman Empire, which exerted its power through the management, not the erasure, of difference.

For Jacobs, the circumcision of Christ vividly illustrates a deep-seated Christian duality: the fear of and longing for an other, at once reviled and internalized. From his earliest appearance in the Gospel of Luke to the full-blown Feast of the Divine Circumcision in the medieval period, Christ circumcised represents a new way of imagining Christians and their creation of a new religious culture.

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Christianity, Empire, and the Making of Religion in Late Antiquity

By Jeremy M. Schott

In Christianity, Empire, and the Making of Religion in Late Antiquity, Jeremy M. Schott examines the ways in which conflicts between Christian and pagan intellectuals over religious, ethnic, and cultural identity contributed to the transformation of Roman imperial rhetoric and ideology in the early fourth century C.E. During this turbulent period, which began with Diocletian's persecution of the Christians and ended with Constantine's assumption of sole rule and the consolidation of a new Christian empire, Christian apologists and anti-Christian polemicists launched a number of literary salvos in a battle for the minds and souls of the empire.

Schott focuses on the works of the Platonist philosopher and anti- Christian polemicist Porphyry of Tyre and his Christian respondents: the Latin rhetorician Lactantius, Eusebius, bishop of Caesarea, and the emperor Constantine. Previous scholarship has tended to narrate the Christianization of the empire in terms of a new religion's penetration and conquest of classical culture and society. The present work, in contrast, seeks to suspend the static, essentializing conceptualizations of religious identity that lie behind many studies of social and political change in late antiquity in order to investigate the processes through which Christian and pagan identities were constructed. Drawing on the insights of postcolonial discourse analysis, Schott argues that the production of Christian identity and, in turn, the construction of a Christian imperial discourse were intimately and inseparably linked to the broader politics of Roman imperialism.

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A Common Justice

The Legal Allegiances of Christians and Jews Under Early Islam

By Uriel I. Simonsohn

In A Common Justice Uriel I. Simonsohn examines the legislative response of Christian and Jewish religious elites to the problem posed by the appeal of their coreligionists to judicial authorities outside their communities. Focusing on the late seventh to early eleventh centuries in the region between Iraq in the east and present-day Tunisia in the west, Simonsohn explores the multiplicity of judicial systems that coexisted under early Islam to reveal a complex array of social obligations that connected individuals across confessional boundaries. By examining the incentives for appeal to external judicial institutions on the one hand and the response of minority confessional elites on the other, the study fundamentally alters our conception of the social history of the Near East in the early Islamic period.

Contrary to the prevalent scholarly notion of a rigid social setting strictly demarcated along confessional lines, Simonsohn's comparative study of Christian and Jewish legal behavior under early Muslim rule exposes a considerable degree of fluidity across communal boundaries. This seeming disregard for religious affiliations threatened to undermine the position of traditional religious elites; in response, they acted vigorously to reinforce communal boundaries, censuring recourse to external judicial institutions and even threatening transgressors with excommunication.

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The Corporeal Imagination

Signifying the Holy in Late Ancient Christianity

By Patricia Cox Miller

With few exceptions, the scholarship on religion in late antiquity has emphasized its tendencies toward transcendence, abstraction, and spirit at the expense of matter. In The Corporeal Imagination, Patricia Cox Miller argues instead that ancient Christianity took a material turn between the fourth and seventh centuries. During this period, Miller contends, there occurred a major shift in the ways in which the human being was oriented in relation to the divine, a shift that reconfigured the relationship between materiality and meaning in a positive direction.

The Corporeal Imagination is a groundbreaking investigation into the theological poetics of material substance in late ancient Christian texts. From hagiographies to literary descriptions of sacred paintings to treatises on relics and theurgy, Miller examines a wide variety of ancient texts to reveal how Christian writers increasingly described the matter of the world as invested with divine power. By appealing to the reader's sensory imagination, Christian texts endowed phenomena like relics, saints' bodies in hagiography, and saints' presence in icons with a visual and tactile presence. The book draws on a variety of contemporary theoretical models to elucidate the significance of all these materials in ancient religious life and imagination.

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