June 29, 2022
Episode 144: Politics and Religion in Late Antiquity, Part II: The Rise of Christianity and the Invention and Eclipse of ‘Paganism’
This episode is a second discussion of late-antique politics and religion in Rome, with a view to giving some political and social background to the changes in late-antique religious life which took a decidedly new turn from the middle of the third century. This process, which would lead eventually to the Christianisation of the Roman realm in a definitive way, was only definitive in retrospect, and we attempt some contextualisation of the ways in which it occurred. A number of discursus occur along the way, including discussion of the origin of the term ‘pagan’ and its resonances in modern esoteric movements. You can’t do all this without going into an awful lot of historical details, so those listeners who simply are not interested in late-antique Roman imperial politics may want to skip this one (but at their peril!).
Works Cited in this Episode, roughly-chronologically:
- The Gospel of John on Jews expelling Christians from the synagogue: 9:22; 12:42; 16:2.
- Pliny’s letter to Trajan: Ep. X.96.
- Origen on the ongoing ‘problem’ of Jewish Christians: Homilies on Leviticus 5.8.
- Constantine calls in Sopater of Apamea for some specialist telestic consultation on his Constantinople-project: John Lydus De mens. p. 65, 2-66, 1 Wünsch. See Eunapius VS 6.2 on Sopater’s career at Constantine’s court, up until he was killed in a plot involving calumnies of sorcery.
- John Chrysostom is still criticizing judaizers in the Church who attend synagogue services. See, e.g., his Contra Jud. 4.3.
- Polymnia Athanassiadi and Michael Frede, editors. Pagan Monotheism in Late Antiquity. Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1999.
- Daniélou, Jean, Gospel Message and Hellenistic Culture (London: Darton, Longman and Todd, 1973).
- Deissmann, Adolf, Light from the Ancient East: The New Testament Illustrated by Recently Discovered Texts of the Graeco-Roman World (Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2004) [The classic presentation of the evidence for the influence of traditional ruler-cult on early Christianity].
- W. H. C. Frend. Martyrdom and Persecution in the Early Church: A Study of a Conflict from the Maccabees to Donatus. Blackwell, Oxford, 1965.
- Idem. The Rise of Christianity. Fortress, Philadelphia, 1984.
- R. MacMullen. Paganism in the Roman Empire. Yale University Press, New Haven, CT/London, 1981.
- Guy G. Stroumsa. The End of Sacrifice: Religious Transformations of Late Antiquity. Chicago, IL, 2009.
On Christians and Jews in the late-antique Roman World:
- Walter Bauer. Orthodoxy and Heresy in Earliest Christianity. Fortress, Philadelphia, 1971.
- Raymond Brown. Not Jewish Christianity and Gentile Christianity but Types of Jewish/Gentile Christianity. Catholic Biblical Quarterly, 45:74–79, 1983.
- James D. G. Dunn, editor. Jews and Christians: The Parting of the Ways, A.D. 70 to 135: The Second Durham-Tubingen Research Symposium on Earliest Christianity and Judaism (Durham, September 1989). Mohr Siebeck, Tübingen, 1992.
- Sabrina Inowlocki. Eusebius and the Jewish Authors: His Citation Technique in an Apologetic Context. Brill, Leiden, The Netherlands, 2006.
- J. Carleton Paget, The Definition of Jewish Christian/Jewish Christianity in the History of Research, in R. Hvalnik and O. Skarsaune, ed., A History of Jewish Believers in Christ from Antiquity to the Present, Vol. 1, (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2006).
- Burton Visotzky. Prolegomenon to the Study of Jewish-Christianities in Rabbinic Literature. Association for Jewish Studies Review, 14:47–70, 1989.
On the ‘End of Paganism’:
- Pierre Chuvin. A Chronicle of the Last Pagans. Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA, 1990.
- R. Macmullen. Christianizing the Roman Empire (AD100-400). Yale University Press,
New York, NY, 1984.
- Eberhard Sauer. The End of Paganism in the North-Western Provinces of the Roman Empire: The Example of the Mithras Cult. Number 634 in BAR International Series. Tempus Reparatum, London, 1996.
Christianity, Heresiology, Julian, Manichæism, Nag-Hammadi Library, Neopaganism, Orthodoxy, Rabbinic Judaism, Rome
June 29, 2022
I really wish you would take a slight detour when referring to Jewish monotheism and present some context regarding the claim of monotheism by way of the following authors:
Thomas Romer—i.e. The Invention of God
Mark S. Smith—i.e. The Early History of God Yahweh and other deities in ancient Israel
Jan Assman—numerous works
December 14, 2022
Well, I haven’t addressed your list of authors, but maybe the general gist of what you are talking about might be found in the next episode?
Mehmet Kadir Baran
July 3, 2022
Will we cover Zosimus of Panopolis?
July 4, 2022
Of course we will cover Zosimus of Panopolis. Quelle question!
Mehmet Kadir Baran
July 4, 2022
The reason I ask this question is this: zosimus (flourished around 300) is a near contemporary of Iamblichus (245-325). As the podcast have a mostly chronological plan, I think he should be treated in the next few episodes. But when you talk about future episodes you never mention Zosimus.. You say Julian will be covered, esoteric christianity will be covered, church fathers, cappadocians, origenists etc, but you never mention Zosimus. This prompted me to ask the question..
I think zosimus should get more than one episode… Actually, much more than one 🙂
ps: When I have asked the question, I was aware that it was very quelle.. 🙂
ps2: Actually, id you give an approximate plan of the furure episodes, or even a list of topics to be covered, that would be great…
July 4, 2022
Zosimus should be coming later in the summer (at least three episodes planned, but super-interesting authors like Zos have a way of expanding out into mega-series). The problem with more specific plans is that the plan constantly flows as people can do interviews, as my research uncovers new stuff, and so on and so forth.
[Update: Late summer: Ha! Our introductory episode to Zosimus, with the great Matteo Martelli, can be found here, but it didn’t appear in 2022]
Dating-wise you are right on, but I somehow think of Zos as a fourth-century author (not that we can really date him), so my instinct is to cover this final lot of third-century loose ends (the Christians and eso Jews, mainly) before moving on to him. No real chronological logic there, I’m afraid.
Mehmet Kadir Baran
July 5, 2022
I’m relieved.. If there’s Zosimus, I’m programmed to receive. Three episodes good, thirty episodes better..
July 6, 2022
Your analogy between the adoption of Christianity in the Roman world and market mechanisms/’it is glorious to be rich’ in China not long after the Cultural Revolution is very very interesting, and does seem very apt.
It didn’t save the western half of the empire though, although, adopted as a mechanism for political control, the successors to the western Empire seemed to have agreed.
July 10, 2022
That China analogy was probably a sloppy one, even for me! The only point I wanted to make was a very limited one: sometimes in history crazy reversals of history seem to take place, but they aren’t as crazy once you know the background social, political, and even geopolitical pressures involved.
As for the adoption of Christianity as a mechanism for social stability/control: big stuff like a major religious revolution is never only one thing. So, yes, absolutely, Christianity became a mechanism for social control, but it was never only a mechanism for social control. We shouldn’t be reductionist about something as complex as the Christianisation of an imperial civilisation.
You’re right that it didn’t save the western half of the empire, and THAT really is one of the unanswered questions of history: why did western Rome fall? The answer to that on has a lot of moving parts and here we definitely need to consider chance as a major ingredient, e.g. if that battle had been won, if this emperor hadn’t decided to act stupidly in this particular case, stuff like that. So it’s both hugely complex and embarrassingly simple at the same time!
July 9, 2022
Great episode. The condemnation of Judaizing continued for a long time after St. John Chrysostom. At the Council of Florence (15th C) Pope Eugene IV issued a bull condemning certain Jewish observances as inimical to Christianity (Cantante Domino). It reads in part:
“All, therefore, who after that time observe circumcision and the Sabbath and the other requirements of the law, it declares alien to the Christian faith and not in the least fit to participate in eternal salvation, unless someday they recover from these errors.”
When the SHWEP chronology works its way up to the 15th century, would be interesting to examine how these dynamics that existed in the late classical evolved over time and affected esoterica in Europe, maybe with regard to things such as “Christian Cabala”, edits done to “Christianize” certain texts such as the Solomonic ones, and so forth. There has been a continued oscillating co-operation and tension between Christianity and Judaism since the beginning, and besides the obvious theological disagreements, it appears in interesting ways both in esoterica and religious mysticism.
That (late Medieval / Renaissance) is also an interesting period for esoteric syncretism in general as there is much combining paganism, Judaism, Christianity, etc. Would be interesting to examine in light of the information in this episode.
July 10, 2022
Great suggestions, Louis, and ‘a continued oscillating co-operation and tension between Christianity and Judaism’ is an apt way of summing it up.
Another great spot in history, where this co-operation and tension dynamic was going full-bore and not two ways but three, was the high-mediæval Andalusian convivencia; it can’t be an accident that this cultural milieu gives us kabbalah, major flowerings of Sufism, ‘Ilm al-Huruf, and other Islamic esoteric currents, the Catholic esoteric ‘logical’ system of Lull, and more, not to mention ridiculous amounts of occult scientific work.