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

By Luke Timothy Johnson

The query of Christianity’s relation to the opposite religions of the realm is extra pertinent and tough at the present time than ever prior to. whereas Christianity’s ancient failure to understand or actively have interaction Judaism is infamous, Christianity’s much more shoddy checklist with appreciate to “pagan” religions is much less understood. Christians have inherited a nearly 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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300 BCE, taken from the Parthians by the Romans early in the third century CE, and destroyed by the Parthians in 256 CEo As its history sug­ gests, the city's location on a plateau facing the Euphrates River made it of strategic importance for competing empires. Between 1931 and 1933, archaeolo­ gists uncovered three buildings situated along the wall of the city facing west that were remarkably similar in architecture-they all were basically Roman houses-and function, since each was a place of worship.

57 Both allegorical interpretation and the search for an ordering principle supe­ rior to the anthropomorphic gods, however, remained within the framework A Preliminary Profile of Greco-Roman Religion 39 and depended on the normative status of polytheism. They did not represent a rejection but rather a refinement of the religious system that pervaded Greco­ Roman culture and gave it definition. That system, in all its manifestations, was about negotiating the divine dynamis in a manner beneficial to humans and to the social order.

The development of allegori­ cal interpretation enabled young people to read and learn from the classic texts that shaped their world, while understanding that what they were really about was not lust and adultery and rage, but the desire for wisdom and virtue. 50 Both Jews and Christians would, in turn, learn from such hermeneutical precedents and turn the same interpretive techniques to their own deeply problematic scriptures. 51 A second response was to imagine a stronger, more unitary, and directing divine power superior to the many gods on display in the world.

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