Acta Sanctorum Major publication of the Bollandists
The major publication of the Bollandists, a group of scholars named after Jean Bolland and composed before the French Revolution, of Flemish Jesuits in Antwerp, and since 1837, of Belgian Jesuits residing in Brussels. It is a critical description of the lives of all the saints mentioned in the
Martyrologium Romanorum. This edition is a compiliation of the monthly volumes and was filmed from a variety of editions dating between 1863 and 1940.
Christianity in the century both before and after Constantine’s conversion is familiar thanks
to the written sources; now Ramsay MacMullen, in his fifth book on ancient Christianity,
considers especially the unwritten evidence. He uses excavation reports about hundreds of
churches of the fourth century to show what worshipers did in them and in the cemeteries
where most of them were built. What emerges, in this richly illustrated work, is a religion
that ordinary Christians, by far the majority, practiced in a different and largely forgotten
second church. The picture fits with textual evidence that has been often misunderstood or
The “first” church—the familiar one governed by bishops—in part condemned, in part
tolerated, and in part re-shaped the church of the many.
Even together, however, the two constituted by the end of the period studied (AD 400)
a total of the population far smaller than has ever been suggested. Better estimates are now
made for the first time from quantifiable data, that is, from the physical space available for
attendance in places of worship. Reassessment raises very large questions about the place of
religion in the life of the times and in the social composition of both churches.
Essays in this collection explore the complex relationship between text and orality in colonial situations of antiquity from Homer, Plato, and Mithras to the Hebrew and Christian scriptures and rabbinic tradition. Orality could be a deliberate decision by highly literate people who chose not to put certain things in writing, either to exercise control over the tradition or to preserve the secrecy of ritual performance. Exploring both theoretical issues and historical questions, the book demonstrates the role of text as a form of imperial control over against oral tradition as a means of resistance by the marginalized peasantry or marginalized elite of Israel and the early Church.
Paperback edition is available from the Society of Biblical Literature (www.sbl-site.org)