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A Local History of Greek Polytheism

Gods, People and the Land of Aigina, 800-400 BCE 

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Irene Polinskaya

This book provides the first comprehensive and detailed study of the deities and cults of the important Greek island-state of Aigina from the Geometric to Classical periods (800-400 BCE). It rests on a thorough first-hand reconsideration of the archaeological, epigraphic and literary evidence. The development of the local cults is reconstructed, along with their interrelationships and how they responded to the social needs of the Aiginetans. Revising other recent models of interpretation, the author proposes a distinctive approach, informed by anthropology and social theory, to the study of the religious life of the ancient Greeks. On this basis, she uses the case of Aigina to explore fundamental issues such as the nature and variety of local religious worlds and their relationship to the panhellenic concepts and practices of Greek religion.

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Edited by Aaron W. Hughes

Theory and Method are two words that cause considerable consternation in the academic study of religion. Although everyone claims to be aware of and to engage them, the fact of the matter is that they remain poorly understood. Some see the terms as irritants that get in the way of data interpretation and translation. Others may invoke them sporadically to appear in vogue but then return quickly and myopically to their material and with little concern for the larger issues that such terms raise. To contribute to these debates, the present volume reproduces select articles from Method and Theory in the Study of Religion (MTSR) from the first 25 volumes of the journal, and allows a group of younger scholars to introduce and review them, asking if the issues raised are still relevant to the field.

Read the Inaugural Editorial now, please click here.

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Edited by Laurent Bricault and Corinne Bonnet

Panthée presents a collective reflection relating to the changes that affected the Graeco-Roman Empire and over the long term altered its religious landscapes. Fifty years after the foundation of the series EPRO, the volume aims to avoid the division between the supposedly "Roman" or "Graeco-Roman" and the "Oriental" by linking the available information relating the different major areas, such as the relation between local and global, the place of emotions in relation to soteriological and initiatory aspects, strategies of integration and negotiation of identities. For the first time the leading specialists in every field bring their approaches into contact with one another, and jointly construct a picture of practices and conceptual frames, which, in their diversity and inter-action, model a religious universe whose complexity will help to understand our modern globalising world.

Panthée propose une réflexion collective sur les mutations qui ont affecté l'Empire gréco-romain et ont progressivement remodelé ses paysages religieux. Cinquante ans après la création de la collection des EPRO, ce livre ambitionne de dépasser le clivage entre ce qui serait "romain", ou "gréco-romain", et ce qui serait "oriental" en articulant les données disponibles autour de quelques thèmes majeurs, comme les jeux d'échelle entre local et universel, la place du registre des émotions en relation avec les dimensions sotériologiques et mystériques, les stratégies d'intégration et de négociation des identités. Pour la première fois, les meilleurs spécialistes venus de tous les horizons croisent leurs approches et construisent ensemble un tableau des pratiques et des cadres de pensée qui, dans leur diversité et dans leur interaction, dessinent les contours d'un univers religieux dont la complexité aide à penser le monde moderne de la globalisation.

Practicing Gnosis

Ritual, Magic, Theurgy and Liturgy in Nag Hammadi, Manichaean and Other Ancient Literature. Essays in Honor of Birger A. Pearson

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Edited by April DeConick, Gregory Shaw and John D. Turner

Ritual, magic, liturgy, and theurgy were central features of Gnosticism, and yet Gnostic practices remain understudied. This anthology is meant to fill in this gap and address more fully what the ancient Gnostics were doing. While previously we have studied the Gnostics as intellectuals in pursuit of metaphysical knowledge, the essays in this book attempt to understand the Gnostics as ecstatics striving after religious experience, as prophets seeking revelation, as mystics questing after the ultimate God, as healers attempting to care for the sick and diseased. These essays demonstrate that the Gnostics were not necessarily trendy intellectuals seeking epistomological certainities. They were after religious experiences that relied on practices. The book is organized comparatively in a history-of-religions approach with sections devoted to Initiatory, Recurrent, Therapeutic, Ecstatic, and Philosophic Practices. This book celebrates the brilliant career of Birger A. Pearson.

Worlds Full of Signs

Ancient Greek Divination in Context

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Kim Beerden

Worlds Full of Signs compares Greek divination to divinatory practices in Neo-Assyrian Mesopotamia and Republican Rome. It argues that the character of Greek divination differed fundamentally from that of the two comparanda. Ample attention is given to background and method at first. Subsequent chapters discuss the divinatory elements – sign, homo divinans, and text, relating divination to time and uncertainty. This book brings together sources originating from various times and places, questioning these to consider both generalities of ancient divination and specifics of Greek divination. Greek divination was inherently flexible on many levels: these findings should be connected to Greek views on time and the future as well as the relatively low level of divinatory institutionalization.

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F. Gerald Downing

Articulate first century Mediterranean society, Jewish and Christian included, expressly favoured harmonious order in society, in individuals, in communication, and in thought. Its common basis was the patriarchal family, the rule of law, rational self-control, and rational thought. Yet there was also resistance to oppressive and unjust order in all spheres; and while law could be held educative, yet there were substantial first century critiques of law, not just Paul’s, and awareness that judicial procedures could be chaotic and biassed. Strands of such dissidence appear in Jesus and in Paul, with significant relevance for any understanding of the early Christian movement(s) and contemporary Judaism(s) in Graeco-Roman context, but also with important implications for any practical reflections and application.

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Peter Alpass

Flourishing in the centuries around the birth of Christ, the Nabataean kingdom covered a large swathe of the north-western Arabian Peninsula and was shaped by cultural influences from the Mediterranean, Arabian and wider Semitic worlds. The Religious Life of Nabataea examines the inscriptions, sculptures and architectural remains left by worshippers in every corner of the kingdom, from the spectacular remains of the desert city of Petra to the fertile plains of southern Syria.

While previous scholarly approaches have minimised the diversity of cultic practices and traditions found in Nabataea, this study reveals a vibrant religious landscape dominated by a variety of local traditions.

Bodies of Knowledge in Ancient Mesopotamia

The Diviners of Late Bronze Age Emar and their Tablet Collection

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Matthew Rutz

In Bodies of Knowledge in Ancient Mesopotamia Matthew Rutz explores the relationship between ancient collections of texts, commonly deemed libraries and archives, and the modern interpretation of titles like ‘diviner’. By looking at cuneiform tablets as artifacts with archaeological contexts, this work probes the modern analytical categories used to study ancient diviners and investigates the transmission of Babylonian/Assyrian scholarship in Syria. During the Late Bronze Age diviners acted as high-ranking scribes and cultic functionaries in Emar, a town on the Syrian Euphrates (ca. 1375-1175 BCE). This book’s centerpiece is an extensive analytical catalogue of the excavated tablet collection of one family of diviners. Over seventy-five fragments are identified for the first time, along with many proposed joins between fragments.

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Nicola F. Denzey

In Cosmology and Fate in Gnosticism and Graeco-Roman Antiquity, Nicola Denzey Lewis dismisses Hans Jonas' mischaracterization of second-century Gnosticism as a philosophically-oriented religious movement built on the perception of the cosmos as negative or enslaving. A focused study on the concept of astrological fate in “Gnostic” writings including the Apocryphon of John, the recently-discovered Gospel of Judas, Trimorphic Protennoia, and the Pistis Sophia, this book reexamines their language of “enslavement to fate (Gk: heimarmene)” from its origins in Greek Stoicism, its deployment by the apostle Paul, to its later use by a variety of second-century intellectuals (both Christian and non-Christian). Denzey Lewis thus offers an informed and revisionist conceptual map of the ancient cosmos, its influence, and all those who claimed to be free of its potentially pernicious effects.

Christian Origins and Hellenistic Judaism

Social and Literary Contexts for the New Testament

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Edited by Stanley E. Porter and Andrew Pitts

In Christian Origins and Hellenistic Judaism, Stanley E. Porter and Andrew W. Pitts assemble an international team of scholars whose work has focused on reconstructing the social matrix for earliest Christianity through reference to Hellenistic Judaism and its literary forms. Each essay moves forward the current understanding of how primitive Christianity situated itself in relation to evolving Greco-Roman Jewish culture. Some essays focus on configuring the social context for the origins of the Jesus movement and beyond, while others assess the literary relation between early Christian and Hellenistic Jewish texts.