This essay reviews the two types of spirituality present in Augustine’s Confessions: on the one hand his former Manichaean-Christian belief and its practices, on the other hand his newly won Catholic-Christian mindset. More than ever thought, throughout the Confessions both forms of spirituality appear to be engaged in a breath-taking dialogue. Many examples of this unexpected discourse are given in the course of this exposition covering the entire Confessions. Its author argues that the most famous work of the African born Augustine should be read anew from its original perspective.
This article examines Apollo’s prophecy at Delphi as well as prophecy in ancient Judaism and ancient Christianity in light of recent scholarship on the demise of religions. I argue that two questions remain about ancient narratives of decline amidst the scholarship on the death of religions. First, how should scholars engage ancient narratives of decline that threaten to erase other practices, beliefs, and rhetoric? Second, what about the challenges of defining a ‘religion’ that declines? Brent Nongbri has suggested that categories other than religion may provide more fruitful avenues for describing antiquity; I argue that prophecy is one such category.
Considering recent ‘Death of Religion’ literature, this essay concludes that ‘death’ is not a particularly helpful metaphor to describe historical changes in the area of religion. A human lifespan metaphor is inappropriate for understanding the transformation of religion on the ground. The question should rather center on the transformation of religion as a feature of real, historical cultures. This essay explores what this means for the study of transformations of religions in Late Antiquity by focusing on materiality of religion and the enduring agency of religious spaces. In the larger context of religious change in history, the ‘presences,’ the ghosts and powers, radiated by places – by temples and caves, hillsides and springs – should be given more prominence in this discussion of religious twilights and religious demise.
Populism on political, economic and various other levels, has become part of the discourse of the contemporary world, and in its intersections with race, has led to various mutations which also impact on scholarly tendencies within and perceptions about biblical studies. The many entanglements of populism with religion, often under the guise of secularism include also its engagement with the Bible as cultural artifact. The legacy of a deracialised Bible has meant that the value of the category of race, was until recently not considered for the study of the Bible, and race denied as factor to be considered in academic scholarship with the assumption that Jesus follower- or Christian identity excluded racial connotations. Re-introducing categories of race and ethnicity in biblical studies, in their intersections with whiteness and white privilege studies, resonates with but also stands in tension with the current age of populism.
Exorcism is flourishing once again in the Roman Catholic Church today. Discourse on the topic has been influenced by the publications of exorcists such as Malachi Martin and Gabriele Amorth. They claim biblical precedence and commissioning for their duties as exorcists and seek to emphasise their credentials by interacting with modern medicine. At the same time, they provide descriptions of demonic possession which surpass and even contradict the accounts found in the Gospels. We analyse the claims of modern exorcists concerning demons, those they possess, and how they are expelled, and evaluate these against the evidence in the Gospels. We discover that the narratives constructed by modern exorcists involves both a dramatisation of the supernatural that exceeds the exorcisms of Jesus, and the ‘medicalisation’ of exorcism as a means to legitimise the practice as a valid alternative or complement to modern medicine and psychology.
This essay responds to the essays comprising the theme issue, Do Religions Die? Theorising Death and Demise of Greek and Roman Religions. Reviewing various case studies and theoretical introductory essays of the volume, The Demise of Religion, and the special issue of Numen 68, no. 2&3 (2021), I argue that at stake are two desiderata: the first relates to defining religion (what counts as religion?), and the second relates to the historiography of the history of religions (who narrates the story of religion deaths, from which perspective, and with what rhetorical purpose?). It is shown how definition of religion and critical historiography in tandem enable an approach from the perspective of discourse theory. From this perspective it is possible to describe, explain, and theorise ‘religion deaths’ as shifts in culture, migration patterns and social formations, concomitant changes in religious formations, yet with continuity in functionalities.
Analyzing the demise of religions is rendered considerably more difficult when lack of sufficient evidence causes gaps in historical understanding of the progressions of religions from being clearly alive to apparently no longer existing – an acute problem with regard to most Greek and Roman religions. Drawing on the Ghost Dance religion as a parallel case and presenting by way of example considerations regarding emperor Julian’s attempt to rebuild the Jerusalem temple, this article explores the common challenges of dearth of evidence, the need to argue from silence, and a ‘religion’ as category prone to (at least) the complication of transmutation.
Looking at three examples from 2021 of ‘Vestal rituals’ transmitted on social media, this article revisits some discussions about the reception, afterlife, and ongoing presence of so-called ‘dead religions.’ Focusing on the terms ‘reception’ and ‘afterlife’ as they are presented in two recent works on contemporary Greek polytheism on the one hand and indigenous religion(s) in Sápmi on the other, the overarching aim of the case study is to initiate new reflections on reception and afterlives, and on how these terms tie into notions of death and demise of religion(s).