This article discusses the challenges facing scholars exploring the nature of belief in ancient Greek religion. While recent scholarship has raised questions about individual religious activities, and work on ritual, the body, and the senses has broadened our methodological palette, the nature and dynamics of generally held “low intensity” beliefs still tend to be described simply as “unquestioned” or “embedded” in society. But examining scholarship on divine personifications suggests that ancient beliefs were — and our perceptions of them are — more complex. This article first explores the example of Tyche (“Chance”), in order to highlight some of the problems that surround the use of the term “belief.” It then turns to the theories of “ideology” of Slavoj Žižek and Robert Pfaller and argues that these can offer provocative insights into the nature and dynamics of ritual and belief in ancient Greek culture.
Religious Prejudice and Bacchantic Worship in Greek Literature
Ancient Greek descriptions of ecstatic and mystic rituals, here broadly labeled as Bacchantic worship, regularly include elements of moral corruption and dissolution of social unity. Suspicions were mostly directed against unofficial cult groups that exploited Dionysiac experiences in secluded settings. As the introduction of copious new cults attests, Greek religion was receptive to external influences. This basic openness, however, was not synonymous with tolerance, and pious respect for all deities did not automatically include their worshippers. This article reconsiders the current view of ancient religious intolerance by regarding these negative stereotypes as expressions of prejudice and by investigating the social dynamics behind them. Prejudices against private Bacchantic groups are regarded as part of the process of buttressing the religious authority of certain elite quarters in situations where they perceive that their position is being threatened by rival claims. It is suggested that both the accentuation and alleviation of prejudice is best understood in relation to the relative stability of the elite and the religious control it exerted.
Thomas E. Hunt
This article analyses the place of Hebrew in Jerome’s work by situating it in wider patterns of late antique masculinity and shame. Drawing on Sedgwick and Fanon, it shows how shame is a spatial affect. Discussions of Hebrew in Jerome’s work emphasise the particular spaces in which Hebrew is written, read, or transported. One space is particularly important for Jerome’s translations of Hebrew: the space of the mouth as it inhales and exhales language. Focussing on space, language, and breath reveals why Hebrew is particularly shameful for Jerome and explains some of the apparent ambiguities in his discussions of translation.
David K. Bernard
There is a substantial consensus for the emergence of a high or divine Christology very early and from a Jewish context. Based on insights from Oneness Pentecostalism, the New Testament evidence for early high Christology is best explained within the context of exclusive monotheism by a robust concept of incarnation and a duality of divine transcendence and immanence rather than incipient binitarianism or trinitarianism.
Why Focus on Hermeneutics?
There is an institutional hiatus in South Africa regarding comparative hermeneutics, in that no dedicated attention is given to studying the scriptures of the three monotheistic traditions together. Although these three traditions are studied in isolation or as religious phenomena in various institutions, there is presently no institution focusing on the hermeneutic aspects that brought these scriptures about, that rendered them authoritative through their respective histories, that determined their interpretations through the ages, and that inform their interpretations in modern-day societies. This contribution describes a project in which a Centre for the Interpretation of Authoritative Scriptures (CIAS) is presently being established at Stellenbosch University.