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Esther Eidinow

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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.

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Arresting Alternatives

Religious Prejudice and Bacchantic Worship in Greek Literature

Marika Rauhala

Abstract

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.

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Genesis and Cosmos

Basil and Origen on Genesis 1 and Cosmology

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Adam Rasmussen

In Genesis and Cosmos Adam Rasmussen examines how Basil and Origen addressed scientific problems in their interpretations of Genesis 1. For the first time, he offers an in-depth analysis of Basil’s thinking on three problems in Scripture-and-science: the nature of matter, the super-heavenly water, and astrology. Both theologians worked from the same fundamental perspective that science is the “servant” of Christianity, useful yet subordinate. Rasmussen convincingly shows how Basil used Origen’s writings to construct his own solutions. Only on the question of the water does Basil break with Origen, who allegorized the water. Rasmussen demonstrates how they sought to integrate science and Scripture and thus remain instructive for those engaged in the dialogue between religion and science today.
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Edited by Cilliers Breytenbach and Christoph Markschies

The chapters in this volume cover all aspects of the work of Adolf Deissmann (1866–1937). Following his main works, the authors highlight crucial aspects and impulses from his philological work on the New Testament, including the interpretation of Paul, Light from the Ancient East, the social status of the first Christians, and the lexicography of the New Testament. His background in the Lutheran Church of Hessen-Nassau, his contribution to the ecumenical movement together with Nathan Söderblom and through the Evangelische Wochenbriefe during World War II, and his role as rector of the Berlin University in 1930/1931 are also discussed. The contributions illustrate that notwithstanding his ecumenical engagement, Deissmann never gave up his scholarly work. The essays trace the influence of his philological and historical work among his students and place contemporary debates on Deissmann as philologist and theologian in their historical context.

Dieser Band widmet sich in neun Einzelbeiträgen der gesamten Breite des Schaffens von Adolf Deissmann (1866–1937). Entlang der Hauptwerken werden wesentliche Aspekte und Impulse aus seiner philologisch orientierten Arbeit am Neuen Testament neu gewürdigt (Interpretation der Paulusbriefe, Licht vom Osten, „Unterschichtenthese“, neutestamentliche Lexikographie etc.). Daneben geht es um seine Herkunft aus der Evangelischen Kirche in Hessen-Nassau, um sein Wirken in der Ökumene am Beispiel der Beziehung zu Nathan Söderblom und der Arbeit an den Evangelischen Wochenbriefen im Ersten Weltkrieg sowie um seine Rolle als Rektor der Berliner Universität von 1930 bis 1931. Die Beiträge zeigen, dass Deissmann trotz seines ökumenischen Engagements seine wissenschaftliche Arbeit nicht aufgegeben hat. Die Aufsätze gehen den Wirkungen seiner philologisch-historischen Arbeit unter seinen Schülern nach und stellen die zeitgenössischen Debatten um den Philologen und Theologen Deissmann in ihren historischen Kontext.
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Edited by David Frankfurter

In the midst of academic debates about the utility of the term “magic” and the cultural meaning of ancient words like mageia or khesheph, this Guide to the Study of Ancient Magic seeks to advance the discussion by separating out three topics essential to the very idea of magic. The three major sections of this volume address (1) indigenous terminologies for ambiguous or illicit ritual in antiquity; (2) the ancient texts, manuals, and artifacts commonly designated “magical” or used to represent ancient magic; and (3) a series of contexts, from the written word to materiality itself, to which the term “magic” might usefully pertain.

The individual essays in this volume cover most of Mediterranean and Near Eastern antiquity, with essays by both established and emergent scholars of ancient religions.

In a burgeoning field of “magic studies” trying both to preserve and to justify critically the category itself, this volume brings new clarity and provocative insights. This will be an indispensable resource to all interested in magic in the Bible and the Ancient Near East, ancient Greece and Rome, Early Christianity and Judaism, Egypt through the Christian period, and also comparative and critical theory.