Empsychoi Logoi — Religious Innovations in Antiquity

Studies in Honour of Pieter Willem van der Horst


The fact that religions show internal variation and develop over time is not only a problem for believers, but has also long engaged scholars. This is especially true for the religions of the ancient world, where the mere idea of innovation in religious matters evoked notions of revolution and destruction. With the emergence of new religious identities from the first century onwards, we begin to find traces of an entirely new vision of religion. The question was not whether a particular belief was new, but whether it was true and the two were no longer felt to be mutually exclusive. The present volume brings together articles that study this transformation, ranging from broad overviews to detailed case-studies.
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Biographical Note

Alberdina Houtman, Ph.D. (1995) in Jewish Studies, University of Utrecht, is Professor of Jewish Studies and lecturer in Semitic languages at the Protestant Theological University in Kampen. She has published extensively on Rabbinic literature, with a special emphasis on Targumic studies.
Albert de Jong, Ph.D. (1996) in Religious Studies, University of Utrecht, is lecturer in Religious Studies in the University of Leiden, Faculty of Religious Studies. He has published extensively on the religious history of the ancient world, with a particular focus on Zoroastrianism.
Magda Misset-van de Weg, Ph.D. (1997) in New Testament, University of Utrecht, has taught New Testament studies in the universities of Utrecht, Nijmegen, Amsterdam and Kampen. The main focus of her work is the exegesis of the New Testament and Christian apocryphal literature.
Contributors include: Keimpe Algra, Bob Becking, Wout van Bekkum, Jan den Boeft, Jan Bremmer, Roel van den Broek, Martin Goodman, Jan Willem van Henten, Jens Herzer, Alberdina Houtman, Albert de Jong, Hermann Lichtenberger, Bert Jan Lietaert Peerbolte, Jaap Mansfeld, Maarten Menken, Annette Merz, Magda Misset-van de Weg, Gerard Mussies, Judith Newman, Tobias Nicklas, Karl-Wilhelm Niebuhr, Eric Ottenheijm, Geert van Oyen, Marcel Poorthuis, Gerard Rouwhorst, David Runia, Huub van de Sandt, Peter Schäfer, Greg Sterling, Guy Stroumsa, Teun Tieleman, Eibert Tigchelaar, Emanuel Tov, Johannes Tromp, Klaas Worp, Irene Zwiep.

Review Quotes

"This volume will be an asset to students and scholars of the phenomenology of religions as well as to those interested in the formative years of Christianity and how it adapted to and was divergent from the Judeo-Hellenistic world." – Mark Mason, in: Journal for the Study of Judaism 41 (2010)

"This Festschrift addresses crucial issues in ancient and modern day religion. These essays offer fresh perspectives on the examples of religious change and innovation in antiquity, and provide the readers with metholodical guidance for the study of other instances, as well as sharpening our awareness for change and innovation in present-day religion - for better or for worse." – Christoph Stenschke, in: Religion & Theology 19 (2012)

' This list of distinguished contributors will, it is to be hoped, persuade readers to consult the volume, for they will find much to stiumlate them here, with a number of the essays seeking to offer new interpretations of familiar topics, and other introuding new, er reviving older less well-studied, texts. It is to be hoped that the honorand, who fully deserves such a rich tribute, will take much pleasure from these lievely words and arguments. '
Judith Lieu, University of Cambridge, in: Journal of Jewish Studies volume 16 (2010)

Table of contents




I. Contexts

I. Zwiep ‘Judenthum’, ‘Griechentum’ and ‘Christentum’ as Parameters in Early Nineteenth Century Jewish Political Thinking
M. Goodman Explaining Change in Judaism in Late Antiquity
G.G. Stroumsa The End of Sacrifice: Religious Mutations of Late Antiquity
D.T. Runia Worshipping the Visible Gods: Conflict and Accommodation in Hellenism, Hellenistic Judaism and Early Christianity

II. The Impact of the Individual

J. den Boeft Ammianus Marcellinus’ Judgement of Julian’s Piety
A. de Jong A quodam Persa exstiterunt: Re-Orienting Manichaean Origins
A. Merz &
T. Tieleman The Letter of Mara bar Sarapion: Some Comments on its Philosophical and Historical Context
J. Tromp John the Baptist according to Flavius Josephus, and his Incorporation in the Christian Tradition
J.-W. van Henten The Panegyris in Jerusalem: Responses to Herod’s Initiative (Josephus, Antiquities 15.268-290)

III. Group Dynamics as Agents of Religious Change

B. Becking Sabbath at Elephantine: A Short Episode in the Construction of Jewish Identity
M.J.J. Menken The Opponents in the Johannine Epistles: Fact or Fiction?
G. van Oyen Is there a Heresy that Necessitated Jude’s Letter?
B.J. Lietaert Peerbolte Jewish Monotheism and Christian Origins
H. van de Sandt The Didache Redefining its Jewish Identity in the Light of Gentiles Joining the Community
P. Schaefer Bereshit Bara Elohim: Bereshit Rabba, Parashah 1, Reconsidered

IV. New Texts, New Readings

R. van den Broek Manichaean Elements in an Early Version of the Virgin Mary’s Assumption
J. Mansfeld &
K. Algra Interpretative Thetas in the Strasbourg Empedocles
T. Nicklas ‘Our Righteous Brethren’: Reflections on the Description of the Righteous Ones according to the Greek Revelation of Peter (Akhm. 2)
E. Tigchelaar The Evil Inclination in the Dead Sea Scrolls, with a Re-edition of 4Q468i (4QSectarian Text?)
K. Worp A Greek Letter from Syria

V. Jewish and Christian Texts in Comparison

J.N. Bremmer Close Encounters of the Third Kind: Heliodorus in the Temple and Paul on the Road to Damascus
H. Lichtenberger The Untold End: 2 Maccabees and Acts
A. Houtman &
M. Misset-van de Weg The Fate of the Wicked: Second Death in Early Jewish and Christian Texts
G. Rouwhorst &
M. Poorthuis ‘Why do the Nations Conspire?’: Psalm 2 in Post-Biblical Jewish and Christian Traditions

VI. The Development of Jewish Literature

J.H. Newman The Composition of Prayers and Songs in Philo’s De Vita Contemplativa
K.-W. Niebuhr Life and Death in Pseudo-Phocylides
E. Ottenheijm The Phrase ‘Good Works’ in Early Judaism: A Universal Code for the Jewish Law?
E. Tov The LXX Translation of Esther: A Paraphrastic Translation of MT, a Free Translation or a Rewritten Version?
W.J. van Bekkum The Hidden Reference: the Role of EDOM in Late Antique and Early Medieval Jewish Hymnography

VII. The Development of Early Christian Literature

J. Herzer Rearranging the ‘House of God’: A New Perspective on the Pastoral Epistles
G.E. Sterling Prayer as Theological Reflection: The Function of Prayer in Ephesians
G. Mussies Reflections on the Apocryphal Gospels as Supplements

List of Contributors



All those interested in the religious history of the ancient world, the history of Late Antiquity, Jewish, Early Christian and Manichaean literature, and ancient philosophy.