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Author Topic: One God. Pagan Monotheism in the Roman Empire  (Read 2209 times)


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One God. Pagan Monotheism in the Roman Empire
« on: September 27, 2011, 11:18:32 am »

Title: One God. Pagan Monotheism in the Roman Empire
Author(s): Stephen Mitchell, Peter Van Nuffelen (ed.)
Publisher: Cambridge, UK:  Cambridge University Press,
Publication Date: 2010
ISBN: 0521194164
ISBN-13: 978-0521194167
Current Price and More Info from Amazon

[size=+1]From the Bryn Mawr Classic Review:[/size]
This is one of two volumes edited by these same scholars after a 2006 conference at Exeter on ‘Pagan Monotheism in the Roman Empire (1st-4th century A.D.)’.1 This conference aimed to clarify the differences between pagans and Christians in matters of monotheism.

The title of this volume, One God, suggests that the authors agree that there was a notion of ‘one god’ among pagans and that some form of religion had existed that could rightly be called ‘pagan monotheism.’ This is not the case, however, for there is no agreement on the existence of pagan monotheism, nor is there agreement among those scholars who accept this term on how to define it. Two of the papers argue strongly for the view that most of the documentary evidence for what others see as pagan monotheism should be interpreted from a polytheistic viewpoint, that is, as a exalting a divinity within a pluralistic context.

The argumentation on both sides of the issue by authors with strongly held views makes this an exciting volume to read. The contributors confront central issues of definition and theory as well as praxis. Their disagreement on the concept of pagan monotheism shows that there is room for more work on a topic that has contemporary relevance; as Christoph Markschies’s paper shows, the political consequences ascribed to monotheism, including its potential to justify hate and violence based on religious intolerance, would be called into question if one could argue that pagans also practiced monotheism. Indeed, the attributes of monotheism might have to be redefined if pagans could be demonstrated as having practiced it.

Read the full review at the Bryn Mawr Classic Review web site.

[size=+1]Additional Description:[/size]
Graeco-Roman religion in its classic form was polytheistic; on the other hand, monotheistic ideas enjoyed wide currency in ancient philosophy. This contradiction provides a challenge for our understanding of ancient pagan religion. Certain forms of cult activity, including acclamations of 'one god' and the worship of theos hypsistos, the highest god, have sometimes been interpreted as evidence for pagan monotheism. This book discusses pagan monotheism in its philosophical and intellectual context, traces the evolution of new religious ideas in the time of the Roman empire, and evaluates the usefulness of the term 'monotheism' as a way of understanding these developments in later antiquity outside the context of Judaism and Christianity. In doing so, it establishes a new framework for understanding the relationship between polytheistic and monotheistic religious cultures between the first and fourth centuries AD.

[size=+1]Special Notes:[/size]

[size=-1]Legal Notes: Some description text and item pictures in this post may come from and are used by permission. The Cauldron is an Amazon Affiliate and purchases made through the Amazon links in this message help support The Cauldron.[/size]

[size=+1]Discussion and reviews of this book are welcome in this thread. If you've read the book, please tell us what you think of it and why.[/size]
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