Between Pagan and Christian by Christopher P. Jones

By Christopher P. Jones

For the early Christians, "pagan" talked about a large number of unbelievers: Greek and Roman devotees of the Olympian gods, and "barbarians" akin to Arabs and Germans with their very own array of deities. yet whereas those teams have been basically outsiders or idolaters, who and what used to be pagan relied on the outlook of the observer, as Christopher Jones exhibits during this clean and penetrating research. Treating paganism as a ancient build instead of a hard and fast entity, among Pagan and Christian uncovers the information, rituals, and ideology that Christians and pagans shared in past due Antiquity.

While the emperor Constantine's conversion in 312 was once a momentous occasion within the heritage of Christianity, the recent faith have been steadily forming within the Roman Empire for hundreds of years, because it moved clear of its Jewish origins and tailored to the dominant pagan tradition. Early Christians drew on pagan practices and claimed very important pagans as their harbingers--asserting that Plato, Virgil, and others had glimpsed Christian truths. whilst, Greeks and Romans had encountered in Judaism observances and ideology shared by means of Christians equivalent to the Sabbath and the belief of a unmarried, author God. Polytheism was once the obvious characteristic isolating paganism and Christianity, yet pagans might be monotheists, and Christians will be accused of polytheism and branded as pagans. within the assorted spiritual groups of the Roman Empire, as Jones makes transparent, recommendations of divinity, conversion, sacrifice, and prayer have been even more fluid than conventional bills of early Christianity have led us to believe.

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This first schism had been festering in the African Church for about a decade, and pitted rigorists led by the preacher Donatus against clergy whom the “Donatists” accused of being too compliant in the time of Diocletian’s Great Persecution. 12 As soon as he had defeated Licinius and become ruler of the whole empire, Constantine had to confront a new controversy, raised by the teachings of a deacon of the church in Alexandria, Arius. This time the issue concerned the nature of Christ, and foreshadowed the graver and more intense divisions of the next century.

Pagans diverged more strongly in their conception of evil powers, though to some extent their language was similar. They did 37 Between Pagan and Christian not imagine a single lord of all evil, and there is no pagan Satan. Though the earliest Greek literature speaks of daimôn as a supernatural power, and later writers use the single daimonion and the plural daimonia, in general the “demonic” was a much less negative concept for pagans than it was for Christians. Many believed in an underworld ruled by infernal gods and inhabited by the souls of the dead, and like Christians they could imagine an alternative abode of light and bliss for the souls of the virtuous.

These continued into reign of Tiberius’s successor Maurice, under whom Gregory saved his episcopal throne by distributing huge bribes in the capital and buying off the people of Antioch with the promise of a new hippodrome and by importing a troop of pantomimes. The tendency of John’s narrative is to impute pagan sympathies not only to those accused such as Anatolius, but indirectly to their judges in Constantinople and even to the emperor, all of whom he considered unorthodox. 19 The emperors’ attitude toward their pagan subjects does not follow a straight line from tolerance under Constantine to persecution under Justinian.

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