Book: Paganism And Christianity From 100 To 425 Ce by Ramsay MacmullenMacMullen and Lane's Paganism and Christianity (100-425 C.E) presents readers with an eclectic array of writings touching every facet of religious life in the Late Roman world. These varied sources were penned by authors as conflicting as Eusebius and Julian and they deal with intriguing aspects of pagan cultus, pagan missionary activity, the Imperial Cult, the Persecutions and also provide pagan and Christian apologetic/theological literature. Overall, these pieces of literature paint a vibrant picture of religious life during this fascinating epoch in history and they convey something of the richness that the multiform belief systems of the Mediterranean world had to offer. Many of these sources are very difficult to find in English translation; and many of them can be quite expensive. So this sourcebook is indispensable, given that it is quite affordable, convenient and very useful.
Macmullen and Lane have done a service by presenting a treasure of texts revealing primarily the religious attitudes and experience of non-Christians during the formative years of Christianity. Christians today often assume that the language of faith in the early church was the exclusive domain of Christianity. The authors prove otherwise. The titles of some of the chapters demonstrate the range of experience and language of "pagans." For example: "Magic, Dreams, Astrology, Superstition," "Healing Shrines," "Hymns," "Cult Groups," "Holy Men and Women," and "Hermetism and Gnosticism." The sentiments contained in these texts are mirrored in early Christian churches, naturally, since these attitudes and languages were part of the religious atmosphere breathed by all peoples of the time. The unbiased reader is helped to easily appreciate the cultural and religious kinship between followers of Christ and those of either the Mysteries, philosophy, and mythologizing theologies such as those of the Gnostics.The last six chapters of the book are especially helpful in appreciating the dynamics of conversion and persecution. While I generally do not favor of history-of-religions approach to the study of historical phenomena, I make a strong exception regarding this book. I recommend that the reader use this book as a companion to Keith Hopkins' "A World Full of Gods."
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