Over the last hundred years there has been a great deal of interest in the nature of religious diversity in the Graeco-Roman World and a variety of scholars have attempted to untangle the complexities of religious interaction and conflict. For students of this period there is a need for an introduction to this vast field of scholarship.
This book makes a comprehensive survey of this field of enquiry. The first three chapters deal with Judaism: Palestinian Judaism, Diaspora Judaism and Essenes. Philip Esler's account of Palestinian Judaism draws particular attention to the introduction of the analytic methods of social-scientific research to religious research. The next three chapters form a triptych of studies on Christianity, examining in turn the Jesus of history, the apostle Paul, and the early church The final group of three contributors are concerned with religious diversity within the pagan and syncretistic phenomena of the Roman world, treating political, philosophical and practical aspects in the legacy of Greek religion, in Gnosticism, and in Mithraism as an example of the Mystery Religions.
“In other words, Paul saw himself not just as apostle to the Gentiles, but as Israel’s apostle to the Gentiles, as called to continue/ carry out Israel’s mission to be a light to the Gentiles (cf. Acts 13:47 = Isa. 49:6; Acts 26:17–18—cf. Jer. 1:8; Isa. 42:7).” (Page 112)
“Neither the New Testament nor the corpus of rabbinic literature” (Page 65)
“it was that Paul’s evangelization did not go far enough; his converts had not converted fully enough” (Page 110)
“A range of literary, historiographical, philosophical, theological and artistic ‘hybridizations’ are evident in the Diaspora, whose object was not to ape Greek culture so much as to re-express Judaism within it, sometimes with a significant polemical edge against non-Jews (including ‘Greeks’).” (Page 53)
“Diaspora Jews had in common the fact that they lived as minority communities in a society governed by non-Jews.” (Page 48)
Rabbi Dan Cohn-Sherbok has a Ph.D. in philosophy from Cambridge University (UK) and an honorary doctorate in divinity from the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion. He has written numerous books, including The Blackwell Dictionary of Judaica and Fifty Key Jewish Thinkers. He is currently Professor of Judaism at the University of Wales, Lampeter, Wales. Previous books include The Crucified Jew. His book The Paradox of Anti-Semitism will be published by Continuum in March 2006.
John M. Court is Honourary Senior Research Fellow, University of Kent, Canterbury, England.