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The University of Southampton
The Parkes Institute

The Parkes Lecture 2012-2013 Event

30 April 2013
Lecture C Avenue Campus University of Southampton SO17 1BF

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Event details

Part of the Parkes Institute annual event series

‘Did Ancient Jews and Christians think they belonged to 'Religions'? Why it matters what they thought'

A doubtful assumption in the vibrant study of early Jewish-Christian relations is that Judaism and Christianity were two species of a genus religion . I argue that there was no ancient category corresponding to what we call religion. The heart of the lecture examines categories the ancients did know: ethnos (nation), with founding myths, laws, customs, dress, diet, and language; polis (citizen-state), the concentration of the ethnos , place of belonging and home to temples, public institutions, calendar, festivals, and coins; ta hiera (sacred matters), based in bloody animal sacrifice, overseen by ritual specialists (priests); and thiasoi or clubs, including philosophical schools (home of moral exhortation and study of texts).

Why does it matter? The Jews were not a religion, but an ancient ethnos with a famous polis (Jerusalem), temple, priesthood, sacrifical system, and philosophical schools. The followers of Christ were none of these things, and had a problem explaining themselves. To understand the range of phenomena in early Jewish-Christian relations, from harsh anti-Jewish rhetoric to Judaising movements in Christianity, we should realise that Jews and Christians were not two religions but represented qualitatively different categories.

All welcome.

The chair for this lecture will be Professor Sarah Pearce .

Professor Steve Mason

Speaker information

Professor Steve Mason ,University of Aberdeen

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