Jörg Rüpke on early Christianity in 'Pantheon: A New History of Roman Religion'

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Re: Jörg Rüpke on early Christianity in 'Pantheon: A New History of Roman Religion'

Post by MrMacSon » Mon Aug 13, 2018 11:04 pm

[Marcion] found a theoretical, easily memorizable justification for his anti-Jewish position by reversing a prevailing dualistic narrative: evil was not to be identified with any kind of demon, but with the creator god as depicted in the Pentateuch. The god of Jesus Christ, as described in the available texts by Paul, was the positive antagonist of that ancient figure.130

The most influential aspect of Marcionism, however, was neither the institutions it created nor any accompanying rituals, but its historiographical groundwork. In outlining a simple biographical schema, replete with current anecdotes and quotations —here I am following the increasingly mooted, even if still radical position of a second-century date for the canonical gospels and the Acts of the Apostles— Marcion’s portrayal of the life of an apocalyptic visionary and peripatetic preacher, from his first emergence to his rather unusual execution, could be seen as the model of a life turning away from Judaism. He thus orchestrated a rupture that he relocated a century into the past, carefully keeping his narrative free of contemporary references 131 ...

... Marcion invented something new. In the literary environment of the Roman Empire as described, nothing was more natural than to write a Greek-language “biography” as a founding document for a new religious network.

Marcion’s opponents reacted immediately with a weighty intellectual exchange of the sort that a metropolis like Rome made possible; and, as was usual in historiography, they reacted with competing versions.133 ... because Marcion’s competitors were in fact also active in Rome, and, moreover, adopted substantial parts of his model. The author of the text that most plagiarized Marcion was identified a little later, by Marcion himself, as Luke, in an edition that featured the gospel along with some of Paul’s letters. It concentrated on correcting Marcion’s fundamental break with Judaism. With their narratives of Jesus’s childhood, both Luke and Matthew demonstrate how familiar the biographical character of the template was, and also how scant the source background was as soon as one wanted to move beyond that template.

Marcion, for his part, criticized their compositions (and that of Mark) as lying close to his own text.

Writings competing with Marcion’s edition of the 140s AD, which was prefaced by his “Antitheses,” could now only continue to accumulate. AD 160 saw a counter-edition that established the core of the future New Testament. The late addition of Luke’s Acts of the Apostles rescued the philosophical core represented by Paul and took a direction that, while no longer avoiding the gray zones of Jewishness, also provided this orientation with a patron.134 Within the same movement, however, spokesmen such as Luke (in Acts of the Apostles) and Justin (in his Apology) —and perhaps earlier the writer of the Epistle of Barnabas— persisted with the genealogy of exclusion, insisting that the destruction of the Temple in AD 70 was a consequence of the crucifixion of the “anointed one.”135

Still others in this same period, such as the author of the Gospel of Peter, did not shrink from obvious anti-Judaism and fawning to the Roman authorities.136 ... such schismatic polemics would remain a critical source of friction over the coming centuries, providing a forum where agendas of inclusion and exclusion could be exchanged. The polemic propagated by many Christian positions against the “gnosticism” of clearly anti-Judaic stances demonstrates the complexity that was emerging at the margins of a developing tradition.

This now historiographically constructed collective, this genealogy of Christ’s apostles, had no basis in any historical reality of exclusive bonding ...

Professional philosophers who taught for pay may well, like Justin, have read history, but it seldom played any important role in their argumentation. Tatian, Theophilus, and Athenagoras, in their “defenses” of their positions in the late second century, may often have addressed the Augusti formally, but in fact their primary goal was to reassure their students, freshly pressed into the fray, or to carry on disputes with critical colleagues. Christ (let alone Jesus) had no role to play ...

... And the new gospels gave rise to no text-based communities. The only exception was Marcion’s group, founded by a typical, religious, small-scale entrepreneur: a well-traveled merchant, an organizer, an arriviste (at least by virtue of his move to Rome), and more successful with his money than with his writings. Beyond this group and the intellectual conversation circles (in which Marcion, at least since Justin’s attack on him, was fully involved at a literary level), “God’s people’s assembly” (ekklēsia) had no lasting institutional basis: no one precisely knew where Peter and Paul had died, to say nothing of where their graves might be ...

..Christianity had thus been invented historiographically [in the 2nd century] by means of the gospels and the Acts of the Apostles complemented by collections of letters. There was as yet no actual community.


Rüpke, Jörg. Pantheon: A New History of Roman Religion (pp. 355-358). Princeton University Press.


130. On the central work of Harnack and his earlier position, see Harnack 1921, Steck and Harnack 2003, Kinzig 2004. The most important source is Tertullian (see Moreschini 2014).

131. cf. the observations in Becker 2011, 143, on Matthew and Mark (dating them much earlier).

132. Generally, Foley 1987, 1988.

133. See in general Ankersmit 2002, Ascough 2008.

134. Vinzent 2014a, 73. 272–76; for the same dating of the collection on a different basis, see Zwierlein 2010, 143; Zwierlein 2009, 299–301. Nicklas 2014, 218, characterizes Paul’s orientation as a new focus in a Jewish matrix.

135. Clements 2012. On the Acts of the Apostles as a tale of schism, see Cancik 2011, 328–33.

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Re: Jörg Rüpke on early Christianity in 'Pantheon: A New History of Roman Religion'

Post by perseusomega9 » Tue Aug 14, 2018 8:26 am

It seems a classically trained historian, looking at the products of biblical scholarship, finds 2nd century dating of Christian texts preferable to warmed over apologetics and their 'traditional' dates.

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Re: Jörg Rüpke on early Christianity in 'Pantheon: A New History of Roman Religion'

Post by MrMacSon » Tue Aug 14, 2018 4:15 pm

This recent Aeon article - 'Is religion a universal in human culture or an academic invention?' - provides interesting commentary which, in part, seems to align with what Rüpke is proposing in Pantheon -

the late Jonathan Zittell Smith, arguably the most influential scholar of religion of the past half-century, [declared] in his book Imagining Religion: From Babylon to Jonestown (1982) that ‘religion is solely the creation of the scholar’s study’, and that it has ‘no independent existence apart from the academy’?

... the category of ‘religion’ emerges only through second-order acts of classification and comparison.

https://aeon.co/ideas/is-religion-a-uni ... -invention
The author of the Aeon article, Brett Colasacco, is probably not referring to the development of religion, as Rüpke is, but these comments seems to reflect aspects of what Rüpke has been saying.
When Smith entered the field in the late 1960s, the academic study of religion was still quite young. In the United States, the discipline had been significantly shaped by the Romanian historian of religions Mircea Eliade, who, from 1957 until his death in 1986, taught at the University of Chicago Divinity School. There, Eliade trained a generation of scholars in the approach to religious studies that he had already developed in Europe.

What characterised religion, for Eliade, was ‘the sacred’ – the ultimate source of all reality. Simply put, the sacred was ‘the opposite of the profane’. Yet the sacred could ‘irrupt’ into profane existence in a number of predictable ways across archaic cultures and histories. Sky and earth deities were ubiquitous, for example; the Sun and Moon served as representations of rational power and cyclicality; certain stones were regarded as sacred; and water was seen as a source of potentiality and regeneration.

Eliade also developed the concepts of ‘sacred time’ and ‘sacred space’. According to Eliade, archaic man, or Homo religiosus, always told stories of what the gods did ‘in the beginning’. They consecrated time through repetitions of these cosmogonic myths, and dedicated sacred spaces according to their relationship to the ‘symbolism of the Centre’. This included the ‘sacred mountain’ or axis mundi – the archetypal point of intersection between the sacred and the profane – but also holy cities, palaces and temples. The exact myths, rituals and places were culturally and historically specific, of course, but Eliade saw them as examples of a universal pattern.

Smith was profoundly influenced by Eliade. As a graduate student, he set out to read nearly every work cited in the bibliographies of Eliade’s magnum opus, Patterns in Comparative Religion (1958). Smith’s move to join the faculty of the University of Chicago in 1968-69, he admitted, was motivated in part by a desire to work alongside his ‘master’. However, he soon began to set out his own intellectual agenda, which put him at odds with Eliade’s paradigm.

First, Smith challenged whether the Eliadean constructions of sacred time and sacred space were truly universal. He did not deny that these constructs mapped onto some archaic cultures quite well. But in his early essay ‘The Wobbling Pivot’ (1972), Smith noted that some cultures aspired to explode or escape from space and time, rather than revere or reify them. (Think of the various schools of Gnosticism that thrived during the first two centuries CE, which held that the material world was the work of a flawed, even malevolent spirit known as the demiurge, who was inferior to the true, hidden god.) Smith distinguished these ‘utopian’ patterns, which seek the sacred outside the prevailing natural and social order, from the ‘locative’ ones described by Eliade, which reinforce it – a move that undercut Eliade’s universalist vocabulary.

Second, Smith introduced a new self-awareness and humility to the study of religion. In the essay ‘Adde Parvum Parvo Magnus Acervus Erit’ (1971) – the title a quotation from Ovid, meaning ‘add a little to a little and there will be a great heap’ – Smith showed how comparisons of ‘religious’ data are laced with political and ideological values ...

Behind Smith’s work was the motivating thesis that no theory or method for studying religion can be purely objective. Rather, the classifying devices we apply to decide whether something is ‘religious’ or not always rely on pre-existing norms. The selective taxonomy of ‘religious’ data from across cultures, histories and societies, Smith argued, is therefore a result of the scholar’s ‘imaginative acts of comparison and generalisation’. Where once we had the self-evident, universal phenomenon of religion, all that is left is a patchwork of particular beliefs, practices and experiences.

... As Smith wrote in the introduction to Imagining Religion: ‘while there is a staggering amount of data, of phenomena, of human experiences and expressions that might be characterised in one culture or another, by one criterion or another, as religious – there is no data for religion’. There might be evidence for various expressions of Hinduism, Judaism, Christianity, Islam and so forth. But these become ‘religions’ only through second-order, scholarly reflection.

https://aeon.co/ideas/is-religion-a-uni ... -invention

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Re: Jörg Rüpke on early Christianity in 'Pantheon: A New History of Roman Religion'

Post by DCHindley » Wed Aug 15, 2018 9:10 pm

MrMacSon wrote:
Tue Aug 14, 2018 4:15 pm
This recent Aeon article - 'Is religion a universal in human culture or an academic invention?' - provides interesting commentary which, in part, seems to align with what Rüpke is proposing in Pantheon -

the late Jonathan Zittell Smith, arguably the most influential scholar of religion of the past half-century, [declared] in his book Imagining Religion: From Babylon to Jonestown (1982) that ‘religion is solely the creation of the scholar’s study’, and that it has ‘no independent existence apart from the academy’?

... the category of ‘religion’ emerges only through second-order acts of classification and comparison.

https://aeon.co/ideas/is-religion-a-uni ... -invention
The idea that "religion" is a sort of second order (the derivative in calculus) academic category, was alive on academic discussion boards like XTalk (Crosstalk2) and perhaps ANE in the 1990s when I started participating in them in earnest. I was not sure how to take the idea at first, but my eyes were starting to take notice of other modern constructs, and was first exposed to Hayden V. White through his 1974 (?) book Metahistory. He was the one who made me aware that historians of all ages re-interpret past "facts" in accordance with their own world views, and everyone knows that over time word views change. All historical explanations, over time, thus re-interpret the same pool of evidence (also changing, expanding or contracting, including histories and academic works that deal with them, as time advances), and are, in effect, derivatives.

My feeble mind came to rationalize that, when it comes to "religion" the ancients were expressing what they might call "piety" towards the gods of any one region. It was a common courtesy to acknowledge the gods who protected a town or region. There was no rigid dogma to adhere to that made one a good pagan. There were countless local deities and ways to honor them alive in the ancient world, so the collective expression of piety to local divinities defined the pagan world view over the relationship between human beings and gods. In effect, people defined the "religion."

It was us Westerners, due to a 1,000 years (rounded) of Catholic and Protestant back and forth on the intellectual level as well as the battlefield, that have caused us to believe that religion was a set of rules or belief and behavior that defined a "good" Christian.

I got the impression that Rüpke was using the concept of Religion as if the whole academic debate over its artificiality and anachronistic nature when projected into the past had never happened. However, since I cannot find a good thorough Review of his book, and what I can see online stops before the period of interest to me (1st - 4th centuries CE), and also does not display his conclusions, I could be wrong about that. If it is more or less correct (that he ignored the previous debate), then what he was doing was falling back on an older "romantic" world view on "religion" that was very common through the early 19th century CE. This is also what I believe Freke & Gandy did to create their idea of universal myths programmed into the very brains of human beings.

DCH

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Re: Jörg Rüpke on early Christianity in 'Pantheon: A New History of Roman Religion'

Post by MrMacSon » Wed Aug 15, 2018 11:44 pm

DCHindley wrote:
Wed Aug 15, 2018 9:10 pm

I got the impression that Rüpke was using the concept of Religion as if the whole academic debate over its artificiality and anachronistic nature when projected into the past had never happened ...
I am still reading Pantheon, but have posted what I think are three key excerpts in this thread -

1. http://www.earlywritings.com/forum/view ... 570#p90570

2. http://www.earlywritings.com/forum/view ... 696#p90696 (after 3, which was a reply to Giuseppe)

3. http://www.earlywritings.com/forum/view ... 693#p90693

and, at the top of this page, 4. http://www.earlywritings.com/forum/view ... 713#p90713

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Re: Jörg Rüpke on early Christianity in 'Pantheon: A New History of Roman Religion'

Post by DCHindley » Thu Aug 16, 2018 8:12 pm

MrMacSon wrote:
Wed Aug 15, 2018 11:44 pm
DCHindley wrote:
Wed Aug 15, 2018 9:10 pm

I got the impression that Rüpke was using the concept of Religion as if the whole academic debate over its artificiality and anachronistic nature when projected into the past had never happened ...
I am still reading Pantheon, but have posted what I think are three key excerpts in this thread -

1. http://www.earlywritings.com/forum/view ... 570#p90570

2. http://www.earlywritings.com/forum/view ... 696#p90696 (after 3, which was a reply to Giuseppe)

3. http://www.earlywritings.com/forum/view ... 693#p90693

and, at the top of this page, 4. http://www.earlywritings.com/forum/view ... 713#p90713
There is a disconnect between what he says about ancient associations, as if they were all centered on "religion," while essays and articles in Voluntary Associations in the Graeco-Roman World (ed. John Kloppenborg, 1996) and Associations, Synagogues, and Congregations (Philip Harland, 2003) paint a quite different figure. There the worship of one or more god at meetings was a formality, as almost all were organized as funerary associations where ones dedication to this or that god somehow be indicated, yet the real reason to attend meetings (and they were usually monthly) was to drink and have a good meal. Each had made small weekly contributions towards it, and there was a sense of comradeship with a similar bunch of people. However, there was no indication that any of them, with possibly one or two known exceptions among hundreds of inscriptions, had a common ritual that was observed in more than one place.

Now that last link as interesting, in that it clearly states his position on Marcion. Man, Marcion is the master creator of, and projection back in time, the story of Jesus the Good. Too artificially sweet and syrupy for my taste.

I'll see what more I can dig up on the relation between religious expression and voluntary associations in the two books cited above (they are the ones I happen to have, but there are several more from a variety of perspectives out there).

"Interesting ... " says Mr. Spok on the original Star Trek TV show and movies

DCH

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Re: Jörg Rüpke on early Christianity in 'Pantheon: A New History of Roman Religion'

Post by MrMacSon » Fri Aug 17, 2018 5:13 am

DCHindley wrote:
Thu Aug 16, 2018 8:12 pm

There is a disconnect between what he says about ancient associations, as if they were all centered on "religion," while essays and articles in Voluntary Associations in the Graeco-Roman World (ed. John Kloppenborg, 1996) and Associations, Synagogues, and Congregations (Philip Harland, 2003) paint a quite different figure. There the worship of one or more god at meetings was a formality, as almost all were organized as funerary associations where ones dedication to this or that god somehow be indicated, yet the real reason to attend meetings (and they were usually monthly) was to drink and have a good meal. Each had made small weekly contributions towards it, and there was a sense of comradeship with a similar bunch of people. However, there was no indication that any of them, with possibly one or two known exceptions among hundreds of inscriptions, had a common ritual that was observed in more than one place.
Rüpke says at the beginning of the Acknowledgements section at the very beginning of the book -

At the core of this book lies the conviction that a survey of the history of ancient religion that does not take collective actors such as Rome or “the Romans” as its starting point, but rather individual actors and how they lived religion, produces not only a different view of religion, but above all a new awareness of the mutability of religious conceptions and practice.

Rüpke, Jörg. Pantheon: A New History of Roman Religion (p. xiii).


and at the end of the Acknowledgements section -

The book would not have taken its present form if Al Bertrand of Princeton University Press and Stefan von der Lahr at C.H. Beck had not persuaded me that it should be configured both as a narrative of religious changes and as an examination of the mechanisms of religion in antiquity in general.

Rüpke, Jörg. Pantheon: A New History of Roman Religion (pp. xiv-xv). Princeton University Press. Kindle Edition.


The start of the first paragraph of the book proper has -

It is the intention of this book to tell the story of an upheaval epochal in its impact. This is the story of how a world well beyond the understanding of most of us was transformed into a world very like our own, at least in one particular. To put it succinctly: we will describe how from a world in which one practiced rituals, there emerged a world of religions, to which one could belong. This is no straightforward story.

Rüpke, Jörg. Pantheon: A New History of Roman Religion (p. 1). Princeton University Press. Kindle Edition.


Soon after -

... although a history of Mediterranean religion is not a universal history of religion, it must nevertheless always take into account other geographical spaces, must ask what happened there, and must notice instances where ideas, objects, and people broke through those walls erected in our imagination by the metaphor of separated spaces.

My Mediterranean narrative recognizes that comparable transformations with similar outcomes (in religions, in assemblages of practices, in concepts, and in symbols) took place in other epochs and in other realms, where they were perceived by the peoples they affected as being distinctive. I think particularly of western, southern, and eastern Asia ...

... Moreover, we have Athens to thank, not the Seven Hills, for the polemical separation of philosophy and religion, virtually a unique marker of Western religious thinking. Even the Latin-language codification of the law, the Corpus iuris civilis, which left its mark on many modern legal systems, emerged from Constantinople, the Rome of the Byzantine Empire, and not from its Italian predecessor. Certainly, the word religio had its origin in Rome. But that has only slight relevance to the change that is the subject of this present narrative ...

Rüpke, Jörg. Pantheon: A New History of Roman Religion (pp. 2-3).

eta: and note Harper's comments in his review -e.g. --
Rüpke never assumes that there is, fundamentally, any such thing as Roman religion. Like most recent work in the field, the study is anti-essentializing. There is no quintessential nature of Roman religion, stretching across time and space, genre and medium. Even defining “religion” in neutral terms not subtly colored by Christian assumptions is a delicate challenge. Religio is a Latin word; it meant something like the actions and observances that accompany a properly reverent sense of piety. Religio did not mean anything quite as grand or encompassing as the interlocking systems of belief about the cosmos, the fate of the soul, the totality of ethics, the nature of divinity, and the right worship of the gods.



DCHindley wrote:
Thu Aug 16, 2018 8:12 pm
Now that last link as interesting, in that it clearly states his position on Marcion. Man, Marcion is the master creator of, and projection back in time, the story of Jesus the Good. Too artificially sweet and syrupy for my taste.
Well, note Rüpke says -

..Christianity [was] invented historiographically [in the 2nd century] by means of the gospels and the Acts of the Apostles complemented by collections of letters. There was as yet no actual community.

and he previously said -

[Marcion] thus orchestrated a rupture that he relocated a century into the past, carefully keeping his narrative free of contemporary references

Rüpke also says --
The narrow timeframe of the narrative [of Marcion] extends from the descent into Capernaum to the return to Jerusalem. This timeframe is expanded by an elaborate synchronization that aligns the fifteenth year of Tiberius’s rule with Pontius Pilate’s governorship of the province of Judaea. [71; Marcion 1:2 Klinghardt = Luke 3:1].

Rüpke, Jörg. Pantheon: A New History of Roman Religion (p. 342). Princeton University Press. Kindle Edition.

He also relates a few key things to actions taken by Caracalla and writings of Hippolytus in reaction to them eg. -

In AD 212 in the Constitutio Antoniniana, Caracalla had made the majority of the inhabitants of the Roman Empire Roman citizens. He probably reminded them in the same decree of their duty to intercede with the gods for the common good.26 ... more importance accrued to the role of religious communication in providing support for imperial rule.27

Rüpke, Jörg. Pantheon: A New History of Roman Religion (p. 371). Princeton University Press. Kindle Edition.


An event that had excited great attention among the Roman public was perhaps the immediate factor that motivated Hippolytus to examine the Book of Daniel in particular, and especially the tale of how Daniel rescued Susanna from the two lecherous “elders,” while it also provided him with an opportunity to reach a somewhat broader public within his Roman milieu. Shortly after the beginning of his sole reign as Augustus, Caracalla had had four Vestals executed. Cassius Dio, an immediate contemporary of the event, believed he knew that one of the Vestals, Clodia Laeta, had loudly protested against being buried alive, because she had been raped by Caracalla himself.4

Even though Hippolytus could claim a high degree of topicality for his selected theme, in that the story he addressed had a woman being rescued from a similar plight, like anyone taking to the written or spoken word he first had to assure his public of the relevance and credibility of his contribution. He accordingly announced that he would, within the historiographical form of his text, indicate the “precise period of the incarceration of the sons of Israel as prisoners of war” and would recount the “prophecies contained in the visions of the blessed Daniel,” and in so doing would himself be “a witness for the prophets and witnesses [martyrs] of Christ” (1.1; 2.11).

He thereby claimed for himself not only an eminently religious role, but also that of a knowledgeable and thoughtful historian,5 all the while presumably being well aware that the historical dimension in this case might touch on end-time calculations (cf. 1.18) ..

... With a dazzling display of quotations, he represents himself also as a scholar well versed in the insightful reading of texts (e.g., 1.18, 1.29).

Rüpke, Jörg. Pantheon: A New History of Roman Religion (pp. 365-367).


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