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Fw: BMCR 2004.12.15, Michel Narcy et al., Helle/nisme & christianisme

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  • Edward Moore
    ... From: To: ; Sent: Monday, December 13, 2004 10:28 AM Subject: BMCR 2004.12.15,
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      From: <owner-bmcr-l@...>
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      Sent: Monday, December 13, 2004 10:28 AM
      Subject: BMCR 2004.12.15, Michel Narcy et al., Helle/nisme & christianisme

      > Michel Narcy, E/ric Rebillard (edd.), Helle/nisme et christianisme.
      > Collection Mythes, Imaginaires, Religions. Villeneuve d'Ascq: Presses
      > Universitaires du Septentrion, 2004. Pp. 198. ISBN 2-85939-804-X.
      > EUR 32.00.
      > Reviewed by
      > P. Van Nuffelen, University of Exeter
      > Word count: 1430 words
      > -------------------------------
      > This well-edited volume discusses in seven contributions the
      > relationship between Hellenism and Christianity in late antiquity. The
      > papers were presented in a seminar, organised by the section Histoire
      > des doctrines de l'Antiquite/ et du Haut-Moyen-A^ge of the French CNRS
      > in October 2001. With two exceptions, viz. the papers by P.F. Beatrice
      > and J. Rist, which seem to use a broader definition of Hellenism, all
      > the papers are concerned with the relationship between paganism and
      > Christianity in the fourth century A.D. The papers are not always
      > innovative but most offer a good discussion of the methodological
      > issues involved in the study of the confrontation of paganism and
      > Christianity.
      > In his introduction (pp. 7-14), Eric Rebillard briefly sketches the
      > main goal of the seminar: to shed new light on the meeting of, or clash
      > between, Christianity and Hellenism in late antiquity, and this through
      > an interdisciplinary approach, associating philosophers, philologists,
      > and historians of religion. He then offers useful summaries of the
      > seven papers that follow.
      > Pierre Chuvin (Christianisation et re/sistance des cultes
      > traditionnels. Approches actuelles et enjeux historiographiques, pp.
      > 15-34) discusses some general methodological issues about how to study
      > the survival of pagan cults in the Christian empire. This is
      > illustrated by two examples: the tenth homily of Asterius of Amasea, of
      > which Chuvin criticizes the interpretation by F. Trombley (Hellenic
      > Religion and Christianization, Leiden 1993-1994, Vol. 1, p. 293), and
      > the Life of Porphyry of Gaza by Marc the Deacon, of which Chuvin
      > accepts the general veracity. This paper ends with some rather
      > confusing remarks (pp. 27-31) on the complex relationship between
      > culture and religion. In general P. Chuvin stresses that Christianity
      > was, up to a certain level, reconcilable with Hellenism. This paper
      > offers little new, but the remarks by the author are in general
      > judicious.
      > Claire Sotinel discusses the methodological problems involved in the
      > study of the disappearance of pagan temples (La disparition des lieux
      > de culte paiens en Occident: enjeux et me/thodes, pp. 35-60). She
      > stresses in particular the variety of cultic sites that are covered by
      > the term temple (private sanctuaries, oracular shrines, temples big
      > enough to host banquets, etc.). This is illustrated by the example of
      > the military camp of Bu Njem in Africa. She shows that the
      > archaeological sources, often used to correct the literary sources, are
      > themselves dependant on modern interpretative schemes and that it is
      > usually rather difficult to prove that a temple was abandoned or
      > restored. The destruction of pagan temples (not so widespread a
      > phenomenon as it was once believed to be) was paralleled by their
      > conceptual appropriation by the Christians: the destruction of temples
      > became used in Christian stories and discourses as a symbol, or a
      > re-enactment on a small scale, of the victory of Christianity over
      > paganism. It figured as a standardized episode in hagiography; the
      > hagiographers can be said to have actually constructed the pagan
      > temple. Claire Sotinel illustrates this with the Life of Saint Martin
      > by Gregory of Tours, in which she sees the starting point of this
      > evolution in the West. Especially her point concerning the way paganism
      > was imagined by Christian authors is a welcome reminder of the
      > constructed reality one encounters in late antique Christian texts,
      > which, e.g., F. Trombley had a tendency to overlook in his influential
      > Hellenic Religion and Christianization (1993-1994).
      > In the most detailed and best-argued paper of the volume, R. Goulet
      > attacks the recent hypotheses of P.F. Beatrice on the scope of the
      > Contra Christianos of Porphyry (Hypothe\ses re/centes sur le traite/ de
      > Porphyre Contre les chre/tiens, pp. 61-109), and does so in a very
      > convincing way. Beatrice proposed to identify as authentic the Contra
      > Christianos, the Philosophy of oracles, the De regressu animae, the
      > Peri agalmaton and a few more treatises of this philosopher (see e.g.
      > P.F. Beatrice, art. Porphyrius, in Theologische Realenzyklopa+die Vol.
      > 27, 1997, pp. 54-59). The anonymous fragments found in Macarius Magnes
      > cannot, according to this interpretation, be attributed to Porphyry. R.
      > Goulet, the latest editor of Macarius of Magnesia (Macarios de
      > Magne/sie. Le Monoge/ne\s, 2 Vol., Paris 2003) argues strongly in
      > favour of the traditional interpretation, which sees the
      > above-mentioned works of Porphyry as separate treatises and identifies
      > the anonymous adversary of Macarius with Porphyry. He also shows that
      > it is very unlikely that the anonymous anti-Christian philosopher
      > mentioned by Lactantius (Div. Inst. 5.2.4-11) is actually Porphyry, as
      > has also been argued by E. Digeser (Lactantius, "Porphyry and the
      > debate over religious toleration", Journal of Roman Studies, 88 (1998),
      > pp. 129-146, see now also "Porphyry, Julian or Hierocles? The Anonymous
      > Hellen in Makarios Magnes Apokritikos", Journal of Theological Studies
      > 53 (2002), pp. 446-502).
      > J. Bouffartigue addresses the question whether the Emperor Julian's
      > neoplatonic ideas were a cause of his anti-Christian stance
      > (Philosophie et anti-christianisme chez l'empereur Julien, pp.
      > 111-131), a link recently doubted by R. Smith (Julian's gods: religion
      > and philosophy in the thoughts and action of Julian the Apostate,
      > London, 1995). Reviewing the evidence for Julian's conversion to
      > Christianity, he suggests there was a link, and he argues that it is
      > incorrect to reduce Julian's ideas to a simple aggregate of those
      > current in his days and to deny a speculative tendency in the emperor's
      > thought. This paper, which is judicious in its arguments and judgments,
      > could have profited from an inclusion of more recent literature which
      > bears on this interesting question (e.g. S. Bradbury, "Julian's Pagan
      > Revival and the Decline of Blood Sacrifice", in Phoenix 49 (1995), pp.
      > 331-356; K. Rosen, "Kaiser Julian auf dem Weg vom Christentum zum
      > Heidentum", in Jahrbuch fu+r Antike und Christentum 40 (1997), pp.
      > 126-146; Suzanna Elm, "Orthodoxy and the True Philosophical Life:
      > Julian and Gregory of Nazianzus", in Studia Patristica 37 (2001), pp.
      > 69-85). One wonders also why Polymnia Athanassiadi, Julian and
      > Hellenism (Oxford 1981) is not mentioned, as her position on this point
      > seems to be close to that of J. Bouffartigue.
      > P.F. Beatrice discusses the accusation of atheism brought against
      > Christians (L'accusation d'athe/isme contre les chre/tiens, pp.
      > 133-152). He shows that the meaning of the term atheos depends on its
      > context (e.g. atheos as negation of the existence of god; atheos as the
      > negation of the existence of pagan gods). He also underlines the
      > Christian appropriation of this accusation that they turned against the
      > pagans themselves. Although not uninteresting, this paper does not seem
      > to offer more than can be found e.g. in the article Atheismus by W.
      > Nestle (Reallexicon fu+r Antike und Christentum, Stuttgart 1950, pp.
      > 886-870), or in M. Winiarczyk's two articles "Wer galt im Altertum als
      > Atheist?" (Philologus 128 (1984), pp. 157-183 and Philologus 136
      > (1992), pp. 306-310).
      > Drawing on his earlier work and on his extensive knowledge of
      > neoplatonic philosophy and patristic theology, J. Rist offers a general
      > appreciation of the relationship between Christianism and neoplatonism
      > (Christianisme et antiplatonisme: un bilan, pp. 153-170). After a
      > review of the positions of Gregory of Nyssa, Augustine and Dionysius
      > Areopagiticus, he concludes that the Christian platonists are
      > platonists in the sense that they use those fundamental principles of
      > platonism that are useful to defend the rational character of their
      > beliefs. Christians enter the field of platonism to the extent that it
      > is useful to defend the coherence of their thought or to criticize that
      > of their adversaries.
      > In an interesting but not very clearly structured paper, Irena Backus
      > traces the image of paganism in 16th century ecclesiastical
      > historiography (Images du paganisme dans les Histories eccle/siastiques
      > du XVIe sie\cle, pp. 171-195). She concludes that most historians tried
      > to position themselves in relation to classical pagan historiography:
      > Melanchthon and his followers by seeing Herodotus and Thucydides as the
      > continuators of the biblical books, Baronius by using the Roman model
      > of the Annales, and the Centuriae of Magdeburg by stressing the
      > superiority of inspired church history over pagan histories. They were
      > almost all driven by an apologetic concerns and they saw in the ancient
      > pagans a prefiguration of the modern heretics.
      > This collection of essays is useful; it would have been better if all
      > the papers had been as detailed and forcefully argued as Goulet's. Many
      > papers give the impression of having been written just for the occasion
      > and published without reworking. Some are at times very selective in
      > their use of sources and modern literature. As a consequence, although
      > most authors do address current issues in the research on late
      > antiquity (especially P. Chuvin, Claire Sotinel, P. Goulet and J.
      > Bouffartigue), the volume cannot be read as an introduction to current
      > problems. It lacks coherence, and most papers actually deal with a very
      > limited aspect of the relationship with Christianity and Hellenism, the
      > opposition between Christianity and paganism.
      > -------------------------------
      > The BMCR website (http://ccat.sas.upenn.edu/bmcr/) contains a complete
      > and searchable archive of BMCR reviews since our first issue in 1990.
      > It also contains information about subscribing and unsubscribing from
      > the service.
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