Among the Gentiles: Greco-Roman Religion and Christianity by Luke Timothy Johnson

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By Luke Timothy Johnson

The query of Christianity’s relation to the opposite religions of the realm is extra pertinent and tough this day than ever ahead of. whereas Christianity’s historic failure to understand or actively have interaction Judaism is infamous, Christianity’s much more shoddy list with appreciate to “pagan” religions is much less understood. Christians have inherited a nearly unanimous theological culture that thinks of paganism by way of demonic ownership, and of Christian missions as a rescue operation that saves pagans from inherently evil practices.

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Nevertheless, the university context has for the most part been good for the study of religion, and the distinctive ways in which religious studies has been able to approach the subject holds the promise of a more fruitful way of think­ ing about paganism and Christianity than did the old context of a divided church and the perspectives of theology. 9 We can begin to work our way into this new perspective by considering each part of that sentence in more detail, showing in the process how new ways of looking can enable new ways of seeing.

This sort of technical prophecy (or augury) studied celestial and animal phenomena in order to deter­ mine divine favor of a specific undertaking. 69 In his work, On the Obsolescence of Oracles (early second century CE), Plutarch-himself a priest of Apollo at Delphi-reports a conversation with friends in which deep puzzlement and dismay are expressed because Delphi no longer seems to speak oracles,7° The dialogue offers a variety of scientific and theological explanations for the cessation of oracles.

H. J. Cadbury once remarked that Chariton of Aphrodisias' novel, Chaereas and Callirhoe, contained more similarities to the idiom and ideas of the Acts of the Apostles than did any other ancient text. 55 Other literature is read with new interest in light of archaeology. 56 Similarly, Pliny the El­ der's Historia Naturalis, Strabo's Geography, and especially Pausanius' Descrip­ tion of Greece find new pertinence for the study of Greco-Roman religion to the extent that they can be correlated with (or corrected by) new knowledge derived from archaeology.

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