Religion as Relation - Studying Religion in Context - Peter Berger

Religion as Relation - Studying Religion in Context - Peter Berger

Relations of Religion in the Graeco-Roman World: Formative Judaism and Christianity

Religion as Relation - Studying Religion in Context - Peter Berger

Steve Mason [+-]
University of Groningen
Steve Mason (BA, MA McMaster; PhD University of St Michael’s College, Toronto) is Professor of Ancient Mediterranean Religions and Cultures at the University of Groningen. He edits the international series, Flavius Josephus: Translation and Commentary (Brill, 2000–), to which he has also contributed Life of Josephus (2001) and Judean War 2 (2008); he is now working on Judean War 4. His first monograph was Flavius Josephus on the Pharisees (Brill, 1991); most recent are A History of the Jewish War, A.D. 66–74 (Cambridge UP, 2016) and Orientation to the History of Roman Judaea (Wipf & Stock, 2016).

Description

Contrary to presupposing a divine essence and cause, as scholars such as Van den Belt do in the theological approach, historian Steve Mason (Chapter 5) exemplifies a constructivist historical approach to religion. Mason analyses how people in the Graeco-Roman world (c.300 BCE to 300 CE) framed Jews and Christians. In line with Asad’s critique that much research in religious studies builds on conceptions that are specifically Christian rather than universal, Mason argues that the label “religion” obfuscates more than it illuminates when describing the ancient past of these two major traditions. To substantiate this claim, he begins by surveying what “shell categories” residents in the Graeco-Roman world used to communicate with each other and order their knowledge of the world. Informed by both ancient textual and material sources, Mason argues that a diverse and vibrant Judaean culture, with its own famed mother-city, law-giver and customs, temple, priesthood, sacrificial system, and a larger expatriate community was “freeze-dried” by later Christians and reduced to “Juda-ism” as a belief system. “Christianity” looked altogether different: Christians were small bands of men and women meeting secretly in members” houses to worship Christ. They refrained from animal sacrifices, and some expected imminent evacuation from the world. Mason concludes by considering how a historical understanding of these very different phenomena of a Judaean “ethnos” and what began as a kind of Christian “club” can help to explain such puzzles as the Christian polemic against and simultaneous attraction to “Judaism”, the “persecution” of Christians but not Jews, and “conversion” to Judaism or Christianity.

Notify A Colleague

Citation

Mason, Steve. Relations of Religion in the Graeco-Roman World: Formative Judaism and Christianity. Religion as Relation - Studying Religion in Context. Equinox eBooks Publishing, United Kingdom. p. 113-133 Nov 2021. ISBN 9781800500709. https://www.equinoxpub.com/home/view-chapter/?id=42554. Date accessed: 23 Oct 2021 doi: 10.1558/equinox.42554. Nov 2021

Dublin Core Metadata