Group Identity and Religious Individuality in Late Antiquity

Group Identity and Religious Individuality in Late Antiquity

Éric Rebillard
Jörg Rüpke
Copyright Date: 2015
Pages: 328
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  • Book Info
    Group Identity and Religious Individuality in Late Antiquity
    Book Description:

    To understand the past, we necessarily group people together and, consequently, frequently assume that all of its members share the same attributes. In this ground-breaking volume, Eric Rebillard and Jörg Rüpke bring renowned scholars together to challenge this norm by seeking to rediscover the individual and to explore the dynamics between individuals and the groups to which they belong.

    eISBN: 978-0-8132-2744-3
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. vii-viii)

    • Introduction: Groups, Individuals, and Religious Identity
      (pp. 3-12)
      Éric Rebillard and Jörg Rüpke

      Is religious individualism a feature unique to modernity? This is the larger research question that was addressed by an international research group, based at the Max Weber Centre of the University of Erfurt, Germany, under the heading “Religious Individualization in Historical Perspective.” Obviously anachronistic when viewed against the backdrop of the conclusions adduced by modernization theory, the heuristic use of “religious individualization” has, nevertheless, directed our attention to important historical phenomena that do not fit with the fundamentally collective character usually ascribed to religion. It is, however, not “individuality”per sewhich is interesting. In a banal sense, individuality is...

    • 1. The Legal Framework of Religious Identity in the Roman Empire
      (pp. 13-28)
      Karl Leo Noethlichs

      In this chapter I review the evolution of the legal structures that promoted Roman state religion, as these provide us with primary evidence for the demands that were brought to bear on individuals by the state. Before proceeding, I will make some preliminary observations.

      First, the question of whether there were basic rules about how individuals were allowed to realize their religious identities in antiquity already assumes a priority of law over religion. The legal norm of the modern secular state is the precondition for individual religious self-determination. Within such a system, constitutional law takes precedence over any religious rule....


    • 2. Am I a Christian? The Individual at the Manichaean-Christian Interface
      (pp. 31-53)
      Jason David BeDuhn

      In Carlo Ginzburg’s classic workThe Cheese and the Worms, the Catholic Inquisition brings to light a case of individual religious idiosyncrasy that, in fact, must be commonplace—although perhaps somewhat less developed and creative—among the adherents of any religious tradition.¹ Cultural systems, such as religion is, must reproduce themselves from individual to individual and generation to generation, just as biological systems do. Biological reproduction, of course, has the advantage of actually passing chemical coding from one individual to the next, and even then mutation occurs. Cultural reproduction has no such direct reproductive mechanism, but relies on the sensory...

    • 3. Sixth-Century Individual Rituals: Private Chapels and the Reserved Eucharist
      (pp. 54-88)
      Kim Bowes

      Around 521, the non-Chalcedonian bishop Severus of Antioch received a letter. Its author was one Caesaria, possibly the niece of the emperor Anastasius, and it contained an appeal.¹ Caesaria wanted the Eucharist: the churches of her native Constantinople now offered daily Eucharistic services and a fair few even served the non-Chalcedonian faithful such as herself. But communal neighborhood masses were not what Caesaria craved: she was looking for the special, holy bread consecrated by the famous bishop-in-exile, made doubly holy by his individual touch. Severus scolded Caeasaria for her request: dispatching the Eucharist across diocesan lines had long been prohibited...

    • 4. Gregory of Nazianzus: Mediation between Individual and Community
      (pp. 89-108)
      Susanna Elm

      Tensions between group identity and religious individuality are never easy to confront, whether as the individual experiencing the tension or as a scholar, especially a social historian, attempting to capture the individual and his or her experience in the remote past, also known as late antiquity. To paraphrase Seth Schwartz, how should we picture an average late antique man? To whom did he (here a generiche, without gendered assumption) feel connected, why, and how? How did he express faith, joy, love, anger, fear? Could he read, and if so, did he bother? In which languages did he address his...


    • 5. The Mother’s Role in Maccabaean Martyrology
      (pp. 111-128)
      Tessa Rajak

      Why does a mother make a good martyr? Why are martyr-mothers useful? My paper could be given the frivolous title “Cherchez la femme.” I ask these questions in the framework of the Jewish-Greek Maccabaean literature of the Hellenistic and Roman periods, where the figure of the martyred mother of seven martyred sons stands out, especially in the case of the latest Jewish document in the collection, the book known to us as the fourth book of Maccabees. Why is a woman so prominently featured? Why should it be a mother of mature years, whose age is several times remarked upon...

    • 6. Perpetua’s vas: Asserting Christian Identity
      (pp. 129-164)
      Judith Perkins

      Zygmund Bauman holds that collectivism is necessary for any sort of social assertion, especially for those in a society with unequal access to resources. Those better off usually fall back to collectivism only when their control and unequal share of resources is under threat.¹ Various groups jockeying for position in the early imperial period turned to collectivism out of the necessity to claim a place in imperial realignments. One of these groups, the “Christians,” employed strategies through which they sought to assert and maintain their social presence in the imperial state by defining themselves as different from the imperial elite....

    • 7. Senatorial Aristocracy: How Individual Is Individual Religiosity?
      (pp. 165-214)
      Kristine Iara

      The “last pagans of Rome”¹ have long been the subject of scholarly discussion. In addition to disputes concerning the dates and the supposed mechanisms of conversion,² the activities of the adherents to pagan religion in late antique Rome have given rise to diverse interpretations. On the one hand, evidence ranging from restorations of religious buildings to more or less magnificent dedications to various deities has been regarded as expressions of sincere religious commitment, or even as efforts to promote and to advertise pagan religion (as it competed with the increasing ubiquity of the Christian religion), or as evidence for a...

    • 8. “Initiation” in the Western Provinces of the Roman Empire
      (pp. 215-244)
      Wolfgang Spickermann

      The title of this chapter promises much more than it can deliver. Let me state from the outset that it is almost impossible to reconstruct the initiatory rites of the so-called mystery cults of the western provinces of the Roman Empire on the basis of epigraphic and archaeological data. We have barely any clear evidence at all. I will therefore be so bold as to expand the terminitiationsomewhat, to include findings mentioning the induction into a cult community, or the assumption of offices within a cult. In this context, we find, for example, evidence for changes in the...


    • 9. Roles and Individuality in the Chronograph of 354
      (pp. 247-269)
      Jörg Rüpke

      The luxurious calendar book called theChronograph of 354¹ has been used as a principal source for the history of religion—paganism as well as Christianity.² Its calendars, in the form of Romanfasti, supply isolated evidence for the religion of the fourth century. As Christianferialia, they offer the first extant evidence for a Christian liturgical calendar.³ Since there has never been any question about the Christian identity of the producer or the original recipient, analysis has concentrated on the degree of Christianization evidenced by the contents of the document. The simultaneous presence of pagan and Christian material has...

    • 10. Bishop Aeneas and the Church of St. Theodore in Gerasa
      (pp. 270-292)
      Rubina Raja

      Early churches in the Near East have been the subject of many studies.¹ These buildings are primarily interpreted as clear indications of the presence of Christianity, which, from its inception, was directly opposed to the older “paganism.” A church is, inarguably and by definition, a sign of the Christian faith.² Even so, the sponsor of any given church may have held a wide variety of social roles, and the classification of the building does not necessarily shed much light on these. Naturally, we tend to assume that sponsors were wealthy and Christian, but it is too restrictive a view that...

    • 11. Late Antique Limits of Christianness: North Africa in the Age of Augustine
      (pp. 293-318)
      Éric Rebillard

      The study of early Christianity made significant progress when the interactions of religious groups, rather than their activities in isolation, became the preferred object of investigation. The volume edited by Judith Lieu, John North, and Tessa Rajak in 1992,Jews among Pagans and Christians in the Roman World, was seminal in this respect, and there is now a long list of books and papers that associate these three religious groups in their titles. However, this approach also reifies these groups—despite postmodern and generallypro formaobservations that their boundaries are contingent and fluctuating—and we continue, consequently, to treat...

    (pp. 319-320)
    (pp. 321-326)
    (pp. 327-332)
  11. Back Matter
    (pp. 333-335)