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Religious Rivalries in the Early Roman Empire and the Rise of Christianity

Edited by Leif E. Vaage
Subjects Religion
Series Studies in Christianity and Judaism Hide Details
Hardcover : 9780889204492, 344 pages, April 2006
Ebook (EPUB) : 9781554588091, 344 pages, October 2010

Table of contents

Table of Contents for
Religious Rivalries in the Early Roman Empire and the Rise of Christianity, edited by Leif E. Vaage



Part I: Rivalries?

Ancient Religious Rivalries and the Struggle for Success: Christians, Jews, and Others in the Early Roman Empire | Leif E. Vaage

The Declining Polis? Religious Rivalries in Ancient Civic Context | Philip Harland

Rivalry and Defection | Stephen Wilson

Is the Pagan Fair Fairly Dangerous? Jewish-Pagan Relations in Antiquity Rena Basser

My Rival, My Fellow: Conceptual and Methodological Prolegomena to Mapping Inter-religious Relations in 2nd and 3rd Century ce Levantine Society Using the Evidence of Early Rabbinic Texts | Jack Lightstone

Part II: Mission?

“The Field God Has Assigned”: Geography and Mission in Paul | Terence Donaldson

The Contra Apionem in Social and Literary Context: An Invitation to Judean Philosophy | Steve Mason

On Becoming a Mithraist: New Evidence for the Propagation of the Mysteries | Roger Beck

Part III: Rise?

Rodney Stark and “The Mission to the Jews” | Adele Reinhartz

“Look How They Love One Another”: Early Christian and Pagan Care for the Sick and Other Charity | Steven C. Muir

The Religious Market of the Roman Empire: Rodney Stark and Christianity’s Pagan Competition | Roger Beck

Why Christianity Succeeded (in) the Roman Empire | Leif E. Vaage

Works Cited

Ancient Sources Index

Ancient Names Index

Modern Names Index


Religious Rivalries in the Early Roman Empire and the Rise of Christianity discusses the diverse cultural destinies of early Christianity, early Judaism, and other ancient religious groups as a question of social rivalry.

The book is divided into three main sections. The first section debates the degree to which the category of rivalry adequately names the issue(s) that must be addressed when comparing and contrasting the social “success” of different religious groups in antiquity. The second is a critical assessment of the common modern category of “mission” to describe the inner dynamic of such a process; it discusses the early Christian apostle Paul, the early Jewish historian Josephus, and ancient Mithraism. The third section of the book is devoted to “the rise of Christianity,” primarily in response to the similarly titled work of the American sociologist of religion Rodney Stark.

While it is not clear that any of these groups imagined its own success necessarily entailing the elimination of others, it does seem that early Christianity had certain habits, both of speech and practice, which made it particularly apt to succeed (in) the Roman Empire.


``Vaage . .. states that `earliest Christianity's intrinsic will to rule is most evident, albeit paradoxically, in its initial modes of resistance to this regime'. ... In conclusion, this is a stimulating hypothesis at the end of a fine contribution to an ongoing discussion. ''

- Gerbern S. Oegema, Toronto Journal of Theology, 23: 1, Spring 2007

``This is a fine volume that reveals the complexities of the rise of Christianity, challenges long-held positions on its expansion, and proposes new ways forward to explain Christianity's eventual emergence as a religion of empire. ''

- Dietmar Neufeld, University of Toronto Quarterly, Letters in Canada 2006, Volume 77, Number 1, Winter 2008

``Ultimately, the essays in the book are interesting and succeed in challenging many long held scholarly assmptions. As a corrective to the work of Stark, the final section of the book is particularly useful. ''

- Jennifer Zilm, Journal of Religion and Culture, Vol. 20, 2008