This article discusses the social history of the Jews. It determines the extent Jewish communities possessed an inner-Jewish social structure and looks at the social ties that existed between the local communities. Some notable Jewish historians like Martin Goodman and Ed P. Sanders provide some important insights into the social relations of the Jews. The article also looks at the extent Jews were socially integrated into their different environments. The history and geography of the Jews, along with the different social problems that they faced, are discussed.
Adam H. Becker
This article focuses on the Christian society in the early Roman Empire. It shows how the Christians and Christian community were simultaneously added into and alienated from the broader society of the early Roman Empire. It then looks at Jesus' role in the development of the ecclesia as a social movement and discusses the Pauline House-Church. It studies the different Christian communal practices and offices, the new models for a new Christian community, and the concept of a Christian family. The article briefly discusses the persecution of the Christians and the conversion of Emperor Constantine to Christianity. The self-definition of Christians, the relations between Jews and Christians, and Christian apologetics are also discussed.
A man by the name of Jesus (Yeshu), from the obscure region of the Galilee, clashed with the Jewish establishment in Judaean Jerusalem and was dispatched to his death on the orders of the Roman governor, like thousands of others, by the gruesome method of crucifixion. The Galilean preacher left behind a rich legacy of parables and miracles. His admirers, few but fiery, set out from Judaea to spread his message throughout major urban centres in the eastern provinces. Two even reached the imperial capital of Rome. Imperial decrees notwithstanding, by the third mid-century, Christianity was sufficiently prominent to elicit empire-wide persecution. Aided by Christ, Constantine could contemplate a Christian commonwealth that a Galilean had confidently claimed on the basis of a reformulated Judaism. Ironically, ecclesiastical monotheism and late Roman monarchy emerged as a perfect match. The stories that explained the birth of Christianity revolved around conflicts which assured the community of a recognisable identity: the conflict with Judaism and the conflict with paganism.
This article explores the characteristics of early Islam in Late Antiquity. Two approaches have emerged to conceptualize the rise and formation of Islam—either as a child of Late Antiquity, conceived and nourished wholly by the late antique world; or as a force that was formed outside the late antique world (in Arabia) from outside (Arabian) ingredients and only entered that world once it was fairly well developed and so was only marginally influenced by it. The latter view, the "out of Arabia" approach, is the traditional Muslim one and it is accepted by most Western scholars. However, the former view, the "born of Late Antiquity" approach, is gaining support, particularly among late antique historians, since it widens the scope of their field to include a new geographical region, a new religious phenomenon, and a longer span of time.
David M. Gwynn
This article explores the various roles bishops played in Late Antiquity and the debates over the nature and functions of episcopal leadership. Much of the evidence is drawn from the great fathers of the Church: Athanasius of Alexandria, Basil of Caesarea, Gregory of Nazianzus, Ambrose of Milan, John Chrysostom, Augustine of Hippo, Gregory the Great. The article first traces the origins of the office of the bishop, and then assesses the impact of the reign of Constantine on that office and on the opportunities available to those who attained episcopal status. Next, it considers the changing place of the bishop within the Christian Roman Empire through the collapse of imperial power in the West, and the roles played by bishops in the early Germanic kingdoms and in the eastern empire down to the rise of Islam.
This article details how Christians gained a recognized position in the imperial order of the Sasanian world. The discussion covers the names and historiography of the Church of the East; Christian origins in Mesopotamia and Iran; from the "Great Slaughter" to the synod of 410; the Church of the East's expansion and literary production; and Church of the East in the Era of Timothy I (780-823).
This article examines the Graeco-Roman cultic societies, which were described as being highly fragmented and highly regionalized. It first looks at the hierarchy of the different religious communities, and then describes the cult and membership within the community. This article also shows how every community in the Graeco-Roman world was a ritual community.
James B. Rives
This article focuses on astrologers and magicians in Roman society, who both provided specialized skills and services that gave them a considerable degree of social power and popularity. This article also shows that these two groups were also restricted to the margins of polite society, and were even subject to coercive actions from political authorities. The article begins by identifying the characteristics magicians and astrologers had in common. It then discusses each of them separately, before making a basic distinction between the two.
This article discusses the history of religion in Late Antiquity. It provides an overview of the problem of religious conflict and coercion, but also focuses on the transformation of religious identity and religious practices in connection with the experience of the general population, rather than remaining focused on the views and actions of emperors, bishops, and philosophers.
Against the background of the centrality of a text-oriented society and the crucial role of the Hebrew Bible in shaping Jewish childhood in antiquity, this chapter considers the role of visual literacy through an examination of synagogal paintings and mosaics. The article asks how images shaped the social experience and acculturation of children into a society governed by communal prayers, commemorative festivities, synagogal gatherings, and rules harking back to Scripture. Why do visuals, illustrating biblical scenes featuring children, suddenly emerge on walls and floors of synagogues, beginning (so far as we can tell) with mid-third century Dura Europos and continuing with synagogues in the Land of Israel?
This chapter describes Plutarch’s role as a Middle Platonist in the Second Sophistic. In philosophy he holds a literal interpretation of the Timaeus and often opposes the Stoics and Epicureans. He stresses the importance of philosophical inquiry and a certain caution, especially when speaking of difficult questions. His popular Table Talks (or Sympotic Questions) offer a kind of training in philosophical inquiry. In religion his monotheistic, Middle Platonic God has created the world and guides it with his providence through gods and daimones. He indulges in eschatological myths and is interested in foreign religions, especially Roman religion and the Egyptian Isis cult. One of his greatest contributions is in Platonizing and humanizing ethics. Greek paideia is the foundation for a good ethical life, which is based on reason over passion. In many ways he represents the ideal of an educated pepaideumenos in the Greco-Roman world of his time.