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Pagans: The End of Traditional Religion and the Rise of Christianity
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HarperCollins 2015
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Description

A provocative and contrarian religious history that charts the rise of Christianity from the point of view of traditional" religion from the religious scholar and critically acclaimed author of Augustine.

Pagans explores the rise of Christianity from a surprising and unique viewpoint: that of the people who witnessed their ways of life destroyed by what seemed then a powerful religious cult. These "pagans" were actually pious Greeks, Romans, Syrians, and Gauls who observed the traditions of their ancestors. To these devout polytheists, Christians who worshipped only one deity were immoral atheists who believed that a splash of water on the deathbed could erase a lifetime of sin.

Religious scholar James J. O'Donnell takes us on a lively tour of the Ancient Roman world through the fourth century CE, when Romans of every nationality, social class, and religious preference found their world suddenly constrained by rulers who preferred a strange new god. Some joined this new cult, while others denied its power, erroneously believing it was little more than a passing fad.

In Pagans, O'Donnell brings to life various pagan rites and essential features of Roman religion and life, offers fresh portraits of iconic historical figures, including Constantine, Julian, and Augustine, and explores important themes—Rome versus the east, civilization versus barbarism, plurality versus unity, rich versus poor, and tradition versus innovation—in this startling account.

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Format:
Adobe EPUB eBook, Kindle Book, OverDrive Read
Street Date:
03/17/2015
Language:
English
ISBN:
9780062370716
ASIN:
B00L7X6ZU8
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APA Citation (style guide)

James J. O'Donnell. (2015). Pagans: The End of Traditional Religion and the Rise of Christianity. HarperCollins.

Chicago / Turabian - Author Date Citation (style guide)

James J. O'Donnell. 2015. Pagans: The End of Traditional Religion and the Rise of Christianity. HarperCollins.

Chicago / Turabian - Humanities Citation (style guide)

James J. O'Donnell, Pagans: The End of Traditional Religion and the Rise of Christianity. HarperCollins, 2015.

MLA Citation (style guide)

James J. O'Donnell. Pagans: The End of Traditional Religion and the Rise of Christianity. HarperCollins, 2015. Web.

Note! Citation formats are based on standards as of July 2010. Citations contain only title, author, edition, publisher, and year published. Citations should be used as a guideline and should be double checked for accuracy.
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        James J. O'donnell is a classicist who served for ten years as Provost of Georgetown University and is now University Librarian at Arizona State University. He is the author of several books including Augustine, The Ruin of the Roman Empire, and Avatars of the Word. He is the former president of the American Philological Association, a Fellow of the Medieval Academy of America, and the chair of the Board of Directors of the American Council of Learned Societies. He is seen here at an ancient monastery on the eastern frontier of the Roman Empire, in Syria.

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shortDescription

A provocative and contrarian religious history that charts the rise of Christianity from the point of view of traditional" religion from the religious scholar and critically acclaimed author of Augustine.

Pagans explores the rise of Christianity from a surprising and unique viewpoint: that of the people who witnessed their ways of life destroyed by what seemed then a powerful religious cult. These "pagans" were actually pious Greeks, Romans, Syrians, and Gauls who observed the traditions of their ancestors. To these devout polytheists, Christians who worshipped only one deity were immoral atheists who believed that a splash of water on the deathbed could erase a lifetime of sin.

Religious scholar James J. O'Donnell takes us on a lively tour of the Ancient Roman world through the fourth century CE, when Romans of every nationality, social class, and religious preference found their world suddenly constrained by rulers who preferred a strange new god. Some joined this...

isOwnedByCollections
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title
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fullDescription

A provocative and contrarian religious history that charts the rise of Christianity from the point of view of traditional" religion from the religious scholar and critically acclaimed author of Augustine.

Pagans explores the rise of Christianity from a surprising and unique viewpoint: that of the people who witnessed their ways of life destroyed by what seemed then a powerful religious cult. These "pagans" were actually pious Greeks, Romans, Syrians, and Gauls who observed the traditions of their ancestors. To these devout polytheists, Christians who worshipped only one deity were immoral atheists who believed that a splash of water on the deathbed could erase a lifetime of sin.

Religious scholar James J. O'Donnell takes us on a lively tour of the Ancient Roman world through the fourth century CE, when Romans of every nationality, social class, and religious preference found their world suddenly constrained by rulers who preferred a strange new god. Some joined this new cult, while others denied its power, erroneously believing it was little more than a passing fad.

In Pagans, O'Donnell brings to life various pagan rites and essential features of Roman religion and life, offers fresh portraits of iconic historical figures, including Constantine, Julian, and Augustine, and explores important themes—Rome versus the east, civilization versus barbarism, plurality versus unity, rich versus poor, and tradition versus innovation—in this startling account.

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      • premium: False
      • source: New York Times Book Review
      • content:

        "Trenchantly interprets how an oddball religious cult became the official faith of Rome. . . . It makes for a thoughtful tour of Rome." — New York Times Book Review

        "Mr. O'Donnell tells the familiar story of Christianity's heroic age of expansion, from Constantine to Theodosius, with verve and wit." — Wall Street Journal

        "James J. O'Donnell's fine new book . . . is short but multilayered, erudite and dense." — Cleveland Plain-Dealer

        "[A] fascinating and insightful study of the pluralistic pagan gods. This book is a must read for everyone who is interested in either general history or the history of Christianity in particular." — Washington Book Review

        "Although [Pagans] is serious scholarship, it does not take itself too seriously. The result is an engaging view of antiquity few of us have seen. — Booklist

      • premium: True
      • source: Publisher's Weekly
      • content:

        January 19, 2015
        The early Christian movement began amid numerous other religions in the Hellenistic world, but the now-familiar story of the rise of Christianity very often leaves out the complex relationships between early Christians and these other religions. O’Donnell (Augustine) shines a light on that omission, in meticulous detail and through lively storytelling, animating the world of ancient religions, early Christianity’s place in that milieu, and the ways that the first Christians created a category of paganism to describe other religions. In the first and second centuries, Christians were the odd ones out: “if there are many gods, people who claim to believe in exactly one god, a god few had heard of... are, functionally speaking, atheists,” he writes. O’Donnell brilliantly chronicles the growing toleration of Christianity by the Roman Empire up through the fourth century, when it became the accepted religion of the empire. He convincingly demonstrates what many have known all along: paganism is a category that modern Christians invented to define themselves against other religions and to use, often, to justify persecution of those different from Christians. This is a must-read book.

      • premium: True
      • source: Library Journal
      • content:

        February 1, 2015

        O'Donnell (Georgetown Univ.; The Ruin of the Roman Empire) offers a view of the rise of Christianity from a unique perspective--that of the pagans whose traditional religions faded in popularity as monotheism took root. O'Donnell contends that "all [traditional] religion was local" and without a recorded history, since religion was so embedded in daily life. He notes that certain pagan practices, such as blood sacrifice, lost popularity and had all but vanished long before they were officially banned by Christian officials. While Emperor Constantine I converted to Christianity and gave imperial patronage to his chosen religion, allowing Christianity to expand significantly its numbers and reach, the concept of "Christianity" in opposition to "paganism" wasn't created until the fourth and fifth centuries CE, when Christian writings overdramatized the vanquishing of outdated, disparate paganism. During those centuries, Christianity provided a radically new idea of a religion that also constituted a single community of worshippers, cemented by the recorded texts that gave it history and consistency. VERDICT Though the rise of Christianity did not follow a simple path, the author presents this somewhat circuitous route through an engaging narrative. While clearly geared toward a general audience, O'Donnell's work is grounded in solid scholarly research. This book will appeal to the armchair historian and those with an interest in the Roman Empire, early Christianity, traditional religions, and religious history.--Crystal Goldman, Univ. of California, San Diego Lib.

        Copyright 2015 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

      • premium: True
      • source: Booklist
      • content:

        December 1, 2014
        In ancient Rome and much of Western Asia and Europe at that time, the existence of many gods was taken for granted. Shrines stood on street corners, and public ceremonies commonly invoked one deity or another. Political or military victory could result in the building of a grand temple in honor of the god who intervened in human affairs and ensured the successful outcome. Even intellectuals were believers. People were accepting of and respectful toward gods they didn't even know. But then something changed. A Jewish sect called the Christians made the audacious assertion that their god was the only god. Traditional religion became paganism, and Christianity eventually triumphed, though it took a century or two to get on message. O'Donnell's book is a work of history that tells an important story from the perspective of those for whom the label pagan would have no meaning. And although it is serious scholarship, it does not take itself too seriously. The result is an engaging view of antiquity few of us have seen.(Reprinted with permission of Booklist, copyright 2014, American Library Association.)

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