Thursday, January 22, 2015

Religion, the fabric of Roman culture

Because “religion” in antiquity was not a category separable from the rest of life—as modern usage generally implies—this difference in the perception of divine identity amounts to vastly more than a mere difference in a discrete sphere of faith and ritual (that corresponds, e.g., to the subject matter of a particular academic discipline). As both classic and more recent studies have shown, to take ancient religion seriously in its various dimensions is to see that it “ran through all [of life’s] phases.” [Nock, Conversion, 272] Ancient religion, that is to say, is a pattern of practices and beliefs inextricably interwoven with the fabric of ancient culture. Religion is not, however, just part of this fabric, ultimately passive and controlled by other more basic influences such as politics and economics, for example. Rather, religion is also constitutive of culture; it helps to construct the cultural fabric itself. Religion is, therefore, in the last resort “indistinguishable from culture.” [Young, Biblical Exegesis, 50]—World Upside Down, pages 50-51

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