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Religions of the Hellenistic-Roman Age
Antonia Tripolitis

080284913X Retail Price: $16.00
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Format: Paperback, 165pp.
ISBN: 080284913X
Publisher: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.
Pub. Date: November 2001

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This engaging volume traces the development of the principal Western religions and their philosophical alternatives from the beginnings of Alexander the Great's empire in 331 B.C.E. to the emergence of the Christian world in the fourth century C.E.

Antonia Tripolitis examines the rise of the Hellenistic-Roman world and presents a comprehensive overview of its beliefs and practices, their sociopsychological and historical development, general patterns of thought, and the reasons for their success or failure. Her work examines Mithraism, Hellenistic Judaism, Christianity, and Gnosticism as well as the philosophies of Stoicism, Epicureanism, and Middle Platonism. It also includes a review of the principal mystery cults, Demeter at Eleusis, Dionysus, Isis, and Cybele or Magna Mater.

The book opens with a survey of Alexander's cosmopolitan vision, how it altered the cultural and sociopolitical systems of the time, and society's religious response to the changes brought about by Alexander's universalism. Tripolitis outlines the origins of Mithraism, its mystery rites, and its migration throughout the Mediterranean world.

A significant perspective is the book's unified view of Hellenistic (Diaspora) Judaism and its contribution to the larger Jewish community and to the development of early Christianity. Tripolitis focuses on the dialogue between the early Christians and their opponents and its influence on Christianity's evolution as an organization with its own philosophy and tradition. She also investigates the social and political factors for Gnosticism's origin and development, its psychological appeal, and the reasons for its disappearance at the end of the third century.

Based on the most reliable, up-to-date research on the ancient world, Religions of the Hellenistic-Roman Age is ideally suited for classes in early Christianity, late antiquity, and related topics taught in departments of history, religion, and classics.


An excellent volume. The scope is comprehensive, the treatment is detailed and clear, and the individual sections are succinct, incisive, and authoritative. It is especially welcome to have informed introductions to such diverse phenomena as the Greek mystery cults and philosophical schools, the Jewish synagogue and Jewish wisdom and apocalyptic thought, and the origins, theological development, and eventual success of Christianity all treated clearly, fully, and comprehensively in one book — making it ideal for students studying early Christianity or Late Antiquity in general. As a parachutist's view of the religious landscape of antiquity, this book is able to include all the major religious traditions and see the converging and diverging patterns in the ways they responded to the new world established by Alexander the Great. Highly recommended.
—Ronald F. Hock


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About the Author

Antonνa Tripolitis is professor of Late Antiquity and Director of the Modern Greek Studies Program at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey.

Table of Contents

I.The Hellenistic-Roman World9
A.Historical Survey9
B.The Mystery Cults16
C.Religious Philosophies36
A.The Myth and Origins of Mithras47
B.Mysteries of Mithras51
C.Influence and Development in the Hellenistic-Roman Age56
D.Mithraism's Decline and Disaappearance58
III.Hellenistic Judaism61
A.Historical Survey of Jewish Diaspora (597 to 331 B.C.E.)61
B.Hellenization of the Jewish Diaspora64
C.Philo of Alexandria77
D.The Development of the Synagogue85
A.Primitive Christianity91
B.Christianity's Encounter with Its Social World97
C.The Development of Christianity into a Systematic Religious Philosophy104
D.Success of Christianity115
A.Nature of Gnosticism119
B.Main Tenets122
C.Principal Gnostic Systems125
D.Gnosticism's Initial Appeal and Its Disappearance141

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