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Durham e-Theses
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'The Gods of the Nations are Idols' (Ps. 96:5): Paganism and Idolatry in Near Eastern Christianity

NICHOLS, SEBASTIAN,TOBY (2014) 'The Gods of the Nations are Idols' (Ps. 96:5): Paganism and Idolatry in Near Eastern Christianity. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.



This thesis will explore the presentation in Christian literature of gentile religious life in the Roman Near East in the first few centuries AD. It will do so by performing a close study of three sources – the Syriac Oration of Meliton the Philosopher, the Syriac translation of the Apology of Aristides, and the Greek Address to the Greeks of Tatian. It will compare their presentation of a number of areas of gentile religious life – focussing particularly on iconolatry, sacrifice, and morality – and attempt to build a coherent picture of Christian attitudes to these areas. It will then compare these attitudes with a variety of non-Christian evidence: the majority of this will be literary sources, and in particular Lucian of Samosata, but will also include epigraphic evidence from the region. Other Latin and Greek sources will be compared when applicable, but the focus will remain on religious life in the Roman Near East. In the process, this dissertation will not only determine whether it is possible to talk about a single Christian ‘attitude’ towards gentile religious life in the area, but also develop a more detailed picture of the perception of that religious life by its gentile participants.
This dissertation will also help to improve our understanding of the relationship between Christians and their gentile neighbours in the Roman Near East. In particular, it will explore the role that Christian literature played in the development of hostility towards the cult in this period. It will conclude by exploring the reasons for this hostility, and placing Christian literary attitudes in their proper context, by demonstrating that Christian literature, and the attitudes that it promotes, could have had a significant impact on their interaction with gentiles, and that this impact has largely been overlooked in scholarship on the development of Christianity.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Keywords:Christianity Paganism Near East Roman religion Syriac
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Arts and Humanities > Classics and Ancient History, Department of
Thesis Date:2014
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:19 May 2014 15:23

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