Rethinking the Gods: Philosophical Readings of Religion in the Post-Hellenistic Period

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Cambridge University Press, Dec 1, 2011 - Literary Criticism
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Ancient philosophers had always been fascinated by religion. From the first century BC onwards the traditionally hostile attitude of Greek and Roman philosophy was abandoned in favour of the view that religion was a source of philosophical knowledge. This book studies that change, not from the usual perspective of the history of religion, but as part of the wider tendency of Post-Hellenistic philosophy to open up to external, non-philosophical sources of knowledge and authority. It situates two key themes, ancient wisdom and cosmic hierarchy, in the context of Post-Hellenistic philosophy and traces their reconfigurations in contemporary literature and in the polemic between Jews, Christians and pagans. Overall, Post-Hellenistic philosophy displayed a relatively high degree of unity in its ideas on religion, which should not be reduced to a preparation for Neoplatonism.

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Part I Ancient wisdom
Part II Cosmic hierarchy
challenging the discourse

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About the author (2011)

Peter van Nuffelen is Professor of History at Universiteit Gent, Belgium. His interests cover Hellenistic history, ancient historiography, ancient religion and philosophy and late antique history and literature, including in oriental languages. He has published widely in these fields, including the monograph Un héritage de paix et de piété. Étude sur les Histoires ecclésiastiques de Socrate et de Sozomène (2004) and the edited volumes Faces of Hellenism (2009), Monotheism in Late Antiquity Between Christians and Pagans (2010, with S. Mitchell) and One God. Pagan Monotheism in the Roman Empire (First–Fourth Centuries AD) (2010, with S. Mitchell). He is currently working on projects on late antique historiography and on ritual communication in Late Antiquity.

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