Synopses & Reviews
Combining exacting scholarship with a dazzling flair for the dramas of the ancient world, Keith Hopkins takes us on a trip back in time to explore the emergence of Christianity in the Roman Empire. His provocative and exuberant account challenges our perceptions about what the religion was really like in its early stages, about Jesus, and about the way history is written. Hopkins brings alive the full cacophony of religious voices that vied for dominance in the Roman marketplace of ideas. He shows how Christianity took hold despite its internal schisms and multiple streams, and brings to the surface the roiling tensions this new "Jesus movement" set off among both the pagans and the Jews, as the riot of emerging traditions stole from and rejected, fought with and allied against each other in a whirlwind of competing ideologies.
The strange triumph of Christianity is a tale of struggle, courage, and religious obsession. It is also a story of fantastic innovations that have left an indelible mark on modern culture. From an illegal sect whose members were persecuted and killed, Christianity has grown to be one of the world's dominant religions. Yet, there were numerous early Christianities, rather than one monolithic version, and heretic Christians fought with each other as much as they did with the Romans. It was a group of dissenting offshoots from the original tradition that first created a Christian "bible" out of Paul's letters and Luke's Gospel, which ultimately became part of what we know as the New Testament. Hopkins controversially argues that in this tumultuous period, there were many Jesuses. The human Jesus of the early Gospels is quite different from the mystical Jesus of the Gospel of John, who again is different from the Jesus who teaches in the recently discovered Gospel of Thomas. One of the finest minds in classics plumbs these subtleties while delivering a riveting narrative that not only looks back but brings you there in vivid, living color.
Revolutionizing the way history is written, Hopkins intersperses conventional "objective" analysis with a TV drama about the Dead Sea Scrolls, the memoirs of two time-travelers sent back to Pompeii, and an invented correspondence between an ingenue Christian and his more sophisticated superior. This exceptionally original and exciting work of history enables readers to imagine themselves back in, and to sharpen their opinions about, a half-remembered world that was once full of harsh realities, dreams, demons, and gods.
Interweaving traditional narratives with "memoirs" of time travelers and invented debates and correspondence, a brilliant popularizer of history takes a bold new look at the origins of Christianity and the fierce battles surrounding Jesus and his followers. of illustrations.
Includes bibliographical references (p. -389) and indexes.
About the Author
Keith Hopkins is Professor of Ancient History at King's College, Cambridge, and a fellow of the British Academy. He has been a visiting professor at the University of Pennsylvania and the University of California at Berkeley and at Los Angeles, and a member of the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton. He lives in Cambridge, England.
Table of Contents
One A World Full of Gods
(Time travel in pagan Pompeii; the Roman context of Christianity)
Two Jews and Christians, or, How the Dead Sea Scrolls Were Found and Lost
(Narrative and drama in three scenes about Jews, Christians, history, and us)
Three The Christian Revolution
(Christian character and evolution: persecutors, martyrs, and bishops)
Four Jesus and His Twin Brother
(Varieties of early Christianity; the apocryphal New Testament)
Five Magic, Temple Tales, and Oppressive Power
(The time travelers continue: Egypt, Syria, and Ephesus)
Six Pagans vs. Christians vs. Jews
(Competing stories in a semi-intellectual discussion of differences)
Seven Recreating the Cosmos
(Creation in Jewish, Gnostic, and Manichean thought)
Eight Jesus and the New Testament, or, The Construction of a Sacred Hero
(Jesus in the gospels and after)
Selective Index of Proper Names