Moderator: William Arnal - University of Regina, Department of Religious Studies
John Kloppenborg - University of Toronto, Study of Religion
David Frankfurter - Boston University, Department of Religion
“Comparing Christ Groups and Graeco-Roman Associations”
The goal of this session is to illustrate the importance of comparison for reframing the study of early Christ cults in Greece and Macedonia. Arguing that “associations are good to think with” (paraphrasing Lévi-Strauss), I will suggest that setting early Christ groups, about which we know relatively little, alongside Greek and Roman cultic associations and occupational guilds, about which we know much more, helps both to raise heuristic questions about Christ groups, and to ‘normalize’ them as historical phenomena.
Suggested Readings for John Kloppenborg
Arnal, William E. and Russell T. McCutcheon. 2013. “The Origins of Christianity Within and Without “Religion” In The Sacred is the Profane: The Political Nature of Religion, 134–70, 203–14. New York: Oxford University Press.
Ascough, Richard S. 2014. Re-Describing the Thessalonian’s “Mission” in Light of Greco-Roman Associations. NTS 60, 1:61–82.
Bendlin, Andreas. 2011. Associations, Funerals, Socialityand Roman Law The Collegium of Diana and Antinous in Lanuvium (CIL 14.2112) Reconsidered. In Aposteldekret und antikes Vereinswesen WUNT 280, edited by Markus Öhler, 207–96. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck.
Kloppenborg, John S. 2013. Membership Practices in Pauline Christ Groups. Early Christianity 4, no. 2:183–215.
Primary Texts (Attached below)
IG II2 2347 = GRA I 12 (Salamis, ca.300 BCE)
IG II2 1368 = GRA I 51 (Athens, 164/65 CE)
EKM 27 (Beroea, before 212 CE)
“Comparison and the Conceptualization of Ancient Religion”
I will rehearse some of my major points about the necessity and inevitability of comparison from my 2012 Paris paper, then move to critique Carolyn Bynum’s recent History of Religions essay and recent problems in developing effective comparative categories. I will conclude with a discussion of spirit possession in early Christianity that will link with Paul Johnson’s presentation and demonstrate the crucial recourse to comparison.
Suggested Readings for David Frankfurter
Bynum, Carolyn Walker. 2014. “Avoiding the Tyranny of Morphology: Or, Why Compare?” History of Religions, 53, 4: 341-368
Frankfurter, David. 2010. “Where the Spirits Dwell: Possession, Christianization, and Saint-Shrines Late Antiquity,” Harvard Theological Review 103, 1, 27-46.
Smith, J. Z. 1990. Drudgery Divine: On the Comparison of Early Christianities and the Religions of Late Antiquity, Chicago University of Chicago Press.
______ 2000. “The ‘End’ of Comparison: Redescription and Rectification,” In A Magic Still Dwells: Comparative Religion in the Postmodern Age, edited by Kimberly C. Patton and Benjamin C. Ray, 237-41. Berkeley: University of California Press.