SMC203Y1 Lecture Notes - Greco-Roman Mysteries, Christian Mortalism, Polytheism

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17 Nov 2011
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Lecture 3
Augustus Caesar-ruler of roman Empire & chief priest
AC referred asDivi luli Filius (son of the divine Julius)
Coins during Jesus’ time had that on them “son of god”
Augustus is doing this not only to make himself & his uncle an idol but so that the
Roman empire would be considered divine
A.C. also given the title God from God, Lord, Redeemer, liberator & saviour of the
world—before Jesus
Pagan Religion-ritual sacrifice = important.
-Pluralism-gods & goddesses, deities, cults, etc.
Mystery Religion-
School of academic thought tried to show that Christianity was influenced by mystery
As Rome conquered new territory, mystery religions were discovered
e.g. Mithras—this is of Persian origin—cult brought in by pompei’s army.
Cult groups were usually small, exclusively male, sacred meals, initiation, progress in
moving up in the ranks within the religion
These elements of inition, small meetings, is really common in many different religions
so scholars now don’t think they had as much of an influence as they thought
Greco philosophical .. of Roman world:
Various popular schools of philosophy popular mainly among the elite and upper classes.
Philosophy was very much a way of life-like a religion
School were founded around a revered teacher.
These philosophical school were critical of pagan religion, polytheism. Among these
schools, we find notions of monotheism.
Main differnce between philosophical schools and Christianity is that philosophical god
is impersonal.
Plato (429-34 bc)
There’s a notion of a creator and the other gods are lesser manifestations of the great
creator god.
So there is a notion of an eternal, unchanging god.
In recognizing that there is this god, he recognizes that there is an attachment between
humans and god—the immortal soul
For plato there is a perfect, transcendent, spiritual realm and the realm here on earth
(theory of the forms)
Human beings are on some level part of the material world and the perfect immaterial
Aristotle-his influence felt more in the middle ages in influencing Christian thought
Zeno (335-263)
Stoics= most popular philosophical school in rome
Founded by Zeno
Stoics and Christians will come to have common concerns
Christianity borrowed words like spirit, logos, etc.
Also share common concernspersistent evil, need for constant self-examination, denial
of worlds values, striving to be better, to overcome temptations
Maccabean revolt
Jews get religious independence but have to give up sacrifice in the name of the emperor
as a sign of loyalty
2110 BC Abraham
1444 BC Moses
Pentateuch-Genesis, Exodus. Numbers, Leviticus, Deuteronomy
David 1010-970
Under David, the Jewish people were able to conquer their lands and essentially establish
a society in which everyone worshipped Yahweh.
Eventually David’s kingdom is divided into Israel and Juda. So Jews lose their land and
are subjugated to foreign occupancy
Babylonian…temple destroyed
Eventually able to rebuild the temple under Persian occupancy but then the Greeks will
take the land from the Persians and there will be increasing Hellenistic influence on
Jewish culture. Culminating with Antiochus Epiphanes—erected an image of zeus in the
templeMaccabean Revolt.
There were different branches of Judaism
5 major Jewish groups:
Essenes/Dead Sea Sectarians (may or may not be the same group)
Followers of Jesus
Zealots ( but this group is really not a particular religious group but they’re united by they
hatred for Rome and desire to raise arms against Rome).
Urban elite 3%
Merchants, farmers… 7%
Majority 90% peasants
Very large population that is destitute