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Against the Christians

The Rise of Early Anti-Christian Polemic- Second Printing


Jeffrey W. Hargis

Against the Christians examines the anti-Christian polemic works of Celsus, Porphyry, and Julian the Apostate. The first book to analyze the phenomenon of early anti-Christian literature in depth, it chooses the critics' objection to Christian exclusivism as its starting point. The evolution in the polemic, from a rhetoric of radical distinction to one of «rhetorical assimilation,» reveals a sophisticated attempt to expose contradictions and inconsistencies within Christianity, while at the same time reflecting the process of fusion between Christianity and the culture of late antiquity.


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1. Defining the Christian "Other": From Persecution to Polemic 1


1 Defining the Christian "Other": From Persecution to Polemic The fact that Christianity emerged within the cultural milieu of Ro- man Hellenism is no longer a matter of debate in the scholarship of early Christianity or of late antiquity. Gone are the days in which scholars viewed the advance of Christianity as a fledgling faith wres- tling its way into power from the outside, replacing in the process a dying Hellenism or a corrupt paganism while introducing a radi- cally new world view into the Mediterranean basin. Instead, a set of continuities is now assumed in the study of early Christianity, con- tinuity both with Judaism (particularly in the realm of New Testament studies) and with Grceco-Roman culture. The patristic conception of Christians as a "third race," distinct from both Jews and pagans, has been effectively replaced by the consensus that Christianity evolved more naturally from its Jewish and Hellenistic ancestry, a domestic model rather than a religious import. The even- tual triumph of Christianity was at least partially a result of, not simply an alternative to, developments occurring within pagan cul- ture and religion from the first to the fourth centuries CE. The growth of the church and the Christianization of the Roman Empire did not constitute a foreign invasion, but rather the emergence of a natu- rally-born child to maturity. The implications of this emergence are still being worked out. One of the earlier aspects of Christianity to be identified as a child of Hellenism was its conscious...

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