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Actualities: Priests and Prophets

March 21, 2014

66206318In the last time, the religious personae of the Roman communities are very popular among the leading researchers of Roman religion.  The priests and magii, the “reformers” and “makers” of the religion (as Joachim Wach said) are not only collected in waste catalogs and prosopographical works (priests of Rome, Pannonia, Dacia, Noricum especially) but also analyzed (see Richard Gordon’s article on the role of the magicians or the book edited by Federico Santangelo).  The most recent work is the book edited by Beate Dignas, Robert Parker and  Guy Stroumsa, entitled “Priests and prohpets among pagans, jews and Christians appeared last year.

Short description of the book:

The emperor Julian pointed out that the duties of priesthood were better understood among ‘the impious Galileans’ (i.e. Christians) than among his pagan contemporaries. Like the emperor, the essays in this volume look in both directions. Its pages are populated by very diverse figures: Plutarch, Aelius Aristides, Alexander of Abonouteichos, Daniel the Stylite, Gregory of Nazianzus, Shenoute of Atripe, Mani, Muhammad, and a host of anonymous Greek and Roman priests, prophets, and diviners. The priests of second temple Judaism are considered too. Both in the Greco-Roman and the early Christian worlds the neat division between priests and prophets proves hard to sustain. But in terms of fame and influence a strong contrast emerges between Greco-Roman and Judeo-Christian prophets; this is why it is only among Jews and Christians that ‘false prophets’ are feared. Two recurrent preoccupations are the relation of priests and prophets to secular power, and the priest/prophet not as reality but as idea, an imagined figure. Leading scholars of the religions of antiquity come together in this wide-ranging and innovative volume”.

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