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Ancient World Seminar: Steve Mason (Aberdeen), 'Ancient Social-Political Categories and the Christian Invention of "Judaism"

When:Mo 20-01-2014 16:15 - 17:30
Where:room 130, Faculty of Theology and Religious Studies
Poster design: Marleen Termeer
Poster design: Marleen Termeer

Scholarship on ancient Judaism and Christian origins continues to assume that it is dealing with two ancient ‘religions’. Discussion has focused largely on questions of legal status (licit or illicit?), missionary nature (Was Judaism a missionary religion?), variety (Judaisms and Christianities?), and interactions ('the parting[s] of the ways'). In this lecture I propose that thinking within the terms of discourse available in the first century should give a different complexion to our historical investigations. The classical paradigm featured the categories of ethnos, polis, sacrificial cult, and voluntary association (including philosophy). Ascendant Christianity had the motive, means, and opportunity to reconstruct this long-established langue and displace those central categories. Christians transformed the meaning of religio and reduced both classical and Judaean civilisations to -isms. The implications for our understanding of Judaean life in the Roman world, ‘religious conversion’, and ancient Judaean-Christian relations are significant.

Professor Steve Mason is a leading specialist on the Jewish historian Flavius Josephus, Jewish religion of the early Roman period, and Jewish cultural interactions with Greek and Roman culture. He studied Judaism and Early Christianity at McMaster University (Hamilton, Canada). After his Ph.D. (University of St. Michael's College, 1986) and two year-long research stays at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the University of Tübingen, he worked at the Memorial University of Newfoundland (Religious Studies), York University in Toronto (Humanities, Classical Studies, Religious Studies, and finally [Ancient] History), and The Pennsylvania State University (Classics and Ancient Mediterranean Studies) . Since July 2011 he holds the Kirby Laing Chair of New Testament Exegesis at the University of Aberdeen. Last September he received the Dirk Smilde Fellowship, enabling him to stay at the Qumran Institute in Groningen from January through May 2014.