A World Full of Gods: The Strange Triumph of Christianity

A World Full of Gods: The Strange Triumph of Christianity

by Keith Hopkins
     
 

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In this provocative, irresistibly entertaining book, Keith Hopkins takes readers back in time to explore the roots of Christianity in ancient Rome. Combining exacting scholarship with dazzling invention, Hopkins challenges our perceptions about religion, the historical Jesus, and the way history is written. He puts us in touch with what he calls "empathetic wonder"

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Overview

In this provocative, irresistibly entertaining book, Keith Hopkins takes readers back in time to explore the roots of Christianity in ancient Rome. Combining exacting scholarship with dazzling invention, Hopkins challenges our perceptions about religion, the historical Jesus, and the way history is written. He puts us in touch with what he calls "empathetic wonder"-imagining what Romans, pagans, Jews, and Christians thought, felt, experienced, and believed-by employing a series of engaging literary devices. These include a TV drama about the Dead Sea Scrolls; the first-person testimony of a pair of time-travelers to Pompeii; a meditation on Jesus' apocryphal twin brother; and an unusual letter on God, demons, and angels.

Editorial Reviews

Los Angeles Times
Evokes the sights and sounds of the ancient world with daring and imagination... .An intellectual tour-de-force that challenges us to see the history of Christianity through the eyes of those who actually lived it.
Washington Post Book World
... delightful romp through the oddities of Roman religious experience.
New York Times Book Review
Imaginative ... gripping ... the world of antiquity comes remarkably alive.
London Review of Books
Richly readable and thought-provoking... . It is not enough for Hopkins to tell you about the ancient world, he wants you to be there ... an achievement.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Judging by sober historical criteria, Hopkins fails to provide a convincing explanation of why Christianity defeated its rivals among the mystery cults, Gnostics and Hellenized Jews in Roman antiquity. Yet this is nevertheless a magnificent, rollicking failure, one that has readers laughing out loud in one paragraph and feeling dizzy in the next, struck by an insight so powerful that it demands reconsideration of what seemed secure knowledge just moments before. Hopkins is a Cambridge classicist and historian, but here he breaks every rule of historiography (except the need for copious endnotes). He opens with a pair of time travelers poking around ancient Pompeii, remarking on everything from the all-too-public toilets to the astonishingly libidinous artwork. Later, Hopkins has a television crew interviewing a survivor of the Qumran sect that produced the Dead Sea Scrolls. Throughout, he includes invented letters from academics offering criticism of the work as it unfolds. In the end, however, the book is less than the sum of its parts. Readers learn much about Roman religiosity and the fluid conceptions of Jesus in the first three Christian centuries, but will arrive at the book's end still lacking an answer to the question with which Hopkins began: Why did this sect prevail? The view from the top is disappointing, but it remains an exhilarating climb. (Aug.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.|
Library Journal
In this somewhat daring experiment, Hopkins (ancient history, Cambridge Univ.; Conquerors and Slaves) attempts a new way of presenting the history of early Christianity. Believing that history must always be a subtle mixture of imagination and critical analysis, he juxtaposes fiction, scholarly analysis, informal "friendly letter" responses by other scholars, and carefully footnoted corrections of mistakes committed by his fictional characters. This makes for an unusual narrative; more is required of readers than in "normal" scholarly works or fiction if they are to follow his combination of "empathetic wonder, knowledge, pseudo-objective analysis, ignorance, competing assumptions, and disagreements." Many will consider this amalgam quite effective, but others will find it simply disconcerting. Hopkins makes a real effort to explicate the inevitable ambiguities and biases of historical research--including his own. At the same time, he elucidates Christianity's Jewish and pagan roots. This is a fascinating experiment, to be read carefully, critically, and thoughtfully. Recommended for public and academic libraries.--Eugene O. Bowser, Univ. of Northern Colorado, Greeley Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.\
Oden
For all the fancifulness, humor and good (and bad) sex in these time travels, the portraits we receive are based on careful and wide-ranging research, and they are as helpful an introduction into the eras portrayed as we have . . .
New York Times Book Review

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780452282612
Publisher:
Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
07/01/2001
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
432
Sales rank:
674,442
Product dimensions:
6.03(w) x 8.96(h) x 1.08(d)

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What People are saying about this

Seth Schwartz
Authoritative in content, innovative in form and witty and irreverent in style.
—Seth Schwartz, Jewish Theological Seminary of America

Meet the Author

Keith Hopkins is a professor of ancient history at King's College, Cambridge, and a fellow of the British Academy.

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