SUPERVISED BY: Dr. Ted Kaizer
TITLE: Persecuting Paganism: Christian Attitudes to Gentile Religious Life in the Near East.
My research project is focussing on the emergence of Christianity in the Near East, and specifically the way in which Christian authors like Aristides, Meliton and Tatian portrayed the religious world in which they attempted to assert their 'true' beliefs. Comparison with more mainstream authors, such as Varro, Seneca, Cicero, Philo of Byblos and Lucian will allow me to compare the way that pagans thought about their religious attitudes with the interpretation of hostile Christian authors determined to undermine it. This can be demonstrated by displaying the dangerously misleading understanding of key concepts which is apparent throughout early Christian literature. Although usually asserted that Graeco-Roman religion was a matter of knowledge rather than faith (as Ando 2008) I hope to show that this attitude caused considerable offence among the pagan community, and that this led to the rapid increase in hostility in the subsequent centuries. As such, I am specifically interested in apologetic, and other texts which deal with an external pagan audience, rather than internal, hortatory texts such as the New Testament letters - although the attitude of these towards idolatry in particular reveals a great deal about Christian approaches to paganism.