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Did the early Christians believe their myths? Like most ancient—and modern—people, early Christians made efforts to present their myths in the most believable ways.
In this eye-opening work, M. David Litwa explores how and why what later became the four canonical gospels take on a historical cast that remains vitally important for many Christians today. Offering an in-depth comparison with other Greco-Roman stories that have been shaped to seem like history, Litwa shows how the evangelists responded to the pressures of Greco-Roman literary culture by using well-known historiographical tropes such as the mention of famous rulers and kings, geographical notices, the introduction of eyewitnesses, vivid presentation, alternative reports, and so on. In this way, the evangelists deliberately shaped myths about Jesus into historical discourse to maximize their believability for ancient audiences.
“In this book Litwa introduces the category of “mythic historiography” and shows that it is a compelling description of what the Gospels are. He rightly argues that these narratives make truth claims about individual events. At the same time, many of the events cannot be accepted in our culture generally as historical fact. The qualifier “mythic” grasps this cultural situation while indicating the deep existential importance of the Gospels that engages many readers.”—Adela Yarbro Collins, Yale Divinity School
“Litwa offers a philosophically sophisticated yet immanently accessible explanation of the relationship between history and myth in the early Christian gospels. He provides a creative contribution to the question of gospel genre, for which the central takeaway is that collapse of myth and history in the Four Gospels procures a protective benefit: should the interest in myth fade, the narrative’s history will carry these texts until, by whatever force, a mythic desire rekindles.”—Clare K. Rothschild, author of Paul in Athens
“In this remarkably clear and learned work, David Litwa shows himself once more to be one of the best scholars working today in the intertextual terrain that lies between Greco-Roman literature and the New Testament.” —William Hutton, College of William & Mary
Finally gathered under one cover are the scattered fragments and testimonies regarding Hermes Thrice Great that complete Copenhaver’s 1992 translation of the Hermetica. Contained within are the 29 fragments from Stobaeus (including the famous Kore Kosmou), the Oxford and Vienna fragments, an expanded selection of fragments from various authors (including Zosimus of Panopolis, Augustine, and Albert the Great), and testimonies about Hermes from 38 authors (including Cicero, Pseudo-Manetho, the Emperor Julian, Al-Kindī, Michael Psellus, the Emerald Tablet, and Nicholas of Cusa). All translations are accompanied by introductions and notes which cite sources for further reading. These Hermetic texts will appeal to a broad array of readers interested in western esotericism including scholars of Egyptology, the New Testament, the Classical World, Byzantium, medieval Islam, the Latin Middle Ages, and the Renaissance.
This book is not just for scholars, but for any reader interested in western esoteric lore from antiquity to the Middle Ages. Those interested in ancient Egypt, philosophy, magic, astrology, medicine, theology, talismans, gems, amulets, divination, theosophy, and theurgy will profit from this work. Hermes Thrice Great had a truly global impact, making his home in Egyptian, Greek, Roman, Arabic, and medieval European traditions. How and why Hermes made such a great impression in the Renaissance can only be understood through the history of reception—Hellenic, Christian, and Muslim—traced in this book.
Self-deification in Early Jewish and Christian Mythmaking
- Sustained, critical (and non-moralizing) attention to a neglected yet contested topic
- Rigorous analysis between figures not often compared (e.g., Jesus and Simon of Samaria)
- In-depth comparison of a variety of texts from the Hebrew Bible, New Testament, Apocrypha and Gnostic literature
- See further: https://global.oup.com/academic/product/desiring-divinity-9780190467166?cc=us&lang=en&#
A reliable, readable translation for scholars and students
The Refutation of All Heresies (ca. 225 CE) is a treasure-trove of ancient philosophy, astrology, medicine, magic, Gnostic thought, numerology, heresiography, ecclesial politics, and early Christian studies in general. Offered here for the first time in almost a century is a full English translation, along with a newly-edited Greek text, extensive notes, and a thorough introduction.
- A full English translation with extensive notes
- Newly edited Greek text that avoids the pitfalls of the most recent edition
- A thorough-going introduction that addresses the questions of authorship, date, and audience, as well as the purpose of the book, its organization, method, and importance for Gnostic studies