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Religions of the Hellenistic-Roman Age Paperback – October 30, 2001


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 175 pages
  • Publisher: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. (October 30, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 080284913X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802849137
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #928,657 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Charles S. Houser VINE VOICE on December 8, 2001
Format: Paperback
The text of this very readable, no-nonsense, high-level view of all the key philosophies and religions that competed with Judaism and Christianity at the beginning of the Common Era runs to a mere 149 pages. I liked that Tripolitis reduced matters to the mere essentials. I've struggled with the articles in the Anchor Bible Dictionary on many of these religions and have found them difficult to follow and perplexing...and they never seem to give one a sense of how dominant any of them were during their time. Tripolitis provides ample footnotes and a bibliography for the skeptics who want to challenge her generalizations (of which there are many) if they find them too sweeping. One I might want to follow up on myself is her statement that the concept of the individual began in the era she covers (roughly from 331 B.C.E. to the 4th century C.E.). She attributes the success of mystery religions and religions promising personal salvation to this rise of individualism.
Tripolitis covers the great mystery cults (Demeter, Dionysus, Isis, and Cybele), religious philosophies (Stoicism, Epicureanism, and Middle Platonism), Mithraism, Hellenistic Judaism, Christianity, and Gnosticism (both the Christian and non-Christian forms). I appreciated that Tripolitis acknowledges when information is lacking (as with the mystery cults) and that she resists the temptation to fill in the gaps with speculative psychology. Similarly, she is careful not to try to identify clear relationships between the many different Gnostic sects that emerged in the 2nd century C.E. The ultimate and lasting success of Christianity she attributes to more than just Constantine's favor. It succeeded, she asserts, because of its universalism, ecclesiastical organization, standardized canon of Scripture, and credal formulas. In sum, this is a handy book that you'll want to keep near by as you wrestle with weightier and more opinionated tomes.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Alvaro Lewis on May 19, 2003
Format: Paperback
I would like to add to the two reviews written earlier, only that this work makes available for introductory students an intelligent skimming of the surface of religions of the Hellenistic-Roman period. This period description is crucial as it refers not exclusively to the traditional span of the Hellenistic Age from 323 B.C.E. to 31 B.C.E., but from the death of Alexander the Great to the fourth century of the common era. This recalibration nearly doubles the space under review and as a result allows or requires that most of the book addresses the early Jewish diaspora and the early Christian religion.
The author handles each religion or way of life relatively well, clarifying with polish and style the major characteristics, rituals and contexts of the belief systems. New ideas are not the order of business here, instead this concise summary fills a need.
Approximately thirty pages cover all of the "mystery cults" (Isis, Magna Mater, Dionysus, Demeter), with a separate chapter given to Mithraism. What I mean to suggest is that the gross majority of the work summarizes the information available about the beginnings of religions that remain, however changed, not those earlier religions of the Mediterranean that have disappeared. For me the lack of attention to the religions of the Greek and Roman landscapes proved a disappointment, but the book is of exemplary quality as it is for what it is.
A final note: the maps are truly outstanding.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Midwest Book Review on January 11, 2002
Format: Paperback
Religions Of The Hellenistic-Roman Age by Antonia Tripolitis (Professor of Late Antiquity at Rutgers University, New Brunswick, New Jersey) is an impressive, informative, scholarly overview and detailed introduction to the principal Western religions and philosophical extensions from the reign of Alexander the Great to the emerging Christian world in the fourth century. Among the many beliefs and practices explored are Mithraism, Hellenistic Judaism, Christianity, Gnosticism, and the philosophies of Stoicism, Epicureanism, Middle Platoism, and mystery cults such as those of Demeter at Eleusis, Dionysus, Isis, and Magna Mater. Thoroughly researched and even-handedly written, Religions Of The Hellenistic-Roman Age makes for fascinating reading and is a superbly presented and welcome addition to religious studies reference collections and reading lists.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By calmly on April 19, 2008
Format: Paperback
An excellent introduction, concise but with lots of details.

Enough about key mystery cults (of Demeter, Dionysius, Isis, Cybele, and especially Mithra), religious philosophies (Stoicism, Epicureanism, and Middle Platonism) and Hellenic Platonism to put early Christianity into good perspective.

The 7-page summary reinforces the full (but itself only 142 page) presentation. If Tripolitis did not know this subject so well, I see no way she could have written such a fine summary (nor the entire book).

A 9-page bibliography, organized to follow the book's chapters, may help you to follow up if you want to plunge down into any topic that book has introduced.
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