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Comment: Condition: Very good condition., Very good dust jacket. Binding: Hardcover. / Publisher: Free Press / Pub. Date: 2000 Attributes: 402 pp. / Stock#: 2064877 (FBA) * * *This item qualifies for FREE SHIPPING and Amazon Prime programs! * * *
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A World Full of Gods: The Strange Triumph of Christianity Hardcover – August 8, 2000

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Free Press (August 8, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743200101
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743200103
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1.2 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #531,915 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews Review

A World Full of Gods: The Strange Triumph of Christianity by Keith Hopkins is a rollicking work of revisionist history about Christianity's ascent as the dominant religion of the West. In its tour of Roman paganism, Judaism, Christianity, and Gnosticism, A World Full of Gods employs a range of techniques of description, analysis, and historical reportage. The first chapter is a report from two time-travelers visiting Pompeii just before the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius; soon after comes a description of the ascetic Jewish sect at Qumran that produced the Dead Sea Scrolls--in the form of a TV drama. Hopkins, a professor of ancient history at King's College, Cambridge, justifies his experimental style by asserting that "to reexperience the thoughts, feelings, practices, and images of religious life in the Roman empire, in which orthodox Christianity emerged in all its vibrant variety, we have to combine ancient perceptions, however partial, with modern understandings, however misleading." Rather than presenting a focused argument, A World Full of Gods offers immersion in a sensibility--a history of Christianity that has little interest in the historical Jesus and instead traces the influence of imagination on the growth of Christianity. Jesus, Hopkins argues, "is not just, nor even primarily, a historical person. Rather, like the sacred heroes of other great religions, he is a mirage, an image in believers' minds, shaped but not confined by the images projected in the canonical gospels." --Michael Joseph Gross

From Publishers 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 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Customer Reviews

Sometimes one may draw general conclusions at others instances may or may not be representative.
L. F Sherman
The lay reader will come away with an existential hermeneutic of history based on informed knowledge of the context of christian origins.
George A Sherman
In short, this is not an integrated work of scholarship designed to press a theological or historic point.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

33 of 35 people found the following review helpful By George A Sherman on December 1, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Some have criticized Hopkins' book for not being scholarly. If they mean by this that it does not bore the reader with yet another positivist history of early christianity, they are right. However, critics cannot fault the author for his research. The footnotes present factual evidence in the scholarly tradition to back up Hopkins' interpretation. This book is way overdue. It meticulously and creatively lays out the context of the christian origins. The lay reader will come away with an existential hermeneutic of history based on informed knowledge of the context of christian origins. This is the most important contribution of Hopkins' book. The author traces the role of episcopal christianity in establishing the 1)canon of scripture (necessitated by Marcion and then gnostic christians), 2)the chain of bishops(replacing reliance on Jewish scriptures for legitimacy), and 3) the rule of faith. This sequence was critical in creating the identity of that form of christianity that became a historical force to be reckoned with. The bishops forged a historical reality from the myth of Christ, thus institutionalizing the church under their control. The modern secular world has compartmentalized religion to time and place. The ancient world was not secular. Religious symbolism was literally "in your face" for the ancients. Hopkins does the interested modern a service by opening the door to the complex and syncretistic cultural world of the Roman Empire. In short this book provides a useful tool for appreciating, not merely gaining information, about the world, challenges, and contributions of christianity.
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25 of 27 people found the following review helpful By on January 20, 2002
Format: Paperback
Keith Hopkins is an internationally respected classicist who decided that he would do something different for his book on pagan religiousity the rise of Christianity. He would go out of his way to make his book more accessible to a popular audience and at the same time adapt some postmodern elements. So in his first chapter he introduces two time travellers who visit pre-Vesuvius Pompei who make them some properly footnoted comments on the culture and lifestyle of the region. Later they go to Egypt, look at the temples, the man seeks a love spell directed at the woman who isn't talking to him, then he is unfairly arrested and barely escapes before being tortured. At other points Hopkins has a TV interview of an aged Jewish sectarian, and later has an imaginary conversation between a Christian and his pagan colleagues. At the same time there are (fictional?) letters from other scholars which criticize Hopkins' prejudices.
The result is certainly interesting. We certainly get a sense of the public, vigorous and somewhat misogynist sexuality of the Romans. The account of the ascetiscism of the Dead Sea Scrolls Sect is certainly interesting. Hopkins' discussion of Christianity emphasizes the potential alternatives to the central doctrines that became Roman Catholicism and Orthodox Christianity. He then goes into considerable details about the world-views of Manicheanism and Gnosticism, with its own elaborate geneologies and cosmologies. Hopkins also emphasizes the strong tendencies towards acesticism within Christianity. "It is ideal that we should feel no desire," says one Christian intellectual. Hopkins goes into considerable detail about the Acts of Thomas, with its miracles and its emphasis on newly converted Christian wives refusing their pagan husbands.
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39 of 46 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 6, 2000
Format: Hardcover
The author, an esteemed university professor of history, takes an unorthodox approach with this book on the Late Antique/Early Christian period. The book reads almost like a novel, in that Hopkins sets up actual scenarios of people traveling back in time to witness for themselves what Rome was really like (they visit Pompeii in 76 A.D. - in enough time to escape Vesuvius). Other travelers visit other areas of the Roman Empire later in the first century and on into the fourth (i.e., Syria and Egypt). While the premise smacks of the new Michael Crichton novel envolving time travel, Hopkins does thoroughly footnote, and his bibliography indicates extensive study of the major scholars in the field. While this new approach may be problematic to some, it is fresh and opens up new ideas for further study. For instance, Hopkins recreates a Roman bath house, with obvious attention payed to the aftifacts that have been discovered and written accounts of life in Rome that have survived to the present day. There are some problems: passing by houses in Pompeii that display mosaics of dogs that say, in Latin, beware of the dog, Hopkins proposes that the dog, in reality, would be chained there as well. There is literally no way to know this for sure. While problematic in certain details, Hopkins should be commended for producing a vivid account of the period, a time in history that is already receiving a reassessment from scholars in many areas of research.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By kaioatey on December 13, 2001
Format: Paperback
This book is a collection of essays with early Christianity as a (tenuous) link between them. I liked KH accounts of Mani, the originator of Manicheaism, his many examples of early tensions between the Christians and the Jews and, especially, his accounts of the "feverish imagination of the Gnostics". The core belief of Gnostics is that inside every human there is a spark of divinity, put there from a supreme Divinity which is lodged in the high heavens of outer space. The divinity within each human can be awakened only through a process of contemplation and self-knowledge. It can also be accomplished with the assistance of a divine mediator, such as JC. Although a human instructor can sometimes help, more often than not interference by the "human" dogma can, according to the gnostics, be counterproductive. The gnostic approach to the "teachings of JC" is thus very different from the "catholic" doctrine, which has invested a lot of effort into suppressing individual quest for inner truth in order to establish a universal belief system (for some reason, the efforts by Augustine, Iraeneus, et al. to push a one to-be-accepted-by-all dogma reminded me of the birth of Communism). Hopkins' book is basically a deconstruction of that dogma. The basic idea is that contemporary Christianity is a theological mishmash selected to support the ideological and political interests of bishops during the early AD and today seems rather uncontroversial. The last chapter does a pretty good Job in textual analysis of the 4 canonical gospels and their contextualization into the writer's theological and ideological interests.Read more ›
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