- Paperback: 432 pages
- Publisher: Plume; Reprint edition (July 1, 2001)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0452282616
- ISBN-13: 978-0452282612
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.2 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 18 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,138,272 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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A World Full of Gods: The Strange Triumph of Christianity Paperback – July 1, 2001
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“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.”—Los Angeles Times
“A fascinating experiment, to be read carefully, critically, and thoughtfully.”—Library Journal
“Substantial information about the pagan context within which Christianity emerged, and Roman attitudes toward the new faith's practitioners. Juxtaposing the campaign against the Manichaeanism associated with Zoroastrianism in Persia, and similar campaigns associated with Christianity in Rome, helps spur readers new to the subject, in particular, to critical reflection on the interrelations of politics and religion, especially those involved in the strange triumph of Hopkins' title—the establishment of Christianity.”—Booklist
About 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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Like the many undifferentiated laundry detergents on the market, there were many claimed Messiahs in the pre & post-Jesus time frame. Many claimed to be of virgin birth, many raised people from the dead and many produced miracles of one kind or another. In the intense competition, each claimed to get your soul whiter or remove the stain of sin better than the other brands. And hundreds of advocates wrote uplifting advertisements about them because "...it was very much easier to tell stories about miracles than to perform them," as any copyrighter infatuated with his product will tell you.
"These three developments of the late second century--the closed canon of sacred texts, the apostolic succession of bishops, and the rule of faith--were fundamental steps toward the supremacy of the Great church." Note no messy requirement for verification ever clouds this rosy future because "...one of the main functions of belief is to allow humans to hold incompatible views simultaneously." A laundry soap that fights the toughest stains yet is gentle on your clothes.
So the question Hopkins asks is not whether Jesus walked on water, but why, among all those competing products, Christianity survived in the West under intense product competition while most of the other cults ended up in the dustbin of history. Brilliantly, he does not have to judge any aspect of Christianity as true or false--only how the product was "marketed"! The followers of Jesus "were from the beginning just one among many of the religious sects struggling for recognition [to] establish a niche appeal in what had always previously been a fractured and volatile market." "...coded statements of belief, rather than complex rules of practice, were the passport to full membership." In other words, once you believed your soap cleaned whiter than anyone else's, what need to conduct elaborate tests?
There are aspects of the work I did not care for such as the made-up conversations to illustrate various aspects of Christian daily life. So I just skipped them to seek out the many, many nuggets of erudition describing just how the product of Christianity succeeded when others failed. It was marketing at its finest: Once the basic premises were set up no invisible hand was required. Growth was assured by the very nature of the promises and rules of the market---advertisements that cannot be falsified, leaders who can do no wrong, and the requirement not to have to practice good behavior, but only to fervently advocate good behavior. Selling soap never got easier.