At the Temple Gates: The Religion of Freelance Experts in the Roman Empire
Heidi Wendt, At the Temple Gates: The Religion of Freelance Experts in the Roman Empire, Oxford University Press, New York, 2016.
This book examines evidence for varieties of self-authorized or “freelance” religious experts in the first two centuries of the Roman Empire. Whereas the figures in question tend to be studied separately on the basis of selective characteristics of their practices, this book argues that all such experts, irrespective of differences in the content of their programs, participated in a highly competitive form of religious activity with common field dynamics. The first part of the book presents evidence for the expansion and diversification of this phenomenon in the early imperial period, with a particular focus on historical conditions that promoted these developments. It then explores dimensions of foreignness and intellectualism that were prominent in the activities of freelance experts, including those of some Judeans. The second part of the book situates Paul and, then, second-century Christian rivals within this context and redescribes their practices in terms that are consistent with those of specialists considered in the preceding chapters. The text argues that freelance experts contributed appreciably to broader religious transformations occurring in the early imperial period, a time when many new forms of religion are first attested. The approach outlined in the book cuts across such problematic scholarly categories as Judaism, Christianity, mystery cults, astrology, magic, and philosophy.
See also: Book Review – Ancient Jew Review
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