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Published online by Cambridge University Press: 21 March 2016
This essay seeks to present, in a nutshell, a number of reflections on the long trajectory of ancient Christianity, particularly in the East, from its beginnings until the coming of Islam. As is well known, the Islamic conquests transformed the Christian self-understanding in the East, on both sides of the border between Byzantium and the Caliphate. In the West, too, the consciousness of the new, powerful challenge to the Christian empire was never very far away. Hence the advent of Islam constitutes the first real challenge to the belief in the ecumenical destiny of Christianity.
I should like to thank Professor John Wolffe for his generous invitation to present this work in the form of a keynote lecture at the conference of the Ecclesiastical History Society held in Chichester in July 2013.
3 For Troeltsch’s main work on sociology of religion, see his The Social Teachings of the Christian Churches, transl. Wyon, Olive (Louisville, KY,1992; first publ. in German 1912 and in English 1931)Google Scholar. Weber’s concepts of charisma and routine were mainly developed in his The Theory of Social and Economic Organizations, transl. Henderson, A. M. and Parsons, Talcott (New York, 1947; first publ. in German 1921).Google Scholar
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18 What the anthropologist Dan Sperber, together with the psychologist Deirdre Wilson, has called the ‘epidemiology of representations’ might prove here a useful conception: Sperber, Dan, ‘Anthropology and Psychology: Towards an Epidemiology of Representations’, Man n.s. 20 (1984), 73—89.Google Scholar Sperber researches the ways in which microprocesses of cultural transmission affect the macro-structure of culture, its contents and its evolution. In other words, he asks how social phenomena related to psychological, mental phenomena. On our side, we should ask how both theologoumena and modes of religiosity are transformed in history: see G. G. Stroumsa, ‘Patterns of Rationalization in Late Antique Religion’, forthcoming.
19 For a grand and authoritative overview of the Islamic conquests, see Kennedy, Hugh N., The Great Arab Conquests: How the Spread of Islam Changed the World we live in (Philadelphia, PA, 2007).Google Scholar
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25 I assume here that any definition of religion would include a mixture of words and deeds, of myths and rituals.
26 Stroumsa, G. G., The End of Sacrifice: Religious Transformations in Late Antiquity (Chicago, IL, 2009)Google Scholar, first publ. as La fin du sacrifice: Mutations religieuses de l’antiquité tardive (Paris, 2005). For a succinct presentation of the book’s main theses, see my ‘The End of Sacrifice: Religious Mutations of Late Antiquity’, in Arnason, J. and Raaflaub, K., eds, The Roman Empire in Context: Historical and Comparative Perspectives (London, 2011), 134—47.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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30 On this, see Stroumsa,’Religious Dynamics’.
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