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A World Full Of Gods: Pagans, Jews and Christians in the Roman Empire [Paperback]

Keith Hopkins
3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)

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Book Description

6 July 2000
First published in 1999, Hopkins explains why Christianity triumphed during the Roman Empire and challenges our perceptions about what religion was really like in its early stages. The author also argues that there were many Jesuses, as shown by the different ways in which he is portrayed in the Gospels.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Phoenix; New edition edition (6 July 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0753810654
  • ISBN-13: 978-0753810651
  • Product Dimensions: 19.4 x 12.6 x 3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 291,056 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Amazon Review

A World Full of Gods: Pagans, Jews and Christians in the Roman Empire 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 travellers 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 re-experience 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

Book Description

A history of the world in which Christianity emerged by a brilliant populariser of ancient history --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Well worth a read 2 April 2002
By A Customer
This book is fascinating in the way it offers, to a non specialist reader, an insight into the way the bible and modern Christianity was formed. The quotations from 'missing' biblical texts and the descriptions of so-called herectical beliefs are all clearly explained. The approach the book takes is both a strength and a weakness. The author seeks (and largley succeeds) in conveying the ideas and beliefs of a highly disperate group of people. but because of this we do not get very much about the historical and archealogical context. I'd also have liked more on some more of the pagan cults, particualrly Mithraism. I recommend that this book is read alongside a reasonably comrpehnsive (and unbiased) book about the late Roman Empire (for example the real reason why Constantine converted to Christianity is deeply interesting). Colin: from Brighton
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining and thought-provoking 2 Feb 2000
Maybe most enjoyable about this book is its variety of approach. In each separate chapter, Hopkins examines a new aspect of life and religion in the ancient world, and each time, finds a new way of presenting his ideas. So, in one chapter, we read an account of two present day time-travellers visiting Pompeii, in another, a thinly-veiled Jeremy Paxman interviews a Christian fanatic for TV. The result is both entertaining and thought-provoking, in that, as well as presenting a cogent and provocative thesis on the early church, Hopkins also questions how we look at, understand and interpret history. This is no dull, academic read, but a spirited account of ancient christian history, and a playful look at historical methodology. All the "facts" and research are there, but they are presented in a new and revealing light. It's a great piece of scholarship. And good fun.
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A Discordant View 23 Feb 2001
By A Customer
I have to disagree with many of the comments from the other reviewers. Although this book may be original in its approach it fails to deliver. I found it patchy and difficult to read. Some chapters, particularly the early chapters, are easy to read. However, as the book goes on it becomes increasingly difficult to understand. You really need some prior knowledge of the subject. Towards the end I found the exchange of letters between the academics almost excruciating to get through. I did manage to finish the book but only with a great deal of effort.
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