‘Secret Knowledge’: A History of Christian Gnosticism in the Ancient World

Gnostics promoted concepts of radical dualism that govern the universe. Introduction Gnosticism is the belief that human beings contain a piece of God (the highest good or a divine spark) within themselves, which has fallen from the immaterial world into the bodies of humans. All physical matter is subject to decay, rotting, and death. Those bodies and[…]

666: Christianity, Revelation, and Gematria in Ancient Rome

Why the biblical reference in Revelation should be considered in its first-century context. By Dr. Eric M. Vanden EykelAssociate Professor of ReligionFerrum College Introduction The mark of the beast – a cryptic mark in Revelation which indicates allegiance to Satan – has been invoked by fringe Christian figures throughout the pandemic in reference to what[…]

Religion and State: The Influence of the Tokugawa in Japan, 1600-1868

Buddhism, Shintoism, and Neo-Confucianism and how the Tokugawa state used these religions to their advantage. The Tokugawa period in Japan began in 1600 and lasted until 1868, and was an era of peace throughout the realm. Before this time, Japan had experienced years of warfare between the different provinces, with various daimyo, or lords, fighting[…]

The Curious Whispers of Shakespeare’s Musings on Religion

Scholars have scoured the works of the great playwright for clues about his faith. A scholar of theology and Shakespeare’s works says it isn’t as simple as that. By Dr. Anthony D. BakerProfessor of Systematic TheologySeminary of the Southwest Introduction William Shakespeare’s role as a religious guide is not an obvious one. While the work[…]

The Role of Magic in the Development of Early Christianity

Although many modern people tend to see ‘magic’ and ‘religion’ as separate, magic was actually integral to the development of Christianity. By Dr. Shaily Shashikant PatelAssistant Professor of Early ChristianityVirginia Tech Introduction Americans are fascinated by magic. TV shows like “WandaVision” and “The Witcher,” books like the Harry Potter series, plus comics, movies and games about[…]

Religious Beliefs and Superstition in Colonial America

The New England Colonies each insisted their interpretation of Christianity was correct and others were wrong Introduction Religion and superstition went hand in hand in Colonial America, and one’s belief in the first confirmed the validity of the second. The Anglican settlers who established Jamestown Colony of Virginia in 1607 and the Puritans who settled the New England Colonies 1620-1630 were Protestant[…]

Religion in Colonial America

Interpretations of the Bible and practices differed between one settlement or colony and another. Introduction Religion in Colonial America was dominated by Christianity although Judaism was practiced in small communities after 1654. Christian denominations included Anglicans, Baptists, Catholics, Congregationalists, German Pietists, Lutherans, Methodists, and Quakers among others. The New England Colonies had been founded by separatists – Anglicans who advocated separation from[…]

“Shall the Fundamentalists Win?”: Harry Emerson Fosdick Defending Liberal Protestantism in 1922

He saw the history of Christianity as one of development, progress, and gradual change as a modernist in the Fundamentalist-Modernist controversy. Introduction Harry Emerson Fosdick (May 24, 1878 – October 5, 1969) was an American pastor. Fosdick became a central figure in the Fundamentalist–Modernist controversy within American Protestantism in the 1920s and 1930s and was one of the[…]

A History of Liberal Christianity since the 19th Century and Its Impact in the United States

In the context of theology, the word liberal does not refer to political liberalism, and it should be distinguished from progressive Christianity. Introduction Liberal Christianity, also known as liberal theology, is a movement that interprets and reforms Christian teaching by taking into consideration modern knowledge, science and ethics. It emphasizes the importance of reason and experience over doctrinal[…]

Ancient and Medieval Dance, It’s Death during the Christian Reformation, and It’s Revival

Despite opposition from the early church, dance was an integral part of Christian devotion for many centuries before falling out of favor. By Dr. Kathryn DickasonVisiting Scholar, School of ReligionDornsife College of Letters, Arts and SciencesUniversity of Southern California Introduction In the PBS documentary series “The Black Church: This Is Our Story, This Is Our[…]

Sacred Sites and Rituals in the Ancient Celtic Religion

The religious leaders in Celtic communities were the druids. Introduction In the religion of the ancient Celts who lived in Iron Age Europe from 700 BCE to 400 CE, certain natural sites like springs, river sources, and groves were held as sacred. These places, as well as some urban sites, often had purpose-built temples, shrines,[…]

A History of Ancient Celtic Religion

Besides gods, animals were also important to the Celts and were perhaps themselves regarded as sacred. Introduction The polytheistic religion of the ancient Celts in Iron Age Europe remains obscure for lack of written records, but archaeology and accounts by classical authors help us to piece together a number of the key gods, sacred sites, and cult practices. Variations existed across regions and the[…]

A History of the Christian Gospels

The gospels were produced from c.70 CE to perhaps 100 CE. Introduction The New Testament contains four gospels attributed to Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. The four gospels are not biographies of Jesus, nor are they history as we define it. What each gospel attempted to do was write a theological explanation for the events[…]

Heimdall: Guardian of Asgard in Medieval Norse Mythology

The main literary source for Heimdall’s role in Norse mythology as a forefather would be the poem Rigsthula. By Irena Manea Introduction Heimdall is a mysterious deity of Norse mythology whose main attribute refers to guarding the realm of the gods, Asgard, from his high fortress called Himinbjörg found at the top of Bifröst, the rainbow bridge. He has the[…]

Biblical Accounts of the Immigrant Experience in Ancient Rome

Looking at how foreigners were treated under the Roman Empire during the time of Jesus. By Rodolfo Galvan Estrada IIIAdjunct Assistant Professor of the New TestamentLabi College Biblical Stories The truth is, the Bible has many stories of migration, beginning in the book of Genesis with Adam and Eve migrating from the Garden of Eden and concluding[…]

Christianity as the State Church of the Late Roman Empire

The legacy of the idea of a universal church carries on, directly or indirectly, in today’s Catholic Church and Eastern Orthodox Church, as well as in others. Introduction The state church of the Roman Empire refers to the Nicene church associated with Roman emperors after the Edict of Thessalonica in 380 by Theodosius I which recognized Nicene Christianity as the Roman Empire’s state religion.[1][2] Most historians refer to[…]

Theodosius I: Founder of Christianity as the Official State Religion in Ancient Rome

Theodosius is best known for making Christianity the state religion of the Roman Empire. Introduction Theodosius I (11 January 347 – 17 January 395), also called Theodosius the Great, was Roman emperor from 379 to 395. He is best known for making Christianity the state religion of the Roman Empire and great architecture projects in Constantinople. After a military career and[…]

Ancient Christianity’s Effect on Society and Gender Roles

All ancient communities had law codes or rules that dictated both public and private behavior. Introduction Christianity began as a sect of Judaism in Judea in the 1st century CE and spread to the cities of the Eastern Roman Empire and beyond. In these cities, non-Jews, Gentiles, wanted to join the movement, and these Gentile-Christians[…]

Saint Gerard of Cenad and the Intellectual Disputes of the Year 1000

Exploring the doctrinal positions of the Church in the context of the Western intellectual disputes around the year 1000. Introduction This paper aims to situate St. Gerard of Cenad’s position in apocalyptic millenarianism as differentia specifica in genus proximum of the doctrinal position of the Church, subscribing to the thesis that Gerard’s position constituted an[…]

Ebenezer Baptist Church: A Seat of Black Power in Atlanta for Generations

It was the spiritual home to MLK and to the generations that shaped the vision of the late civil rights leader,. Introduction The high-stakes U.S. Senate race in Georgia catapulted the historic Ebenezer Baptist Church back into the spotlight. For 135 years, the church played a vital role in the fight against racism and the[…]

Philadelphia’s Black Churches: Overcoming Strife since the 18th Century

Black churches have long been an important pillar in Philadelphia’s African American community. Introduction The Black Church is an institution that was forged in crises. Through slavery, Reconstruction, Jim Crow segregation and the civil rights era, the network of places of worship serving traditionally Black congregations has seen its fair share of traumatic events. In[…]

Secular Learning and Sacred Purpose in a Medieval Carolingian Manuscript

This quadrivium miniature has often been cited as evidence for the prescience of the Carolingian educational reforms. Introduction Of the early medieval copies of Boethius’s De institutione arithmetica, by far the most sumptuous is a ninth-century manuscript that is presently housed in the Staatsbibliothek in Bamberg.[2] (Figure 1 above) Unlike other versions of the treatise,[3][…]

The Most Popular Gods and Goddesses of Ancient China

The gods were believed to have created the world and human beings, and they kept the world and surrounding universe functioning. By Emily Mark Introduction There were over 200 gods and goddesses worshipped throughout ancient China, but if one were to count every deity or spirit, the number would be over 1,000. Each town, village,[…]

The Mỹ Sơn Hindu Temple Complex

The Mỹ Sơn sanctuary was built by the Chams, who once dominated what is today southern Vietnam (Champa). A Sacred Sanctuary of the Chams Before the formation of modern-day countries in Southeast Asia, there were ancient kingdoms with magnificent temples. One location stands out—the Mỹ Sơn sanctuary, home of the Hindu gods. Today this is[…]

The Medieval History of Passover: Libel, Conspiracy, and Hope for Freedom

In medieval Europe, Passover was a touchpoint for conspiracy theories, violence, and libel against Jews. Introduction The Seder celebrates the memory of Exodus, when a people bound to labour in Egypt for centuries gained its freedom. So profound was this experience that survivors and future generations were instructed to retell the story annually to their[…]

Ancient Rome’s Response to the Spread of Christianity

Examining the growth of the new religion from persecution of early Christians to Constantine’s conversion. Introduction During the 1st century CE, a sect of Jews in Jerusalem claimed that their teacher, Jesus of Nazareth, was the ‘messiah’ of Israel. ‘Messiah’ meant ‘anointed one’, or someone chosen by the God of Israel to lead when God[…]

The Origin of ‘Satan’ in Ancient and Medieval Literature and Theology

The concept of Satan emerged over time and in phases. Introduction Satan, or the Devil, is one of the best-known characters in the Western traditions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Surprisingly, this entity was a late-comer in the ancient world. Satan, as a totally evil being, is nowhere to be found in the Jewish Bible.[…]

‘Pontifex Maximus’ and the Soul of Ancient Rome

A distinctly religious office under the early Roman Republic, it gradually became politicized. Introduction The pontifex maximus (Latin, “greatest priest”[1][2][3]) was the chief high priest of the College of Pontiffs (Collegium Pontificum) in ancient Rome. This was the most important position in the ancient Roman religion, open only to patricians until 254 BC, when a plebeian[…]

The College of Pontiffs: Priests in Ancient Rome

Membership in the various colleges of priests was usually an honor offered to members of politically powerful or wealthy families. Introduction The College of Pontiffs was a body of the ancient Roman state whose members were the highest-ranking priests of the state religion. The college consisted of the Pontifex Maximus and the other pontifices, the[…]