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Religious Dissent in Late Antiquity, 350-450$
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Maijastina Kahlos

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9780190067250

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2019

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780190067250.001.0001

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Otherness outside: Making pagans

Otherness outside: Making pagans

(p.92) 7 Otherness outside: Making pagans
Religious Dissent in Late Antiquity, 350-450

Maijastina Kahlos

Oxford University Press

The concept of ‘pagans’ was used by ancient Christian writers to refer to religious others. ‘Pagans’ is a relational concept and it only exists in relation to the concept of ‘Christians’. Its development illustrates the evolving Christian self-consciousness. In the Christian construction of paganism, a wide variety of Greek, Roman, and other cults, beliefs, and practices were grouped together. References to pagans and pagan beliefs and practices cannot be taken at face value. The ‘pagans’ in Christian sources had different functions, and often several overlapping functions. Rhetorical, literary, or theological pagans served in Christian self-perception as the mirrors for being Christian, and flesh-and-blood individuals are quite removed from these phantoms. The pagan label, or defamation by association with paganism, was one of the most frequently employed weapons against ecclesiastical or political opponents. Ecclesiastical writers could also refer to real individuals in factual everyday situations by following the literary conventions.

Keywords:   paganism, pagans, Christians, Christian self-consciousness, self-perception, pagan label, other, religious other, otherness

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