De Religione: How Christianity Became a Religion
Following the findings of contemporary theological and religious stud- ies research, the present interdisciplinary study attempts to trace the process of adopting the originally Roman category of “religion” for referring to Christianity. The text notes, in particular, the socio-political role of religio in classical culture and the transformations that the relationship of the society of classical antiquity and the Christian community went through in the first centuries AD, especially the first Christian attempts at communication with the late classical Latin culture and the administrative structures of the Roman Empire. The adaptation of the category is traced back to Tertullian, whose conception appears to have fundamentally influenced later generations of Christians; the second part of the study therefore devotes considerable attention to his works. It is here that justified use of the category of “religion” in connection with the Christian tradition is first encountered, as an expression encompassing the doctrinal and philosophical, as well as ethical and liturgical aspects of Christianity. Analysis of the text of Tertullian’s Apologeticum shows how the apologetic literature of the second century AD conveys the Christian message in an exemplary and highly elaborate form, which serves the dual purpose of providing an adequate definition of the Christian religious identity and preserving it, as well as making it available to recipients of diverse contemporary cultural environments.
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