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Christians and Their Many Identities in Late Antiquity, North Africa, 200-450 CE$
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Éric Rebillard

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780801451423

Published to Cornell Scholarship Online: August 2016

DOI: 10.7591/cornell/9780801451423.001.0001

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Setting the Stage

Setting the Stage

Carthage at the End of the Second Century

(p.9) Chapter 1 Setting the Stage
Christians and Their Many Identities in Late Antiquity, North Africa, 200-450 CE

Éric Rebillard

Cornell University Press

This chapter focuses on Tertullian and the evidence on Carthage at the turn of the third century. It is commonly noted that Tertullian's depiction of Christians differs according to whether a given text is targeted to a pagan audience or to Christians. For example, in the Apology Christians are presented as unexceptional and present in all social groups throughout the city, distinct only in their exclusive religious allegiance to the Christian God, whereas in On Idolatry every manner of social interaction is described as a possible source of pollution for Christians. Not only must such a reading of On Idolatry be strongly nuanced, but Tertullian's prescriptions themselves reveal that Christians did not belong to a “separate world.” Attention to Tertullian's very selective focus on Christianness and to the dialogic nature of his treatises shows that Christianness mattered only intermittently in Christians' everyday life. Not only did Christians share a number of identities with non-Christians, but Christians and non-Christians alike did not necessarily or consistently regard their religious allegiance as more significant than other identities.

Keywords:   Tertullian, Carthage, Christians, Christianess, non-Christians, religious identities, religious allegiance

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