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Faithful NarrativesHistorians, Religion, and the Challenge of Objectivity$
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Andrea Sterk and Nina Caputo

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780801451829

Published to Cornell Scholarship Online: August 2016

DOI: 10.7591/cornell/9780801451829.001.0001

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Pagan Challenge, Christian Response

Pagan Challenge, Christian Response

Emperor Julian and Gregory of Nazianzus as Paradigms of Interreligious Discourse

(p.15) Chapter 1 Pagan Challenge, Christian Response
Faithful Narratives

Susanna Elm

Cornell University Press

This chapter re-evaluates perceived boundaries between Christian and pagan culture in late antiquity. It traces a prolonged struggle by members of a relatively homogeneous elite—consisting of theologians and Greco-Roman philosophers—for control over normative and canonical texts. There exists a secular–religious dichotomy that affects the shape of the historical discipline. The chapter shows how “secular” historians study the life and writings of the pagan Roman emperor Julian; while “church” historians focus on the leading Christian theologians of the same period, rarely bringing such figures into dialogue even though they were direct contemporaries who knew and interacted with each other. This artificial barrier, along with the philosophical interventions of Enlightenment thinkers and the political consequences of the French and American revolutions, led to the separation of church and state.

Keywords:   Christianity, pagan culture, Greco-Roman philosophers, secular–religious dichotomy, Emperor Julian, Christian theologians, Enlightenment thinkers

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