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v2.1 Reference

Hellenistic Mystery-Religions

Their Basic Ideas and Significance

At the turn of the twentieth century, a group of famed scholars at the University of Göttingen founded a movement that came to be known as the "History of Religions School." In their approach to Christian origins and early Christian belief about Jesus they emphasized the degree to which Christianity was a product of its time. Christians borrowed and adapted ideas already in wide circulation to craft their claims about Christ.

In his now classic Hellenistic Mystery-Religions (first published in 1910), Richard Reitzenstein seeks to establish the direct dependence of early Christianity on Hellenistic, Mandaean, and Iranian mythology and ritual. While written before the discoveries of Qumran and Nag Hammadi, Reitzenstein's knowledge of ancient texts still warrants careful reading. Even if one rejects his claim that the Apostle Paul was "the greatest of all Gnostics," Reitzenstein's rigorous attempt to root Christianity in its historical context and demonstrate the genetic development of religious belief and practice merits both commendation and careful attention.

About the Authors

Richard August Reitzenstein (1861-1931) was a German classical philologist and scholar of Ancient Greek religion, hermetism, and Gnosticism. He is described by Kurt Rudolph as "one of the most stimulating Gnostic scholars."


"[Reitzenstein's work] forms the handiest summary of religion in the Hellenistic world that we possess, and bears witness on every page to a close knowledge of this fascinating subject."—G. W. Butterworth, The Classical Review

"An intriguing composite portrait of Hellenistic piety."—Eugene V. Gallagher, The Classical World

"A mine of invaluable informationthe work of a great scholar who enjoys the very highest reputation."—M. Gaster, Folklore

9781481309561 : hellenistic-mystery-religions-reitzenstein-steely
Paperback / softback
July 25, 2018
$49.95 USD

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