Christian Divination in Late Antiquity
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Publisher: Amsterdam University Press
Number of Pages: 288
Width: 15.6 cm
Height: 23.4 cm
In Late Antiquity, people commonly sought to acquire hidden knowledge about the past, the present, and the future, using a variety of methods. While Christians acknowledged that these methods could work effectively, in theory they were not allowed to make use of them. In practice, they behaved in diverse ways. Some probably renounced any hope of learning about the future. Others resorted to old practices regardless of the consequences. A third option was to construct divinatory methods that were effective yet religiously tolerable. This book is devoted to the study of such practices and their practitioners, and provides answers to essential questions concerning Christian divination. How did it develop? How closely were Christian methods related to older, traditional practices? Who used them and in which situations? Who offered oracular services? And how were they perceived by clerics, intellectuals, and common people?
"I recommend this book not just to scholars of late antique religion, but more widely to students and researchers of medieval Christianity and medieval prognostication. [...] For students of the middle ages the book is a welcome reminder that many of the medieval practices that used to be and sometimes still are discussed as "pagan survivals" were in fact already a part of Christian culture in late antiquity and were the result of active elaboration of Christian ideas to answer the kinds of needs ancient divination had covered." - Jesse Keskiaho, The Medieval Review, 22.01.16 (2021) "Robert Wisniewski has written a beautiful and very interesting book about Christian divination in Late Antiquity (4th-6th century)." - Mark Beumer, Kleio-Historia, 13 (2021) "The volume is a well-organized and detailed treatment of Christian divination in the fourth through the eighth centuries. The evidence is fascinating and compelling. Wisniewski balances examination of the widespread practices themselves with how Christian officials sometimes condemned them." - Jennifer Eyl, Journal of Early Christian Studies, Vol. 29, No. 3 "[...] the book is a wonderful resource for the Christian divinatory practices that clerical authors, if not explicitly recommended, 'neither were...so eager to condemn' (15)." - Yuliya Minets, Church History, Vol. 91, Iss. 1