C. Antikkens blivende betydning


Faculty of Theology

Theme 1: The discursive fight over religious texts in antiquity

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C. Lasting importance of antiquity

The theme focuses on cultural patterns introduced and developed in antiquity, and which still manifest themselves in a modern context:


Development of the conception of groups cutting across ethnic or geographic boundaries, with special emphasis on the emergence of philosophies and religions basically independent of ethnic and geographic boundaries and thus claiming to have universal validity.

Written tradition

The role of the written tradition in establishing, defining and consolidating such philosophical schools and religious movements, with special emphasis on the emergence of normative religious texts which are claimed to have universal validity – not least the formation of the Christian canon and symbols.

Textual interpretation

Textual fixation of traditions in antiquity resulted in a gap or dissonance between the concepts of the reader and his/her contemporaries and the concepts of the often mythical narrative of an ancient text. To justify the meaningfulness of such texts, textual-semantic considerations were used and hermeneutic strategies (e.g., allegory) developed. Such considerations became the root of all later textual theory.

Separation of religion and politics

To the Greeks and Romans in antiquity, the relationship between religion and politics was beyond dispute. The gods preserved the state if they were rightfully honoured. The apologists, on the other hand, argued that the Christians were politically loyal even though they did not take part in the official cult. The apologists also drew up a programme of legally secured freedom of religion. This programme and the separation of religion and politics was not implemented at any time in antiquity but influenced the history of later European thought.

Religion and ethics

The Graeco-Roman religious conceptions and myths were traditionally not closely related to ethics. In ancient philosophical and Christian thought, however, the ties between religion and ethics became as close and natural as those that traditionally existed between religion and politics. The connection between religion and ethics still plays a role in modern society.

Law and normative religious texts

On the borderline among politics, ethics and religion is the question about the relationship between law and normative religious texts. This question was debated in antiquity and is still relevant.

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Revised 2010.03.04