THE OMPHALOS AND THE CROSS

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9780865547834: THE OMPHALOS AND THE CROSS

Two powerful symbols dominated the world of classical antiquity: the omphalos ("the navel," marking the supposed center of the universe) and the cross. One symbolized Apollonian religion. The other stood for the emerging force of Christianity. They clashed. They influenced each other. They became entwined. In the end the Church Triumphant adopted ways that were clearly indebted to a pagan heritage.

In The Omphalos and the Cross, Paul Ciholas shows how the religious climate of antiquity forced Christians to grapple with Apollonian religion and its hold over citizens of the Roman Empire. Every effort was made by the early church to convince Christians that the welfare of all required that they be good citizens and respect Roman authority. Yet Christian faith compelled them to oppose what they would like to have supported. In a post-Constantine cultural and religious settings, Christian theology was marked by a dialectical tension in which the spiritual could no longer be freed from the secular or the eternal from the temporal.

The Omphalos and the Cross offers a fresh look at the cultural environment of early Christianity. Interdisciplinary in nature, this work establishes a background for Christianity that not only reaches back to the Old Testament but also to the lengthy development of Greco-Roman religious and philosophical traditions that determined part of the path the early church had to follow to stay alive and prosper.

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Paul Ciholas
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