CfP for a Panel on “Religious Knowledge and Authoritative Texts”

We would like to draw your attention to a panel on “Religious Knowledge and Authoritative Texts in Judaic, Christian, Gnostic, Neoplatonist and Other Polytheistic Traditions” (1st century BCE-2nd century CE) to be held at the 14th Celtic Conference in Classics, in Coimbra, Portugal, on July 11-14th 2023. The panel seeks to bring ca. 10-15 scholars together to examine how ancient groups used authoritative texts and narratives to legitimize their knowledge – practices found in various forms of Judaism, Christianity, Gnosticism, Stoicism, Neoplatonism, and ‘pagan’ polytheism.

Possible topics and questions include (but are by no means limited to):

  • What types of interpretative practices were used to generate meaning in authoritative texts across different traditions (e.g. allegory, rationalization, euhemerism, exegesis)?
  • Were such creative interpretations an inevitable response to the evolution of a fixed canon, or are there meaningful differences between traditions that would necessitate an alternative analysis?
  • How was authenticity affirmed or contested through the use of authoritative texts, and through competition over the comparative merits of canons?
  • What role did political, social, and economic factors play in negotiating the legitimacy and authority of canons? How did subject or minority communities use and adapt their authoritative texts in the face of foreign cultural and political domination (esp. Greek and Roman)? Who wrote the rules of the games which evolved?
  • How did new ways of reading authoritative texts and the competition between canons shape the development of new religious ideas? How did the (de)contextualization of canonical texts affect their impact?
  • What opposing voices do we find in antiquity about interpretative practices? Do we find a developed conceptual opposition between historicizing and ahistorical readings of ancient texts?

Ancient authors and texts particularly relevant to the discussion include (but are by no means limited to): Philo, Paul, Heraclitus’ Homeric Problems, Josephus, Plutarch, Dio Chrysostom, the Gospels, New Testament Apocrypha, Seneca, Irenaeus, the Hermetic corpus, Tatian, Justin Martyr, Origen, Minucius Felix, Clement of Alexandria, Lucian, Aelius Aristides, Apuleius.

The panel will consist of a combination of invited speakers and speakers chosen from abstracts submitted in response to this call for papers. Scholars interested in presenting a paper (ca. 40 minutes) are asked to submit a 300-400 word abstract to the organizers by February 1, 2023. Papers are welcome in English, French, Portuguese, and German. 

For any questions, please contact Anthony Ellis (University of Bern, and/or Inger Kuin (University of Virginia, For the full CfP see the Pdf. General information about the conference is available here.

(pictures by ABR)