Drunk on new wine : Dionysian transformation and nascent Christianity


This is a thesis about a pivotal transition in the development of Western Civilization. The seed of Christianity that would eventually grow to dominate all religions of the West was sewn during a fertile time of Hellenism, in which many Greco-Roman citizens were seeking a new spiritual depth. This led to the extreme popularity of cults and mystery-religions that focused on esoteric, personal and experiential knowledge of the divine. The study will examine one of these major cults in particular, namely that of Dionysus, in order to paint a clearer picture of how the Christian faith formed in coexistence with this cult. One cannot overlook Judaism, and it is often believed that Christianity is almost solely indebted to the Jewish tradition. Furthermore, the belief is held by many, that the Christian rituals practiced in antiquity were either clearly unique or rooted in Jewish ritual. This has unfortunately led to a trend in New Testament study that generally overlooks the vital importance and influence of the pagan religions during the Hellenistic-Roman age. In fact, some of the beliefs and practices of these mystery cults (which also happen to pre-date Christianity) were so close to those of the early church that Justin Martyr could find no other explanation except that they were inspired by demons. This leaves most modern readers wanting, and demands further examination.

Due to their Dionysian tendencies, the study will be dedicated to Pauline Churches in particular and the spirituality associated with them. Paul, an ecstatic mystic himself, presents a Christian vision that seems to synthesize concepts from both contemporary mystery cults and Judaism. This thesis is committed to creating a deeper understanding of the Hellenized cultural milieu that the Christian movement came out of.


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Thesis Completion





Evans, Douglas K.


Bachelor of Arts (B.A.)


College of Arts and Humanities

Degree Program



Arts and Humanities -- Dissertations, Academic;Dissertations, Academic -- Arts and Humanities







Access Status

Open Access

Length of Campus-only Access


Document Type

Honors in the Major Thesis

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