Crucible of Faith: The Ancient Revolution That Made Our Modern Religious World
Author: Philip Jenkins
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The New Testament proclaims a mighty cosmic vision of Heaven and Hell, angels and Satan, the Messiah and the Apocalypse. Yet although these ideas have their roots in the Old Testament, those earlier books imagined a very different and usually more limited spiritual universe than we find in historic Judaism and Christianity. What led to such a radical transformation of religious thought in the centuries following the closing of the Hebrew Bible?
In Crucible of Faith, Philip Jenkins describes how the Judeo-Christian tradition we know today was born between 250-50 BCE, during the turbulent “Crucible Era”—a time when Jews grappled with overwhelming forces of Hellenization and globalization. As a result, Judaism produced new religious ideas that responded to a changing world. The revolutionary politics of the 160s BCE fostered an apocalyptic worldview where earthly struggles reveal a cosmic significance, a universe dominated by angels and demons. By the time of the fall of the Temple in 70 CE, concepts that might once have seemed bizarre became normalized—and thus passed on to Christianity and later Islam.
Drawing widely on contemporary sources from outside the canonical Old and New Testaments, Jenkins reveals an era of political violence and social upheaval that ultimately gave birth to entirely new ideas about religion, the afterlife, and the nature of God and Satan.
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