Scope: Both Judaism and early Christianity looked askance at "paganism," but great caution should be taken in assessing their polemical perspectives. Greco-Roman culture was permeated by religiosity of every sort. The basic understanding of the divine was polytheistic, and religious behavior in general both reflected and reinforced the cultural system called patronage. In addition to a variety of public ritual observances that helped shore up society and to the complex patterns of piety (and magic) that gave meaning to private lives, the period of the early empire saw a proliferation of more spectacular religious phenomena, including prophecy, healing, and initiation into mystery cults. Even some forms of philosophy took on a religious character.
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