Anna Lucia Furlan (KCL) - 2017-18 Students

Henotheism in Orphic sources Henotheism: origins, development and reception

The aim of my project is to analyse the theme of the divine uniqueness and unity which can be traced in the polytheistic structures of the Ancient Greek world, particularly in so-called ‘Orphism’, using a focused and systematic search for pertinent sources and examining its development in consecutive periods from archaic Greece through Hellenistic Judaism until the Christian era.

Some of the various and different sources ascribable or linked to Orphism present a divine figure which, emerging from the plurality of a polytheistic structure, acquires the status of a ‘one’ god (separate and complete). My work is a contribution to the field of research into (and debate about) the phenomenon which has been variously described as ‘henotheism’, ‘pagan monotheism’ or ‘theopantism’ in the specific case of Orphism.

Secondly, I intend to trace the development of this phenomenon in successive historical periods and environments. A perfect example of this is to be found in a poem known as Hieros Logos (also known as Testament of Orpheus), composed in Alexandria of Egypt in a Hellenistic Jewish context around the II century B.C. which imitates an ‘authentic’ Orphic hieros logos.

Finally, I intend to analyse the Christian reception of such sources, both authentic Orphic and pseudo-Orphic. In fact, many Christian authors mention the Orphic fragments seen above, and show different points of view and levels of appreciation.

I am therefore proposing to undertake a consistent and coherent study of the totality of such sources using a cognitive and historical-comparative approach, in order to shed light on the theme of the divine unity and uniqueness in Orphic texts and their reception.

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