Drudgery Divine

On the Comparison of Early Christianities

and the Religions of Late Antiquity

Jonathan Z. Z. Smith, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1990


In this major theoretical and methodological statement on the history of religions, Jonathan Z. Smith shows how convert apologetic agendas can dictate the course of comparative religious studies. As his example, Smith reviews four centuries of scholarship comparing early Christianities with religions of late Antiquity (especially the so-called mystery cults) and shows how this scholarship has been based upon an underlying Protestant-Catholic polemic. The result is a devastating critique of traditional New Testament scholarship, a redescription of early Christianities as religious traditions amenable to comparison, and a milestone in Smith’s controversial approach to comparative religious studies.

(Text from the publisher)

Table of contents

On the origin of origins

On comparison

On comparing words

On compating stories

On comparing settings




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