Related Strangers: Jews and Christians, 70-170 C.E.

Related Strangers: Jews and Christians, 70-170 C.E.

Related Strangers: Jews and Christians, 70-170 C.E.

Related Strangers: Jews and Christians, 70-170 C.E.

Excerpt

The first question that is likely to occur to anyone glancing at this book is, "Why 70–170 CE?" 1 should explain. There are several studies of the Christian view of Judaism in the New Testament period, some of them reaching to, but not beyond, 135 CE. Then there is the magnificent book by M. Simon, which covers the period 135-425 CE It has deservedly held the field for some forty-five years, and its major thesis—that Judaism thrived throughout this period—has been repeatedly confirmed. So, why should we give particular attention to the overlapping century? Partly because it has been neglected. When scholars address the issue of Jewish-Christian relations, it is not uncommon for them to pass rapidly from the evidence of the New Testament to that of the third or fourth century, where John Chrysostom's Antioch is a favorite place to linger. They do so, I suspect, because in both cases there appears more to discuss—so that studies that focus on the earlier period are weighted heavily toward the New Testament, and Simon's account rests primarily on evidence from the third century and beyond. Yet, it can be argued, the intervening period is the crucial era for JewishChristian relations. Once we move beyond Justin and Melito, their relationship settles into a fairly predictable pattern. Tertullian and others seem to do little more than sum up in rather wooden fashion what has already been fought out and decided. And from this point on the increasingly dominant rabbinic movement goes its own independent way. This is not to say that things became rigidly defined, and John Chrysostom (ah!) is sufficient witness to this. Yet there remained in the century we shall study a degree of variety and complexity in Jewish-Christian interaction that was to become increasingly rare. In addition, some of the best literature on this period comes in the form of discrete studies or collected essays. My aim is to provide a more sustained treatment than is currently available.

A case could be made for including Jesus and Paul. 1 have not done so for several reasons. One is that it would have made a long book even longer, and in the interests of my own sanity and the patience of the reader 1 have not included them. Another is that they have been examined so thoroughly and scrupulously that there seems little new that one could say, except to side with one or another of the finely discriminating readings that are . . .

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