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Jewish-Christian Conversation in Fourth-Century Persian Mesopotamia


A Reconstructed Conversation


Was there an active Jewish-Christian polemic in fourth-century Persia? Aphrahat’s Demonstrations, a fourth-century adversus Judaeos text, clearly indicates that fourth-century Persian Christians were interested in the debate. Is there evidence of this polemic in the rabbinic literature? Despite the lack of a comparable Jewish or rabbinic adversus Christianos literature, there is evidence, both from Aphrahat and the Rabbis that this polemic was not one sided.
Publisher: Gorgias Press LLC
Availability: In stock
SKU (ISBN): 978-1-4632-0156-2
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Publication Status: In Print

Series: Judaism in Context 12
Publication Date: Dec 13,2011
Interior Color: Black
Trim Size: 6 x 9
Page Count: 198
Language: English
ISBN: 978-1-4632-0156-2
$168.61
$101.17

Was there an active Jewish-Christian polemic in fourth-century Persia, and if so, what were the issues debated? Aphrahat’s Demonstrations, a fourth-century adversus Judaeos text, clearly indicates that fourth-century Persian Christians were interested in the debate. Is there evidence of this polemic in the rabbinic literature? Despite the lack of a comparable Jewish or rabbinic adversus Christianos literature, there is evidence, both from Aphrahat and the Rabbis that this polemic was not one sided. This book attempts to fill in both sides to the polemic.

The observance of Passover, the Sabbath, dietary laws and circumcision, as well as the future redemption, the ingathering, the election of Israel, the Messiah, and virginity are among the topics Aphrahat addresses and to which the Rabbis “respond.”

Establishing the existence of fourth-century Jewish-Christian polemical conversations not only illuminates the areas of conflict between Jews and Christians in Persian Mesopotamia, but it also determines how the external political situation influenced these confrontations. In addition it allows one to reflect on the nature of rabbinic reactions to Christianity, as well as the literary, linguistic and texual resources that the Rabbis and the leaders of the Syriac Christian communities shared in common.

Was there an active Jewish-Christian polemic in fourth-century Persia, and if so, what were the issues debated? Aphrahat’s Demonstrations, a fourth-century adversus Judaeos text, clearly indicates that fourth-century Persian Christians were interested in the debate. Is there evidence of this polemic in the rabbinic literature? Despite the lack of a comparable Jewish or rabbinic adversus Christianos literature, there is evidence, both from Aphrahat and the Rabbis that this polemic was not one sided. This book attempts to fill in both sides to the polemic.

The observance of Passover, the Sabbath, dietary laws and circumcision, as well as the future redemption, the ingathering, the election of Israel, the Messiah, and virginity are among the topics Aphrahat addresses and to which the Rabbis “respond.”

Establishing the existence of fourth-century Jewish-Christian polemical conversations not only illuminates the areas of conflict between Jews and Christians in Persian Mesopotamia, but it also determines how the external political situation influenced these confrontations. In addition it allows one to reflect on the nature of rabbinic reactions to Christianity, as well as the literary, linguistic and texual resources that the Rabbis and the leaders of the Syriac Christian communities shared in common.

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Contributor Biography

Naomi Koltun-Fromm

Naomi Koltun-Fromm is an associate professor of Religion at Haverford College, PA. She holds an MA and PhD in History from Stanford University and a BA in History from Barnard College, Columbia University. She specializes in comparative late ancient biblical exegesis. Her most recent publication is Hermeneutics of Holiness: Ancient Jewish and Christian Notions of Sexuality and Religious Community.

  • Table of Contents (page 5)
  • Preface (page 7)
  • Abbreviations (page 9)
  • Introduction (page 11)
    • Overview of Prior Research (page 16)
    • Primary Sources 1: Aphrahad (page 43)
    • Primary Sources 2: Rabbinic Texts (page 48)
  • Chapter 1: Jews, Christians and Persecutions in Fourth- Century Persia (page 55)
    • Jewish Settlement in Mesopotamia (page 61)
    • Christian Settlement in Mesopotamia (page 67)
    • Shabur II's persecutions and the question of Jewish involvement (page 73)
  • Chapter 2. Chosenness: The Election of Israel (page 89)
    • Chosenness (page 89)
    • Rejection (page 97)
    • The Ingathering and Redemption (page 104)
  • Chapter 3: Marriage and Celibacy in Jewish and Christian Tradition (page 115)
    • The example of Moses (page 116)
    • Celibacy and Asceticism: Christian (page 122)
    • Celibacy and Asceticism: Jewish (page 125)
    • Divine Blessing (page 129)
    • Procreation (page 134)
    • The Social Milieu (page 139)
  • Chapter 4: Ritual: Passover and Circumcision (page 145)
    • Passover (page 151)
    • Circumcision (page 157)
    • Crossing Ritual Practive Boundaries (page 162)
  • Conclusion (page 171)
  • Appendix: Post Second Temple Passover Sacrifices? (page 177)
  • Bibliography (page 181)
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