- The Ways that Never Parted: Jews and Christians in Late Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages
During the second half of the twentieth century the "Parting of the Ways" became a dominant model for understanding the origins and continuing relations between "Judaism" and "Christianity." The virtues of the model were that it replaced a supersessionist triumphalism that saw Christianity as defeating a moribund "Judaism" whose continuing existence could only be anomalous, and [End Page 189] that it paid due attention to the diversity of Jewish thought and practice of the first century CE, out of which both subsequent traditions emerged.
More recently a growing number of voices have exposed the weaknesses of the model: it invites attempts to locate the time and place of "the parting," it assumes that "Judaism" and "Christianity" are and were bounded entities whose separate stories could be told, and it provides little room for the well-attested continuing contacts between "Jews" and "Christians" except as aberrations. The title of The Ways that Never Parted speaks for itself—apparently a frontal attack on the whole concept implicit in the model—although the subtitle, by retaining the labels "Jews" and "Christians" (without quotation marks), somewhat qualifies its iconoclasm. Together the essays retain this ambivalence; they are the outcome of a conference and other collaborative work between Oxford and Princeton Universities, from which institutions some, but not all, of the contributors come, a welcome mix of research students and leading scholars in the field. Given this background, the book represents a series of forays into the territory, not a systematic survey.
For some the focus of attention is the categories used by the scholars: Martin Goodman uses diagrams to plot a range of models from participants in antiquity and contemporary debate, Robert Kraft brings a light touch to reflecting on our search for and relative discomfort with labels, and Daniel Boyarin invokes a range of theoretical critiques of the nature of classification with reference to "Judaism" and "Christianity" (with quotation marks); Andrew Jacobs reflects on scholarship but also on late antique texts from the Holy Land through the lens of post-colonial theory, while Paula Fredriksen takes a long view whose real interest is the realia of Jewish and Christian life in the context of the "pagan" and then "Christian" city. Another avenue of approach is the exploration of the diverse phenomena usually labelled "Jewish Christianity," whether identified in texts which seem to maintain a "Jewish" self-understanding or allegiance in practice, such as the Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs or the Pseudo-Clementines (David Frankfurter; Annette Yoshiko Reed), or in references to "Christians" who continued to actively participate in aspects of Jewish life, such as "the Jews" of the Martyrdom of Polycarp according to E. Leigh Gibson. By definition these undermine the neat antithetical definition of Judaism and Christianity, except, of course, as early Christian writers would have it, as illegitimate hybrids; the counter argument must be that to the dispassionate scholarly observer these are simply what they are, without embarrassment, and that their continuing vitality (traced by John Gager to the rise of Islam) refutes views of them as short-lived or immature.
Another set of questions is provided by practices or exegetical traditions and techniques held in common: this might be due to conscious borrowing, as [End Page 190] in Alison Salvesen's analysis of the influence of the Hebrew scriptural text on Origen and Jerome, or reflect a shared cultural context and set of constraints, albeit differently tackled (Amram Tropper on succession lists), or result from a twin process of adoption and rejection as suggested by Daniel Stökl ben Ezra's study of the development of the Christian fast in September; a close analysis of rabbinic and Christian readings of shared texts or traditions, such as of Moses' celibacy (Naomi Koltin-Fromm), or Ra'anan Abusch's study of traditions of R. Ishmael's miraculous conception and martyrdom suggest that polemic, competition, and...