Tertullian's Aduersus Iudaeos: A Rhetorical Analysis
In his monograph, Tertullian's Aduersus Iudaeos: A Rhetorical Analysis, Geoffrey Dunn defends the integrity and authenticity of Tertullian's often neglected "pamphlet" on Jews and Jewish scriptural interpretation. Dunn argues that Aduersus Iudaeos provides evidence not only of Tertullian's attitude toward Jews but also of Jewish-Christian engagement in late-second-century Carthage. The major contribution of Dunn's study is to affirm the placement of the entire tract in the early Christian Aduersus Iudaeos tradition, alongside more well-studied texts such as the Epistle of Barnabas and Justin Martyr's Dialogue with Trypho.
This monograph is a revision of Dunn's 1999 dissertation, and he retains a helpful review of scholarship on Tertullian, ancient rhetoric, and Jewish-Christian relations. In particular, he builds on Robert D. Sider's study of Tertullian's rhetorical practices to argue that the structure, argument, and style of Aduersus Iudaeos not only attest to Tertullian's training in classical rhetoric but also conform to his rhetorical practice in other treatises. Dunn demonstrates that Aduersus Iudaeos takes the form of a controuersia, a common exercise in juridical oratory.Whereas most examples of ancient controuersia addressed fictional cases, Tertullian used this mode of speech to provide "a template for Christians to use in future encounters with Jews in arguing about their religious truth claims" (p. 31). [End Page 88]
Dunn argues for the unity and integrity of Tertullian's text by offering a detailed examination of its structural elements, including the exordium, narratio, partitio, refutatio, confirmatio, and peroratio. He concludes that Aduersus Iudaeos is a "work in progress" (p. 96). Most scholars agree that chapters 1–8, which are more polished than the later chapters, are from Tertullian's pen. Dunn maintains that chapters 9–14 are also the work of Tertullian, but these chapters remain unfinished and in need of revision.Dunn explains the vexing similarities between these later chapters and passages of Aduersus Marcionem by claiming (with Gösta Säflund and Hermann Tränkle) that Tertullian wrote Aduersus Iudaeos before Aduersus Marcionem and that he reworked some of the later passages of Aduersus Iudaeos and incorporated them into Aduersus Marcionem.
Although Dunn focuses mainly on the rhetorical features of Tertullian's pamphlet, he resists any reading that would deny the "reality" of Christian-Jewish interaction in second-century Carthage. Dunn suggests that readers should take at face value Tertullian's opening claim that the idea for his text was sparked by a recent debate between a Christian and proselyte Jew. According to Dunn, the subsequent text thus comprises Tertullian's recommendations for how Christians can defend their case in future debates with Jews. Tertullian aims to persuade his audience "that God had replaced the Jews with the Christians as the people of divine favor" (p. 95), and he defends this position by citing "evidence" from the Hebrew Scriptures.
By defending the unity and authenticity of Aduersus Iudaeos, Dunn reminds his readers of the importance of analyzing Tertullian's pamphlet as an early example of Christian anti-Jewish literature. Dunn's rhetorical analysis paves the way for future work on the social and historical contexts of this pamphlet, including a study of Tertullian's understanding of Iudaeus as a religious identity marker as opposed to an ethnic or geographic one (a topic that Dunn mentions briefly). In general, Dunn's monograph is clearly structured and well documented. It includes a full bibliography, general index, and index of citations of Tertullian's works and of Scripture. Its lucid descriptions of Tertullian's rhetorical practices and purposes in Aduersus Iudaeos make it accessible to students of ancient rhetoric and early Christian-Jewish relations, in particular.