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Jews, Christians, and the Roman Empire

The Poetics of Power in Late Antiquity

Edited by Natalie B. Dohrmann and Annette Yoshiko Reed

Publication Year: 2013

In histories of ancient Jews and Judaism, the Roman Empire looms large. For all the attention to the Jewish Revolt and other conflicts, however, there has been less concern for situating Jews within Roman imperial contexts; just as Jews are frequently dismissed as atypical by scholars of Roman history, so Rome remains invisible in many studies of rabbinic and other Jewish sources written under Roman rule.

Jews, Christians, and the Roman Empire brings Jewish perspectives to bear on long-standing debates concerning Romanization, Christianization, and late antiquity. Focusing on the third to sixth centuries, it draws together specialists in Jewish and Christian history, law, literature, poetry, and art. Perspectives from rabbinic and patristic sources are juxtaposed with evidence from piyyutim, documentary papyri, and synagogue and church mosaics. Through these case studies, contributors highlight paradoxes, subtleties, and ironies of Romanness and imperial power.

Contributors: William Adler, Beth A. Berkowitz, Ra'anan Boustan, Hannah M. Cotton, Natalie B. Dohrmann, Paula Fredriksen, Oded Irshai, Hayim Lapin, Joshua Levinson, Ophir Münz-Manor, Annette Yoshiko Reed, Hagith Sivan, Michael D. Swartz, Rina Talgam.

Published by: University of Pennsylvania Press

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. 2-5

Table of Contents

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pp. 6-9

List of Abbreviations

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pp. ix-x

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Introduction: Rethinking Romanness, Provincializing Christendom

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pp. 1-22

...To be sure, much ancient Jewish literature effaces the specificity of Roman rule. In the apocalyptic imagination, Rome could be collapsed into Babylon; and in the midrashic imagination, Jewish life in the Roman Empire could be folded into the Deuteronomistic dichotomy of Israel and the nations. Among some rabbis, their relationship could even be reread as a rivalry between two...

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Part I. Rabbis and Other Roman Sub-Elites

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pp. 23-28

...Second Sophistic has taken the experience of the Greek exile as exemplary, we highlight rabbinic examples, rereading both Roman dynamics and Christian experiences in relation to them. In the process, the essays in Part I demonstrate how attention to specific settings and stories can disrupt regnant...

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1. The Afterlives of the Torah’s Ethnic Language: The Sifra and Clement on Leviticus 18.1–5

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pp. 29-42

...The contrast between Christian universalism and Jewish particularism, long the bedrock of popular perception and scholarly assessment, has been satisfyingly complicated by recent work on late antique foundations. Scholars of early Christianity have pointed to the significance of ethnic categories for the...

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2. The Kingdom of Edessa and the Creation of a Christian Aristocracy

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pp. 43-62

...early church was mainly one of struggle and conflict: first with the Jews, then with heretics, and then with Rome. While that approach is of a piece with the triumphalism of the work, part of the story gets lost along the way. That includes Christians living to the east of the empire. This is regrettable because...

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3. Law and Imperial Idioms: Rabbinic Legalism in a Roman World

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pp. 63-78

...The centrality of the law to antique and rabbinic Judaism is a commonplace so pervasive as to seem hardly worth mentioning. Many scholars presume that the halakhic edifice of rabbinic literature grows in some measure from the seeds of Second Temple legal precedent— and in substantial content areas, we...

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4. The Law of Moses and the Jews: Rabbis, Ethnic Marking, and Romanization

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pp. 79-92

...The specified transgressions relate primarily to public comportment. Taking this rabbinic passage as a starting point, this essay works through a group of texts that intersect with or comment on it. Two texts in the Tosefta deploy a list of practices that overlaps verbally with that in the Mishnah, each to a different...

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Part II. Christianization and Other

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pp. 93-98

...we come to challenges of correlating different perspectives. Late antique Jewish sources are ahistorical in genre and horizon; indeed, after Josephus, there are no surviving Jewish- authored works of Jewish history until the Middle Ages. By contrast, the archive for Late Antiquity is rich in Christian histories and biographies, which can often chronicle events and figures in tantalizingly...

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5. There is No Place like Home: Rabbinic Responses to the Christianization of Palestine

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pp. 99-120

...A tannaitic midrash from the mid- third century, in glossing Jer 3.19— “ I gave you a desirable land, the fairest heritage of all the nations”— states that “just as they used to say in Rome that any king or governor who did not acquire a residence in Rome would say, ‘I have accomplished nothing,’ so now any king or governor who did not acquire a palace or a villa in Palestine says, ‘I have...

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6. Between Gaza and Minorca: The (Un)Making of Minorities in Late Antiquity

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pp. 121-136

...Christianity generated new sites of the articulation of the boundary between the self- styled majority (the new Christian commonwealth) and its minorities, be they pagans, Jews, barbarians, heretics, or Samaritans. The process of domesticating a newly empowered creed involved the neutralization of other...

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7. Christian Historiographers’ Reflections on Jewish-Christian Violence in Fifth-Century Alexandria

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pp. 137-153

...The burgeoning violence that marked Christian culture during the fourth century, caused primarily by internal dogmatic strife, has aroused keen scholarly interest in recent years. The efforts of scholars such as Timothy Gregory, Friedhelm Winkelmann, Richard Lim, and, later, Johannes Hahn were essentially...

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8. Narrating Salvation: Verbal Sacrifices in Late Antique Liturgical Poetry

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pp. 154-166

...Indeed, a transition from blood sacrifices to verbal liturgies occurred in the first centuries of the Common Era; yet we should acknowledge that sacrifice is not the opposite of prayer and that the theological and historical divide between the two is sometimes overemphasized in modern scholarship...

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9. Israelite Kingship, Christian Rome, and the Jewish Imperial Imagination: Midrashic Precursors to the Medieval “Throne of Solomon”

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pp. 167-182

...In front of the emperor’s throne there stood a certain tree of gilt bronze, whose branches, similarly gilt bronze, were filled with birds of different sizes, which emitted the songs of the different birds corresponding to their species. The throne of the emperor was built with skill in such a way that at one instant it was low, then higher...

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Part III. Continuity and Rupture

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pp. 183-188

...isolated from their cultural context in a Christianized Roman Palestine, however, neither can they be reduced to a reaction to Christianity. Increased interest in priestly lineage in Jewish sources from the fifth and sixth centuries may be partly “a result of the dissolution of the patriarchate and the consolidation of Byzantine authority,” but the poets were most concerned “with the...

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10. Chains of Tradition from Avot to the 'Avodah Piyutim

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pp. 189-208

...An important component of the rabbinic ideology of Torah is the idea of a “chain of tradition” by which God taught Torah to Moses, who then passed it down through a succession of biblical and Second Temple sages to present- day rabbis. This myth is expressed most famously in chapter 1 of the...

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11. Change and Continuity in Late Legal Papyri from Palaestina Tertia: Nomos Hellênikos and Ethos Rômaikon

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pp. 209-221

...The early two documents record marriage settlements entered into by Jews, as the names, but not much more, attest. Nothing in the two Greek marriage contracts from Arabia reflects what came to be the normative Jewish marriage contract, commonly known as the...

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12. The Representation of the Temple and Jerusalem in Jewish and Christian Houses of Prayer in the Holy Land in Late Antiquity

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pp. 222-248

...In Late Antiquity, the Tabernacle and the Jerusalem Temple served as archetypes for both the synagogue and the church, and through the liturgies of the two institutions, new interpretations were given to the ceremonies that had taken place there. Considering the points of commonality and contrast in this...

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13. Roman Christianity and the Post-Roman West: The Social Correlates of the Contra Iudaeos Tradition

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pp. 249-266

...Christianity was born in an argument over how to understand Jewish texts. While the biblical traditions referred to by Jesus of Nazareth would most likely have been in Hebrew or Aramaic, the texts and the arguments that shaped Christianity’s future were in Greek. Greek did more than make the new movement...


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pp. 267-344

Select Bibliography of Secondary Sources

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pp. 345-378

List of Contributors

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pp. 379-382


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pp. 383-388

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pp. 389-390

...The ideas herein owe much to the many interlocutors in the broader conversation of which this volume is a part— including Doron Bar, Daniel Boyarin, Yaakov Elman, Martin Goodman, Cam Grey, Max Grossman, Yuval Harari, Marc Hirshman, Ross Kraemer, Robert Kraft, Derek Krueger, Lee Levine...

E-ISBN-13: 9780812208573
E-ISBN-10: 0812208579
Print-ISBN-13: 9780812245332
Print-ISBN-10: 0812245334

Page Count: 456
Illustrations: 12 illus.
Publication Year: 2013