Jews, Christians, and the Roman Empire
The Poetics of Power in Late Antiquity
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
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Title Page, Copyright Page
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Table of Contents
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List of Abbreviations
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Introduction: Rethinking Romanness, Provincializing Christendom
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In memory of Alan Segal (1945–2011) and Thomas Sizgorich (1970–2011)In histories of ancient Jews and Judaism, the Roman Empire looms large. Already in 1 and 2 Maccabees, Roman power is figured as a factor in the nego-tiation of Ioudaismos and Hellenismos, and at least since Flavius Josephus, the writing of Jewish history in Greek presumes a Roman gaze. Since Josephus, ...
Part I. Rabbis and Other Roman Sub-Elites
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DohrmannReed_JewsChristiansRomanEmpire_TX.indd 23 8/2/13 9:25 AM22020 22020DohrmannReed_JewsChristiansRomanEmpire_TX.indd 24 8/2/13 9:25 AMThe essAYs In Part I invite us to glimpse the experiences of ambitious sub- elites operating on the margins of Roman power in the high empire (especially second to fourth centuries). Whereas recent research on the Sec-ond Sophistic has taken the experience of the Greek exile as exemplary, we ...
1. The Afterlives of the Torah’s Ethnic Language: The Sifra and Clement on Leviticus 18.1–5
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The contrast between Christian universalism and Jewish particularism, long the bedrock of popular perception and scholarly assessment, has been satisfy-ingly complicated by recent work on late antique foundations. Scholars of early Christianity have pointed to the significance of ethnic categories for the construction of early Christian identities.1 While much early Christian rheto-...
2. The Kingdom of Edessa and the Creation of a Christian Aristocracy
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Eusebius’s Ecclesiastical History creates the impression that the history of the 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 ...
3. Law and Imperial Idioms: Rabbinic Legalism in a Roman World
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The words of the shemaʿ should not be in your eyes like some anti-quated edict to which no one pays any attention but like a new edict 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 ...
4. The Law of Moses and the Jews: Rabbis, Ethnic Marking, and Romanization
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Mishnah Tractate Ketubot 7.6 provides a list of practices that mark wives as transgressing what is generally rendered “the law of Moses and the Jews.”1 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 ...
Part II. Christianization and Other
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DohrmannReed_JewsChristiansRomanEmpire_TX.indd 93 8/2/13 9:25 AM22020 22020DohrmannReed_JewsChristiansRomanEmpire_TX.indd 94 8/2/13 9:25 AMIn Art II, we consider Romanization in relation to Christianization (es-pecially in the fourth to sixth centuries). Part I pointed to the potential in the triangulation of Jewish, Roman, and Christian literary evidence. In Part II, we come to challenges of correlating different perspectives. Late antique Jew-...
5. There is No Place like Home: Rabbinic Responses to the Christianization of Palestine
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The trouble with countries is that, once people begin travelling in 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 ...
6. Between Gaza and Minorca: The (Un)Making of Minorities in Late Antiquity
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Christianity generated new sites of the articulation of the boundary between the self- styled majority (the new Christian commonwealth) and its minori-ties, be they pagans, Jews, barbarians, heretics, or Samaritans. The process of domesticating a newly empowered creed involved the neutralization of other creeds and of other people.1 To graft its rituals over the rich panoply of pa-...
7. Christian Historiographers’ Reflections on Jewish-Christian Violence in Fifth-Century Alexandria
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The burgeoning violence that marked Christian culture during the fourth cen-tury, caused primarily by internal dogmatic strife, has aroused keen scholarly interest in recent years. The efforts of scholars such as Timothy Gregory, Fried-helm Winkelmann, Richard Lim, and, later, Johannes Hahn were essentially focused on describing the phenomenon.1 Recently, however, the scholarly gaze ...
8. Narrating Salvation: Verbal Sacrifices in Late Antique Liturgical Poetry
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Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to The decline in animal offering in antiquity is associated ordinarily with the rise of new kinds of religiosity in general and prayer in particular.1 Indeed, a transition from blood sacrifices to verbal liturgies occurred in the first centu-ries of the Common Era; yet we should acknowledge that sacrifice is not the ...
9. Israelite Kingship, Christian Rome, and the Jewish Imperial Imagination: Midrashic Precursors to the Medieval “Throne of Solomon”
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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, ...
Part III. Continuity and Rupture
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DohrmannReed_JewsChristiansRomanEmpire_TX.indd 183 8/2/13 9:25 AM22020 22020DohrmannReed_JewsChristiansRomanEmpire_TX.indd 184 8/2/13 9:25 AMThe essAYs In Part III cover the entirety of the period encompassed by the volume, as seen from the perspective of different types of data: liturgical poetry, documentary papyri, iconography and religious architecture, and polemical literature and legislation. That different genres and corpora ...
10. Chains of Tradition from Avot to the 'Avodah Piyutim
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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 pres-ent- day rabbis. This myth is expressed most famously in chapter 1 of the Mishnah tractate Avot: “Moses received Torah at Sinai and handed it down ...
11. Change and Continuity in Late Legal Papyri from Palaestina Tertia: Nomos Hellênikos and Ethos Rômaikon
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This short study relies almost exclusively on the documentary evidence con-tained in four documents, all written in Greek. Two of them— P.Yadin 18 and 65— were written in Arabia in 128 and 131 ce, respectively.1 The other two— P.Nessana 18 and 20— were written in Palaestina Tertia in 537 and 558 ce, respectively.2 Palaestina Tertia included at the time those parts of Ara-...
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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In Late Antiquity, the Tabernacle and the Jerusalem Temple served as arche-types 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 parallel development, this essay will discuss the symbolic significance of the ...
13. Roman Christianity and the Post-Roman West: The Social Correlates of the Contra Iudaeos Tradition
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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 move-ment available to a wider world, both Jewish and pagan. It also made those ...
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Select Bibliography of Secondary Sources
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List of Contributors
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The ideas herein owe much to the many interlocutors in the broader conversa-tion 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, Hindy Najman, Bob Ousterhout, Claudia Rapp, John Reeves, Seth Schwartz, ...
Page Count: 456
Illustrations: 12 illus.
Publication Year: 2013
Series Title: Jewish Culture and Contexts
Series Editor Byline: Published in association with the Herbert D. Katz Center for Advanced Judaic Studies of the University of Pennsylvania David B. Ruderman, Series Editor