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Playing a Jewish Game

Gentile Christian Judaizing in the First and Second Centuries CE

Michele Murray

Publication Year: 2004

Is it possible that early Christian anti-Judaism was directed toward people other than Jews?

Michele Murray proposes that significant strands of early Christian anti-Judaism were directed against Gentile Christians. More specifically, it was directed toward Gentile Christian judaizers. These were Christians who combined a commitment to Christianity with adherence in varying degrees to Jewish practices, without viewing such behaviour as contradictory. Several Christian leaders thought that these community members dangerously blurred the boundaries between Christianity and Judaism. As such, Gentile Christian judaizers became the target of much anti-Jewish rhetoric in various early Christian writings.

Evidence of Gentile Christian judaizers can be found in canonical sources, such as Pauls Letter to the Galatians and the Book of Revelation, as well as non-canonical sources, such as the Epistle of Barnabas, the Didache, and Justin Martyr’s Dialogue with Trypho. In order to compare the phenomenon of judaizing and the reaction to it of ecclesiastical authorities, Murray organizes the evidence by probable geographical location, using Asia Minor and Syria as the two main loci.

The phenomenon of Gentile Christian judaizing is examined within the broader context of Jewish-Christian relations in the early centuries, and is the first attempt to draw all possible references to Gentile Christian judaizers together into one study to consider them as a whole. This discussion invites readers to reflect on the existence of Gentile Christian judaizers as another point on the continuum of Jewish-Christian relations in the Greco-Roman world — an area, Murray concludes, that needs to be more carefully defined.

Published by: Wilfrid Laurier University Press

Series: Studies in Christianity and Judaism

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. vii

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pp. ix-x

The first step along the long journey leading to the publication of this book was taken in Jerusalem. It was there, in a course taught by Professor Isaiah Gafni at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, that I was introduced for the first time to the topic of Jewish-Christian relations in the early centuries of the Common Era. ...


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pp. xi-xii

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CHAPTER 1 Introduction: Judaizing and the Early Development of Christianity

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pp. 1-10

Until approximately thirty or forty years ago, scholars in the field of Christian origins tended to treat Judaism and Christianity as historically and conceptually separate movements with few interactions and little in common.1 Judaism and Christianity were understood to be virtually monolithic communities, ...

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CHAPTER 2 Gentile Attraction to Judaism in the Roman Empire

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pp. 11-28

Extant textual and epigraphic data indicate that the Jewish way of life had considerable appeal among Gentiles in the Roman Empire in the first and second centuries CE, particularly among the aristocratic class of Roman society, including the imperial family. The purpose of this chapter is twofold: first I discuss ...

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CHAPTER 3 Christian Judaizing in Galatia: Paul’s Letter to the Galatians

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pp. 29-42

Paul’s letter to Galatia abounds with polemic directed against what he perceives to be views discordant with his own. The frequently vehement tone of his arguments reveals that he understands these opposing views to represent very real threats to the Christian communities to which he writes, and to his own identity ...

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CHAPTER 4 Christian Judaizing in Syria: Barnabas, the Didache, and Pseudo-Clementine Literature

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pp. 43-72

Evidence indicates that the problem of judaizing in Syria was not restricted to the earliest members of the Christian community. In the fall of 386 and 387 CE, John Chrysostom, bishop of Antioch, preached sermons in which he produced some of the most vehement anti-Jewish rhetoric in Christian history (Wilken 1983). ...

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CHAPTER 5 Christian Judaizing in Asia Minor: Revelation, Ignatius, and Justin Martyr

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pp. 73-100

That some Gentile Christians were attracted to Judaism and practised Jewish customs in Asia Minor is indicated clearly in letters by Ignatius of Antioch, Syria, during his travels through Asia Minor and in Justin Martyr’s Dialogue with Trypho. Justin provides one of the most explicit references to Christian judaizing ...

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CHAPTER 6 Marcion and Melito: More Evidence of Christian Judaizing in Asia Minor?

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pp. 101-116

Given the preponderance of evidence I have presented for the existence of Christian judaizing as a problematic phenomenon for church leaders in Asia Minor in the second century CE, this hermeneutic may be used to explore teachings promoted by two other Christian leaders associated with the Asia Minor region, ...

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CHAPTER 7 Conclusion: Christian Judaizing and the Forging of a Distinct Christian Identity

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pp. 117-126

This study demonstrates the plausible contention that Christian leaders in the period between c.50 and 160 CE were responding to Gentile Christian attraction to Judaism and such rites as circumcision, Sabbath observance, or following dietary laws. These Gentile Christians combined a commitment to Christianity ...

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APPENDIX: Scholarly Perceptions of Jewish-Christian Relations in Antiquity

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pp. 127-152

If this survey of scholarship were to focus only on scholars specifically dealing with the phenomenon of Christian judaizers, it would be a short review indeed. Evidence for Gentile Christians’ voluntarily observing certain Jewish customs in antiquity has not received serious attention from New Testament scholars ...


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pp. 153-184


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pp. 185-210

Ancient Sources Index

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pp. 211-216

Subject Index

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pp. 217-221

E-ISBN-13: 9781554581177
Print-ISBN-13: 9780889204010
Print-ISBN-10: 0889204012

Page Count: 224
Publication Year: 2004

Series Title: Studies in Christianity and Judaism