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  • No More Clever Titles:Observations on Some Recent Studies of Jewish-Christian Relations in the Roman World
  • Megan Hale Williams (bio)
Keywords

Megan Hale Williams, Adam H. Becker, Annette Yoshiko Reed, The Ways That Never Parted: Jews and Christians in Late Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages, Daniel Boyarin, Dying for God: Martyrdom and the Making of Christianity and Judaism, Border Lines: The Partition of Judaeo-Christianity, Judith M. Lieu, Neither Jew nor Greek? Constructing Early Christianity, Judaism and Christianity

Adam H. Becker and Annette Yoshiko Reed, eds. The Ways That Never Parted: Jews and Christians in Late Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages. Texts and Studies in Ancient Judaism 95. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2003. Pp. viii + 410.
Daniel Boyarin . Dying for God: Martyrdom and the Making of Christianity and Judaism. Figurae: Reading Medieval Culture. Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 1999. Pp. xi + 247.
Daniel Boyarin . Border Lines: The Partition of Judaeo-Christianity. Divinations: Rereading Late Ancient Religion. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2004. Pp. xv + 374.
Judith M. Lieu . Neither Jew nor Greek? Constructing Early Christianity. Studies of the New Testament and Its World. London and New York: T&T Clark, 2002. Pp. xiii + 263.

By the early 1990S, the relations between Judaism and Christianity in the Roman world had come to be interpreted in terms of the model of [End Page 37] the "Parting of the Ways." The traditional view, in which Christianity descended from (and by implication, superseded) pre-Christian Judaism, had been replaced by a new paradigm that treated both Judaism and Christianity as coeval descendants of a common Second Temple Jewish ancestor. Scholars like Alan Segal, who figured the two traditions as twin offspring of Rebecca, and James D. G. Dunn, who perhaps did most to popularize the phrase "the parting of the ways," all approached the common history of Judaism and Christianity in the early centuries of the Roman empire with the same basic assumption: that at some point in antiquity, Judaism and Christianity emerged as, in the words of Daniel Boyarin, "self-identical religious organisms," which might interact, but could never overlap, with one another. The question then was to establish when and how this separation had taken place.1

The "parting of the ways" paradigm avoided the obvious explanatory limitations of the approach it replaced, while responding to pressing ethical concerns. As Annette Reed and Adam Becker recount in their introduction to The Ways That Never Parted, Christian scholars who rejected anti-Semitism—before, during, and especially after the Nazi Holocaust—had sought to reform supersessionist models of the relation of Judaism and Christianity in antiquity. Reed and Becker point out that "the metaphor of 'parted ways' allows for both Judaism and Christianity to be approached as authentic religions in their own right, with equally strong links to the biblical and Second Temple Jewish heritage that they share. As such, this model proves palatable to Jews and Christians alike . . . the notion of the 'parting of the ways' fits well with contemporary ecumenical concerns, providing a foundation for interreligious dialogue and buttressing popular appeals to a common 'Judaeo-Christian' ethic."2

Unfortunately, the model also created a range of new problems. As [End Page 38] Judith Lieu observed already in 1994, in an essay later collected in her volume Neither Greek nor Jew?, "as soon as one asks the questions of time and place appropriate to a historical account, the model becomes increasingly vague—hence Dunn's book is in fact titled Partings; there seems little to decide between those who, when asked for a date, speak of the 50s of the first century, and those who would put it a century later. Both can appeal to good evidence on their side in the terms in which they define the question. The problem is exacerbated when we find that geography equally resists the scheme and we are forced to speak of considerable variation in time and place."3 As Lieu notes further along in the same essay, and as Boyarin argued in his 1999 book Dying for God, the chronological options could be broadened even further: on one view, it was only under the Christian empire that developed over the course...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1553-0604
Print ISSN
0021-6682
Pages
pp. 37-55
Launched on MUSE
2009-02-20
Open Access
No
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