Abstract

Is there a way to connect the polyphony of attitudes and diversity of strategies that late antique Christian authors display in writing about Jews and Judaism into a discursive whole? This essay offers one possible answer by focusing on the rhetorical effects of contradiction within Christian rhetorical constructions of the Jews. Using Eve Sedgwick’s theory of the double bind—the idea that discourses gain power over their productions through the rhetoric of incoherence—I argue that Christian writers constructed a Judaism that was marked by contradiction, ambiguity, and incongruity. With specific attention to the writings of John Chrysostom, Jerome, Augustine, Rufinus, and the Theodosian Code, this paper shows how the construction of Christianity’s Juda ism was built upon rhetorical, exegetical, theological, and legal tensions that were neither reconcilable nor intended to be. The very irresolution of Christian discourse about the Jews—the construction of their history, cult, or tradition as fundamentally incoherent—functioned, in effect, as a form of anti-Judaism.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-3184
Print ISSN
1067-6341
Pages
pp. 445-480
Launched on MUSE
2015-09-02
Open Access
No
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