International Research Seminar • UCJC & FXZ

with Pamela Eisenbaum (2013)
and Daniel Boyarin (2014) 

Contemporary scholarship on Second Temple Judaism, Christian, and Rabbinic origins shows that the border lines between Christianity and Judaism in Antiquity were more ambiguous in nature and lately produced than has commonly been assumed.

    Paula Fredriksen sums up this issue very neatly when she writes:

'At what point did the relation between Jews and (Gentile) Christians irretrievably, unambiguously break down? . . . The options available in the texts of choice have supported such answers as c. 28–30 CE, when Jesus proclaimed a supposedly startling new vision to an indifferent or hostile Israel; c. 50 CE, when Pauline communities are imagined as separate from and independent of Diaspora synagogue communities; c. 70, when the Temple's destruction supposedly untethered Gentile Christianity from its awkward and lingering attachments to Jewish practice; c. 135 CE, after which point Jews were no longer permitted into Aelia, and the leadership of the "mother church" passed from Jewish to Gentile Christians; or, certainly by 200 CE, when Jewish persecutions of Gentile Christians and increasingly effective ecclesiastical organization combined both to articulate and to finalize the "inevitable" break. The historiography of this issue is now changing. Some scholars currently look much later — to Constantine, perhaps, or to Theodosius — to locate this famous split. [Yet t]he consensus of ancient Christian orthodox writers continues to determine the line of approach taken by modern historians. From the vocabulary that we necessarily use to the texts that dominate our investigations to the questions that frame our approaches to the presuppositions that shape our reconstructions, we still work with terms dictated by history's "winners" . . . How can we think outside their box? How can we come to a less anachronistic, less doctrinally view of the past?'

    Indeed when we look back at the first four centuries of the common era we are no longer able to clearly distinguish between Christian and Jew. Can Paul's letters or the Prologue to the Fourth Gospel, for instance, be envisaged as Christian documents? And what about the notion of 'two powers in heaven' which the rabbis were at pains to discuss in their writings? Was it truly a Christian invention?

    Yet at the same time certain differences cannot be overlooked; differences relative to certain practices and interpretative decisions, for instance. But how far back can we trace them and how must we explain them?

    In short, when did the 'parting(s) of the ways' between Christianity and Judaism take place? Which were its determining factors? And how did it occur? Put it differently: how did they become two separate 'religions'? The seminar aims at exploring afresh this fascinating question.

* * *