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eBook Jews, Pagans and Christians In Conflict
Publisher:  Varda Books
Original Publisher:  Magnes Press
Published:  2009
Language:  English
Pages:   236

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$ 45.00 

ISBN: 1-59045-912-1

File size: 16.094 Mb

About the Book -- Jews, Pagans and Christians In Conflict

What were the political, social and intellectual relations of various religious groups in the ancient Greek and Roman worlds?
David Rokeah suggests that they were marked by ongoing propaganda wars, and that the pagan-Jewish polemic served as the foundation, but that the Jew's very existence and their independent attitude towards Christianity and paganism alike, their holy writings and those of Hellenistic Jewry, all helped to shape the pagan-Christian conflict.
Against a historical background the author examines specific philosophical -theological motifs of the polemic, such as religious myth, divine providence, and the election of Israel.
A wealth of material from Greek, Latin, and Hebrew sources is presented in a fresh English translation, so as to help the reader since the spirit of this important age in world history.

About the Book



Preface 9

Introduction 11

Chapter One: The Jewish Factor in the Polemic 40

Chapter Two: Recognition of God, Revelation and Religious Myth 84

Chapter Three: Divine Providence, the Daemons and the Election of Israel 133

Chapter Four: Culture and Enslavement: the Religious Inference of Human History 168

Summary and Conclusions 209

Index 219

An Excerpt from the Book -- Jews, Pagans and Christians In Conflict

One of the important reasons that the pagans and Christians did not reject the mythos was the aura of antiquity that surrounded it. The view that ancient beliefs were superior was based on the assumption that error disappears easily with the passage of time, whereas the core of truth remains. It was thought also that ancient men were closer to god, and therefore knew his ways and thoughts.1 6 But the full acceptance of the myth was made possible only when allegory was combined with it as a sine qua non. If a pagan Plato for example refused to accept allegory, he had to renounce mythos simultaneously. This was true also of Christians and of our period.

The Church embraced from the beginning the principle that the Bible must be interpreted allegorically, both for texts presenting difficulties and for those easily understood. This being the case, the Church had at its disposal raw material in the shape of the Bible, which it could adapt to its theological needs, as well as the pioneering work of Hellenistic Judaism in this field, which it used extensively. Because of this decision in principle of the Church, there was so much importance for the polemic in the Jewish Scriptures and the interpretations of Hellenistic Jewry. On the other hand, the attitude of the Gnostic sects to the Bible was much weaker (and more negative), since they rejected allegory. So, for example, Marcion stated categorically: "Scripture must not be interpreted allegorically," with reference to the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament alike.1 7 Marcion's starting point was the epistles of Paul and the contrast found there between the Law and the New Testament. Whereas Paul had stopped at a certain point, since he neither contemplated nor wished a severance of the link between them, and since there were not in the contemporary Church devoted advocates of the system of extreme dualism (apart from the author of the Gospel of John), Marcion did not flinch from the continuation of his line of thought to a drastic concluion. Marcion purged even Paul's epistles, in addition to other Christian writings, of alleged additions and falsifications introduced by the adherents of Judaism and the Bible among the early Christians.

Marcion's dislike in principle of allegory (he was forced exceptionally and unwillingly into symbolic interpretations of the parables in the Gospels), and his literal acceptance of the Scriptures put him in a paradoxical position. He exerted himself in his work Antitheses to widen the conceptual gap between the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament in order to separate them entirely, and to prove his argument that there is no relation whatsoever between the god of the Bible and the god of the New Testament;1 8 on the other hand, he agreed with the Jewish interpretation of various parts of the Bible, thus challenging the Church's allegorical and Christological interpretation. This situation forced "Catholic" Christianity to defend the god of the Hebrew Bible, as well as the Jews against their Gnostic denouncers and, at the same time, to refute the interpretation of prophecies and of the most important Biblical texts that was common to the Gnostics and the Jews.

But it was not in vain that the Christians clung to the Bible. Apart from its being inseparably interwoven into their writings, there were five ways in which the Bible served the Church as a source of religious recognition, according to Harnack:

1. for the development of a monotheistic cosmology;

2. for the presentation of proof from prophecy (the latter and cosmology together form the "theology") of the validity and antiquity of Christianity;

3. for the foundations of all the conceptions, ritual ceremonies and regulations which were needed by the Church;

4. for a deepening of the life of the faith (chapters from Psalms and from various Prophets);

5. for the refutation of Jewry as a nation, that it, for the proof that this nation had been rejected by God, whether by the argument that it had never had a covenant with Him (Barnabas) or that it had been only a covenant of anger, or that the Jews had forfeited the covenant; also, to prove that the Jewish nation did not understand the Bible at all and

An Excerpt from the Book

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