Sunday, December 07, 2008

Augustine and the Jews

Paula Fredriksen's Augustine and the Jews apparently demonstrates that Augustine had become Jewish friendly by the time he was writing Confessions. Jim Davila calls attention to her interview with Time:
"Usually when ancient orthodox Christians said terrible things about heretics, they found even worse things to say about Jews. Until 395, Augustine had not been much different, but here he was, writing about one of the flashiest heresies of his time, and marshaling as arguments unbelievably positive things about Jews. As I read further, my scalp tingled. I had been working on Augustine for 20 years and I'd never seen anything like this before. Not only could I establish that he had changed his position, but I could locate this shift in his thinking very precisely, to the four-year period when he also wrote his monumental Confessions...

"In a fairly dark history of Christian-Jewish relations, his theology turns out to be one of very few bright lights. All of these ancient Christian-Jewish interactions are more complex and interesting than are the received ideas about them. Our lives are still shaped by this history; so it's important to get it right. And if modern Jews and Christians, attempting interfaith dialogue, find in Augustine a precedent for common ground, that would make me really happy. It would be an unintended consequence of my book. But a good one."
It's on my reading list.


OpenID said...

Thanks for pointing this out. After mentioning it to Ra'anan Boustan, a professor of ancient Judaism at UCLA, I have learned that he has a review essay coming out soon in the Jewish Quarterly Review. He was involved in the panel discussion on an early copy of the book in the "Early Jewish–Christian
Relations Group" group at SBL 2007. This book is exactly the stuff that we have discussed in our seminar this past quarter on "Jews, Gentiles and Christians in the Roman World." I'm looking forward to reading both the book and the reflections to come from Boustan and others. Exciting stuff!


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