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Critique and Apologetics

Jews, Christians and Pagans in Antiquity


Edited By Jörg Ulrich, David Brakke and Anders-Christian Jacobsen

This book contains 13 contributions from an international conference held in 2007. The idea of the conference was to investigate the confrontations and the cultural, philosophical and religious exchange between different religious groups in antiquity and to establish a more comprehensive theory about what apologetics was considered to be both in the context of antiquity and from the perspective of modern scholarship: is it possible to define a literary genre called apologetics? Is it possible to talk about apologetics as a certain kind of discourse which is not limited to a special kind of texts? Which argumentative strategies are implied in apologetic discourses? The essays in this volume present a new approach to these questions.


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Jews, Christians and 'Pagans' in Conflict 43


Jews, Christians and Tagans' in Conflict Judith M. Lieu "Polycarp has acknowledged three times that he is a Chris- tian." When the herald said this, the whole mass of gentiles and Jews living in Smyrna cried out in unrestrained rage and with a great shout, "This is the tea cher of Asia,' the father of the Christians, the destroyer of our gods" (Mart.Polyc. 12.2). This iconic scene captures how many would exegete the title of this es- say. It would be easy to enrich it by similar snapshots from a multitude of other early, 'contemporary', writers, and it has inspired centuries of popular piety and art. Authentic Christian confession, according to this perception, is inseparable from conflict; Jews assail the Christian to one side, 'pagans' to the other. Justin Martyr charges Trypho, "You in your synagogues curse all those who have become Christians from him, while the rest of the gentiles make the curse active destroying those who only confess themselves to be Christians."2 Few now, how- ever, would let that scene remain the object only of unquestioning ad- miration. A seasoned observer would now be quick to point out that that multitude of contemporary witnesses just mentioned all share the same perspective, that of the Christians independent Jewish or 'pagan' accounts are rare. Others would question whether Jews would indeed join a cry against "the destroyer of our gods". Indeed the scene recalls an earlier, equally stylised one, namely that described by the author of 2 Maccabees...

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