Anti-Judaism and Christian Orthodoxy

Anti-Judaism and Christian Orthodoxy: Ephrem's Hymns in Fourth-century Syria (Patristic Monograph Series)

Christine Shepardson
Copyright Date: 2008
Pages: 207
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  • Book Info
    Anti-Judaism and Christian Orthodoxy
    Book Description:

    This book investigates the complex anti-Jewish and anti-Judaizing rhetoric of Ephrem, a fourth-century poet, deacon, and theologian from eastern Roman Syria whose Syriac-language writings remain unfamiliar and linguistically inaccessible to centuries of scholars who study the well-known Greek and Latin writings of his contemporaries.

    eISBN: 978-0-8132-1831-1
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Abbreviations
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  5. CHAPTER ONE Syria and the Politics of Christian Orthodoxy
    (pp. 1-20)

    One spring in Mesopotamia as Passover and Easter approached, Ephrem’s fourth-century church resounded with the anti-Jewish refrain from another of his Syriac hymns: “Glory be to Christ through whose body the unleavened bread of the [Jewish] People became obsolete, together with the [Jewish] People itself!”¹ Ephrem’s renowned choir of Christian women sang to his congregation, warning of the danger that he perceived in the unleavened bread of the Jewish Passover: “The evil [Jewish] People that wants our death, enticing, gives us death in food.”² Again, after each verse, came the reverberating rhythm of the hymn’s insistent, alliterative refrain (shubẖâ la-mshiẖâ...

  6. CHAPTER TWO Defending Nicaea against Jews and Judaizers
    (pp. 21-68)

    In the turbulent Christian controversies of the fourth century, church leaders engaged in the struggle to convert congregants as well as emperors to their views of Christian orthodoxy. While scholars of late antiquity have long scoured early Greek and Latin sources for information about this fourth-century religious and political struggle, Ephrem’s Syriac texts, which also provide significant insight into the controversy, have not yet been part of the major academic discussions concerning it.¹ Nestled within Ephrem’s poetry is a persistent interest in establishing Nicene Christianity as the religious orthodoxy of the Roman Empire.² In that effort, anti-Jewish language plays a...

  7. CHAPTER THREE Ephrem’s Use of Scriptural History
    (pp. 69-105)

    While Ephrem’s anti-Judaizing language and concerns for the Judaizing behavior of his local church audience represent one significant means by which he attempts to assert the framework of Nicene orthodoxy in his eastern Syrian context, it is by no means the only one by which he does so. Ephrem’s arguments against those Christians whose teachings subordinate the Son too much to the Father likewise struggle to promote Nicene Christianity as the orthodoxy of the Roman Empire, and also use anti-Jewish language to do so. In order that these “Arian” Christians can become “Jews” in Ephrem’s rhetorical accusations, his definition of...

  8. CHAPTER FOUR Ephrem, Athanasius, and the “Arian” Threat
    (pp. 106-156)

    Ephrem’s intimately related narratives of Scripture and history produce an ideological framework through which he constructs the social boundaries of his fourth-century community. The anti-Jewish language of his hymns would have been a powerful tool, however, not only against Jews and Judaizers, as seen above, but also against “Arian” Christians. Sidney Griffith has clearly demonstrated Ephrem’s explicit presentation of himself and his church as part of an empire-wide Nicene Christian community.¹ Like the more well-known figure Athanasius, Ephrem was an active and vocal participant in pro-Nicene Christians’ struggle against subordinationist Christian theology, and his anti-Jewish rhetoric competes in a fourth-century...

  9. CHAPTER FIVE Syria and the Construction of Christian Orthodoxy
    (pp. 157-162)

    The unique relationship between Judaism and Syriac Christianity has traditionally facilitated eastern Syria’s isolation in scholarship on the Roman Empire and early Christian history.¹ Using Ephrem’s Syriac texts as a starting point for understanding the role that anti-Jewish language played in the theological controversies of the fourth century not only relocates eastern Syria firmly within political and cultural exchanges of the Roman Empire, but also challenges traditional narratives of early Christian history. Recognizing that early Christianity did not suddenly and radically separate from other forms of Judaism better allows for an understanding of the complex relationship between the synagogue and...

  10. Bibliography
    (pp. 163-186)
  11. General Index
    (pp. 187-190)
  12. Index of Ephrem’s Writings
    (pp. 191-192)
  13. Back Matter
    (pp. 193-193)