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Home > Catalogue > A Dictionary of Jewish-Christian Relations
A Dictionary of Jewish-Christian Relations


  • Page extent: 538 pages
  • Size: 247 x 174 mm
  • Weight: 1.05 kg

Library of Congress

  • Dewey number: 261.2/6/03
  • Dewey version: 22
  • LC Classification: BM535 .D487 2005
  • LC Subject headings:
    • Judaism--Relations--Christianity--Dictionaries
    • Christianity and other religions--Judaism--Dictionaries

Library of Congress Record

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 (ISBN-13: 9780521826921 | ISBN-10: 0521826926)

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Aaron is a figure represented in both Testaments and referred to typologically in both. His priestly role is the dominant feature shared by Judaism and Christianity, but in the latter this role is appropriated in order to highlight the superiority of the priesthood of Jesus. Thereafter, because the Jewish tradition continued to stress his priestly status, he faded out of the Christian tradition.

   In the book of Exodus Aaron appears as the brother of Moses and Miriam, playing a subordinate but important role as spokesperson for Moses before the Pharaoh, although in the earliest literary strata of the Torah there is no evidence that he is a priest. His priestly role becomes clear only in the later so-called Priestly Document, in the description of the construction of the Tabernacle and the designation of himself and his sons as hereditary priests (Exod. 28–29; Lev. 8). A negative appraisal of Aaron in the Jewish tradition centres on the story of the Golden Calf (Exod. 32) and, later, his opposition to Moses in Num. 12. However, in later rabbinic tradition his image is entirely positive. He was praised because of his elevation to the high priesthood and he became the paradigm of the priesthood. Further, as spokesperson for Moses he was lauded as a lover of peace who could reconcile disputes (Hillel in Avot 1.12). In the mystical tradition he became one of the seven invisible holy guests (ushpizin) whom observant Jews welcomed to their tabernacles on Sukkot. The priestly tradition and Chronicles established the principle that he was the necessary ancestor, through Eleazar and Ithamar, of all legitimate priests. The priestly genealogy of Aaron and the confusing narrative tradition, with its pejorative and laudatory elements, would have developed within the post-exilic priestly group rivalry in the late eighth century BCE between Aaronides and Zadokites.

   Aaron, as a point of contact between Jews and Christians, was acknowledged in the Letter to the Hebrews as the founder of the Jewish priesthood, who offered acceptable sacrifice to God. The anonymous author appropriated the still-developing Jewish tradition and contrasts the once-and-for-all priesthood of Jesus (which was claimed to derive from the priesthood of Melchizedek) with the inferior yet legitimate priesthood of Aaron. There is no polemic intent against Aaron in Hebrews. Two texts, Ps. 2.7 and 110.4, are used to show that God designated Jesus as the unique Son and High Priest. His self-sacrifice, analogous to the sacrifice of the High Priest on the Day of Atonement, is depicted as a covenant-inaugurating event, fulfilling the expectations of the new covenant in Jeremiah. In this way, the Levitical priesthood, as subsumed in Aaron, was claimed by Christians to be superseded, as was also the Torah, conceived in cultic terms; since the Levitical priesthood served the Torah, a new priesthood required a new Torah. Written in the diaspora, probably in Alexandria for a Roman congregation, Hebrews demonstrates the supersessionist direction of Christian thinking in the late first century CE.

See also typology


Abelard, Peter (1079–1142)

French philosopher, theologian, teacher, abbot and poet: he regarded Judaism as philosophically and spiritually inferior to Christianity, yet expressed rare compassion for Jewish suffering. Controversial and influential, Abelard was a supreme dialectician, applying Aristotelian logic by rationally analysing contrasting authorities and emphasising intentions behind deeds. Abelard had personal contact with Jews, knew limited Hebrew derived from Jerome, and argued (to Heloise, his former beloved, now an abbess) that nuns should learn Hebrew. Although in Dialogus inter philosophum, Judaeum et Christianum his fictive Jew empathised with Jewish oppression and envisaged a biblically promised blissful future, Abelard believed that the minutiae of Mosaic Law burdened Jews, distracting them from genuine love of God.


Abner of Burgos (c.1270–1340)

Apostate and anti-Jewish polemicist. Baptised aged 50 as Alfonso of Valladolid, in his writings Abner urged Jewish conversion and intensified existing anti-Jewish polemics, becoming a major source for later apostates and Spanish Christian anti-Judaism. Following Raymond Martini’s Pugio Fidei, Abner’s tractates attacked Jews, the Talmud and Judaism. Abner urged anti-Jewish measures, including conversionist preaching and segregation of Jews from Christians, influencing Alfonso Ⅺ of Castile (r.1312–50) to outlaw the Aleinu prayer (1336). Abner’s eclectic theology stressed messianism, predestination and astrological influence, interpreted aggadah christologically, and viewed Christians as the ‘true Israel’. Joseph ibn Pollegar (Pulgar) (first half of the fourteenth century) and Hasdai Crescas wrote texts refuting Abner.



Both Judaism and Christianity base their understanding of the sacredness of human life on Gen. 1, which has made possible a serious dialogue on the issue of abortion in recent years. In 1977, for example, an ongoing dialogue group co-sponsored by the American Jewish Committee, the Board of Rabbis of Southern California and the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles issued a joint statement, Respect for Life, while in 1980 the Catholic/Reformed Christian national consultation did the same. Both pointed to the shared understanding of the human person as ‘the image and likeness of God’ as uniting Christian with Christian and Christian with Jew. Both call on religious groups to work together to contribute what they share ‘to influence civil discourse’, to promote ‘positive alternatives to abortion’ such as adoption, and to ‘overcome problems of poverty, inequality, and sexual exploitation’. Both view the ideal society as one in which women would see few, if any, abortions to be necessary.

   Catholicism, Evangelical Protestantism and Orthodox Judaism regard the unborn fetus as human. Orthodox Judaism would prohibit most abortions on moral grounds, but, following Maimonides, considers abortion to be a right and even a duty when the mother’s life or health is seriously threatened. Roman Catholicism does not allow for this exception, except on the rare occasions when the principle of double effect applies (i.e. abortion is not the intended outcome, but may happen as an unintended consequence of a procedure to save the mother’s life). Like much of Protestant Christianity, on the other hand, Reform and much of Conservative Judaism regard the fetus as potential life, not, until the moment of birth, as an independent entity. While there is a variety of opinion among these Jewish and Protestant authorities, there is general agreement that the life and health of the mother take precedence over the potential life of the fetus.

   Both Jews and Christians, while divided on the application of moral principles, base them on biblical revelation. While many Protestant Christians and Jews argue the importance of preserving freedom of choice for women, and thus oppose legal restrictions on abortion as an attempt to impose the religious law of one group upon others in a pluralistic society, many other Christians and Jews argue that the unborn, no less than other ‘marginalised’, economically or physically disadvantaged groups, deserve legal protection. Catholics see the pro-life struggle as a ‘seamless garment’ with related issues such as euthanasia, capital punishment, nuclear war and life-threatening poverty. Reform Jews and many Protestants see the issue in the context of the right of individual conscience and pluralism itself. Liberal Protestants and progressive Jews, therefore, lobby politically together to ensure the legal right to abortion, while Catholics, Evangelical Christians and Orthodox Jews lobby for legislation to protect the rights of the unborn.

See also medical ethics



   The biblical figure of Abraham unites and divides the three great monotheistic religions. Judaism, Christianity and Islam all trace their spiritual ancestry to Abraham, viewing him as a paradigm of the human–divine relationship and the consequences of the search to live in the presence of God.

   The biblical narrative, from Gen. 11.10–23 to 25.7–11, describes Abraham’s life, which is marked by encounters with God and particularly by God’s promise of the continuity of his family line, who will inherit the land. This has become a key theme throughout the history of Jewish–Christian relations. The Bible associates Abraham’s name with the divine blessing as the progenitor of the Israelites, and Moses asks God to remember the ‘promises to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob’ when retelling his intervention on behalf of Israel because of their sin at the Golden Calf (Deut. 9.27). The promise of the land covenant as part of the promise to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is mentioned in Deut. 34.4 and Josh. 24.3, and his unique status is repeated by Isaiah in his declaration that ‘God redeemed Abraham’ (29.22 and 41.8, where Abraham is called ‘My beloved’).

   The New Testament reveals both continuities and discontinuities with these images. Matthew and Luke affirm that Jesus descends from the seed of Abraham but the Gospels introduce a disjunction: in Matt. 3.17 John the Baptist says that ancestry from Abraham is not sufficient to avoid the divine wrath. Abraham, Isaac and Jacob will be at the eschatological banquet, but those who are children of ‘the kingdom’ will be thrown into utter darkness (8.11). The dichotomy between the followers of Jesus and those who reject him is reflected in the image of Abraham in the Gospel of John. Some of ‘the Jews’ (see hoi Ioudaioi) argue that their ancestor Abraham assures them freedom from sin; however, the Gospel asserts that unbelieving Jews are plotting to kill Jesus. This is not God’s work, and they are children of Satan. Jesus ultimately asserts that ‘Before Abraham was, I AM’ to demonstrate that his identification with God as Father (I AM) surpassed that of Abraham’s seed (8.39–58).

   Paul’s assessment of Abraham has been a significant point of contention in Jewish–Christian relations. In the letters to the Galatians and Romans, he puts Gen. 15.6, where belief in God was ‘accounted to him as righteousness’, at the foundation of Abraham’s covenant that would bring rewards and promises. Subsequent revelations to Abraham, such as the commandment of circumcision (Gen. 17) or the revelation of the Law to Moses (Exod. 19), were valid until the coming of Jesus, whose death and resurrection brings all people into the covenant of Abraham (Gal. 3.23–29; Rom. 4). Paul associates those who believe in the covenant entered by circumcision with the children of Hagar or slavery, while those who enter through Christ are truly descendants of Isaac, children of the promise (Gal. 4.21–30; Rom. 4). Narratives of the early Church, such as the Epistle of Barnabas (par. 9), reinforce the division between those who believe in the Christ and are spiritual, and those who adhere to the covenant of circumcision of the flesh.

   Philo of Alexandria, a contemporary of Paul, bequeathed an interpretation of Abraham that would find its way into both Christianity and Rabbinic Judaism. The Abraham narratives are an allegory for the journey of the soul towards spiritual and moral perfection. For the Rabbis, like Philo, every detail in the Abraham narratives constitutes a significant part of the divine promise to the Jewish people for all generations. However, the Rabbis, while endorsing the moral and spiritual dimensions of Philonic allegory, emphasise the concrete details in the life of Abraham. They claimed that the Torah was revealed for the sake of Abraham (Gen. Rab. 12.9). Abraham was greater than Noah because he walked with God rather than before him (Gen. Rab. 30.10). In an effort to demonstrate the universalism of Judaism, Abraham and Sarah are depicted as missionaries converting their pagan contemporaries to the God of Israel (Gen. Rab. 39.14). Abraham’s circumcision at an advanced age is a sign that even proselytes to Judaism should not avoid the commandment (Gen. Rab. 46.2). The binding of Isaac is concrete evidence that Abraham was obedient to God by his faith as well as actions. These rabbinic views, along with more systematic retelling of the Abraham narratives in midrash Pirke Rabbi Eliezer, reveal a response to Christian appropriations of Abraham.

   The Koran describes Abraham as the hanif, the God-seeker par excellence. Muslims revered Abraham as a holy figure, and traced their lineage back to his son Ishmael. Muslim traditions elaborate the biblical narratives, understanding the object of Abraham’s sacrifice to be Ishmael rather than Isaac.

   Both Jews and Christians claim Abraham as their own spiritual mentor and guide. Throughout most of their history, these traditions have been in contention about the propriety of the inheritance of the promises. These promises for Christians are grounded in the faith Abraham revealed in Gen. 15.6, rather than in the concrete acts of obedience to God that led Abraham to be circumcised and ultimately to bear the burden of nearly sacrificing his son Isaac. Jews have continued to look to the entire narrative of Abraham which will ultimately yield the blessings of continuity of the Jewish people and their peaceful dwelling in the land of Israel.

   The Vatican Ⅱ document Nostra Aetate (1965) proclaimed the ‘stock of Abraham’ as the point of origin for a new relationship between Christians and Jews. This turn to biblical origins was part of a Catholic return to scriptural traditions in Vatican Ⅱ. Yet Jewish claims to be the inheritors of the land of Israel through the promises of Abraham have been the source of controversy between Jews and Christians as well as with Muslims. However, some Jews, Christians and Muslims seek reconciliation of their differences by appealing to the fact that each tradition harks back to the biblical Abraham. The resolution of their theological and communal differences will depend upon how carefully they negotiate the virtues of Abraham that belong to all three traditions and appreciate the particular claims made by each of them.


Abrahams, Israel (1858–1925)

Scholar of Rabbinic Judaism, co-founder of the Jewish Quarterly Review and leader of Liberal Judaism in England. Abrahams was appointed Senior Tutor at Jews College in 1881 and in 1902 became Reader in Rabbinics at Cambridge University, where he influenced a generation of students, both Jews and Christians. He succeeded in making Rabbinic Judaism better understood by Christian students and academics. His Studies in Pharisaism and the Gospels (First Series 1917, Second Series 1924) made an important contribution to contemporary Christian attitudes towards Rabbinic Judaism.

See also Progressive Judaism



Absolution is a characteristically Christian cate- gory: a priest, conditional on a penitent confessing sins, vowing immediate reform of life and accepting a penance, says to him/her, ‘I absolve you from your sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit’. Roman Catholic and Orthodox Christianity understand ‘the words of the priest as instruments of the divine power because it is the divine power that works inwardly in all the sacramental signs’ (Aquinas, Summa Ⅲ, 84.3). In these traditions, the absolving words of the priest are the external sign (sacrament) of divine forgiveness. Other Christian traditions, less sacramental and resistant to the idea of a distinct priestly ministry in the Church, view priestly absolution as a usurpation of a role that is God’s alone. The Jewish roots of Christian sacramental religion lie in Solomon’s prayer of dedication of the Temple (2 Chr. 6), when he asks that the Temple rituals may be universally effective in conveying divine mercy and power, and in the atonement rituals of Tabernacle and Temple.

   Both Jewish and Christian traditions emphasise the reality of divine forgiveness as an experiential moment in the life of Israel and Church, and they both know words of divine absolution linked to rituals of repentance. Linked to the Day of Atonement, the promise to Israel in Lev. 16.30 (‘atonement shall be made for you, to cleanse you; from all your sins you shall be clean before the Lord’) is the basis of later beliefs in both traditions: for the Jewish community in post-70 CE it inspires the powerful liturgy of the cleansing of Israel’s sins on Yom Kippur, and for the Christian community it comes to be applied to Christ’s (priestly) self-offering for sins (Heb. 9.24f.). Judaism, permeated by a deep conviction that God forgives all who repent of their sins, does not understand its rituals in relation to divine mercy in the sacramental ways of the Catholic and Orthodox Churches. There, words of absolution spoken by a priest in the name of the Church consciously continue Jesus’ ministry towards sinners: the Gospels, recognising that God alone does this, present Jesus as declaring that sins are forgiven (Mark 2.5; Luke 7.48; John 5.14), giving the power of ‘binding and loosing’ to human beings (Matt. 18.18) and bestowing on the apostles a post-resurrection command to forgive sins in his name: ‘if you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven’ (John 20.23). Judaism post-70 CE retains a deep religious perception of the reality of divine mercy in relation to Israel: on Yom Kippur the gates of mercy are opened, sins are cleansed and reconciliation achieved with God. So what distinguishes the two traditions is not their comparative appreciation of God’s forgiveness, but how this is mediated: Jews do not regard the people of Israel as empowered to convey divine mercy in the way that Christians think that the Church does.


Abulafia, Abraham (1240–after 1290)

   Born in Saragossa, Abraham ben Samuel Abulafia was the founder of an influential school of Kabbalah, which had a strong impact in southern Italy and Sicily. While in Spain he was condemned as a deluded pseudo-prophet. His contemplative techniques sought to bring the soul of man close to God, and drew on methods and ideas of Spanish and German Jewry, and also, perhaps, on other religions. He had Messianic pretensions, and the most famous episode in his life was a visit in 1280 to Pope Nicholas Ⅲ (1277–80), to whom he proposed to reveal himself as a prophet and redeemer of the Jews. He was arrested, but the death of the pope led to his release; he went to Sicily and Malta, disappearing around 1291. A prolific author, his work secured a new readership in the Renaissance, both among Christians (Pico della Mirandola studied his writings closely) and among the mystics of Safed; long dismissed as a false  Messiah, he was rehabilitated in the twentieth century by Gershom Scholem (1897–1982) and Moshe Idel (b. 1947).




The figure of Adam in Jewish–Christian relations serves both to unite and to divide. From a Jewish perspective, Adam becomes the forerunner of the Jewish people as a whole. We read in Genesis Rabbah 19.7, commenting on Gen. 3.7, ‘When Adam sinned it [the Shekinah, God’s presence] departed to the first level of the heavens’. It can be argued that Adam’s experience in the Garden represents God’s relation to Israel ‘worked out in miniature’ (G. A. Anderson, The Genesis of Perfection 16). God grieves over the nation’s transgression and longs for obedience from the whole people for paradise to be restored. For the Christian, Adam points not to a whole people but uniqely to the figure of Christ. However, Adam is regarded in both Judaism and Christianity as the first human being, and his story, told in the opening chapters of Genesis, is significant theologically. There are two distinct biblical accounts of Adam’s origin (1.26–30, in which Adam is the climax of creation, and 2.4a–9). The Hebrew word adam, which always appears in the singular, means ‘man’. In the first account, the definite article is used (ha-adam), suggesting that it is not a proper name here (unlike in 4.25 and 5.1–5, where the definite article is dropped). He comes from the earth (adamah), according to Gen. 2.7. Until the nineteenth century, he was generally held to be a historical figure, but most Jews and Christians today read the stories, including the second narrative set in Eden (2.15–3.24), as myth, expressing important ideas about the human condition. In both  creation narratives, the emphasis is on the particular responsibility given to human beings, enjoying a unique relationship with God (the phrase ‘in God’s image’ in Gen. 1.27 receives much attention, especially in Christian doctrine), to care for other creatures and the land. In both Jewish and Christian ethics, these biblical texts have long been used as the basis of environmental concern. It is argued by some modern ethicists that the stress on human ‘dominion’ over nature has replaced a sense of responsibility, encouraging exploitation of the earth’s resources. Even in traditional sources, Adam’s behaviour is taken as a paradigm for human conduct in general. So the Mishnah (e.g. Sanhedrin 4.5) asserts that our descent from one man means that whoever destroys or saves a single life destroys or saves the whole world. The New Testament similarly interprets the story as typology, viewing Adam as archetypal man who brings sin into the world. In Christian thought Jesus is seen as the fulfilment of what God intends for humankind. He is the second Adam who is needed to redeem the human condition. This is particularly important in the Christology of Paul. In Rom. 5.12–21 and 1 Cor. 15.22, 45–49 Adam is described as the source of sin and death. The first man, made from earth or dust, is the prototype of all humanity, since all are of dust and are mortal. Christ, as the second Adam (or ‘last’ Adam in the sense of ‘most complete’), is also mortal and so dies but is then raised by God as the ‘first fruits of those who have died’. Paul argues this as the basis of the Christian belief in the Resurrection: ‘for as all die in Adam, so all will be made alive in Christ’. The Kabbalah speaks of Adam’s sin creating a cosmic flaw, disturbing God’s intended harmony. Adam’s descendants must seek to restore cosmic harmony. Jewish sources generally, however, have no concept of original sin, but depict human beings as constantly struggling between good and evil impulses. Most of the Church Fathers, by contrast, develop Paul’s ideas in terms of a ‘fall’ from grace. Notably Augustine, and later Calvin, take the story of Adam as implying the innate corruption of human nature. The Rabbis in Talmud and midrash suggest that Adam encompasses both male and female characteristics and that he was created an androgynous creature, Eve, the first created woman, being taken from Adam’s ‘side’ rather than ‘rib’ (Gen. 2.22). Both Jewish and Christian writers have variously drawn on this part of the story to emphasise, on the one hand, either male priority/patriarchy (his needs are met in receiving woman as a partner) or, on the other hand, gender equality (man is incomplete without woman).


Adenauer, Konrad (1876–1967)

German politician and statesman. Konrad Adenauer is best known for his initiative as the first Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany to pay reparations to the State of Israel and to the Conference on Jewish Material Claims against Germany (Luxemburg 1952). His involvement with Jews dated from at least as early as his years as Mayor of Cologne (1917–33), when he was removed from office by the Nazis and went into hiding at Maria Laach monastery. As Mayor, Adenauer formed good relations with the leaders of the Jewish community. He was also a member of the Zionist organisation Pro-Palästina Komitee. As President of the Catholic Church Congress in Germany (Katholikentag) in 1922, Adenauer campaigned for cooperation with the non-Catholic majority. When the Nazis came to power in 1933, antisemitic campaigns in Cologne branded him a Blutjude (‘blood-Jew’) and a representative of the Zionist movement. While hiding, and then without a steady job during the Nazi years, Adenauer and his family were dependent on the financial assistance of Jewish friends, who were among the few to maintain their friendship during this time. Briefly reinstated by the Americans as Mayor of Cologne in 1945, Adenauer encouraged Cologne Jews to return to their city from Theresienstadt. As Chancellor he saw it as his moral duty to offer reparations, recognising that the moral guilt and personal and communal loss could never be repaid.


Adversus Judaeos literature

   The term ‘Adversus Judaeos literature’ refers to a body of Christian polemical texts specifically directed against the Jews, which were written from the first century to at least the eighteenth century CE. Such literature appears in the form of systematically arranged tracts, or an account of a dialogue or of a public debate. Some would not wish, however, to restrict the term to texts dedicated specifically to this theme, arguing that there is much material Adversus Judaeos in Christian writings that ostensibly are concerned with other subjects (so, for instance, many Christian exegetical works contain lengthy anti-Jewish sections; and the voluminous Christian writer Origen writes much that could be construed as straightforwardly anti-Jewish, but never wrote a work Adversus Judaeos). While we first meet the term Adversus Judaeos only in the third century, here as the title of a work by Tertullian, literature of this kind predates that period.

   There is no book or letter in the New Testament devoted to an anti-Jewish subject. In some senses this is not surprising for, in spite of the presence of some texts that speak negatively of people termed ‘hoi Ioudaioi’, it is not clear how many of the New Testament’s authors would have seen themselves as non-Jews (the term ‘Christian’ only appears twice in the entire collection). So a figure like Paul, subsequently to be seen as a key figure in the separation of Judaism from Christianity, and a man not averse to criticism of non-Christian Jews, could still describe himself as a ‘Hebrew of Hebrews’ (Rom. 11.1). But however we regard the identity of individual early Christian authors, there is a certain amount of material in the New Testament, whatever its original intention, that came subsequently to be exploited for its perceived anti-Jewish content. In this respect one might highlight from many possible examples Paul’s negative comments on the law (see especially Gal. 3–5); John’s harsh comments about ‘Ioudaioi’ (see especially John 8.45), Matthew’s attack upon the Pharisees (Matt. 23) and his clear attribution of blame for the death of Jesus to the Jews (Matt. 27.25); and the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews’ strong condemnation of the cult (see especially Heb. 10) and his explicit endorsement of the better character of the Christian covenant.

   Some scholars have argued that the earliest examples of Adversus Judaeos literature in the specific sense referred to above would have been in the form of so-called ‘testimony books’ (see testimonia), collections of citations from the Hebrew scriptures with some commentary appended, in which the confluence of ancient promise and Christian fulfilment and concomitant rejection of non-Christian Jews was made plain. Such books would have looked somewhat like the third-century work, attributed to Cyprian of Carthage, Testimonia ad Quirinum, and they would originally have been inspired by the Jewish custom for creating florilegia of texts as witnessed in 4QFlorilegia at Qumran. Although this theory has been questioned on a number of grounds, not least the absence of any evidence for such anti-Jewish testimony books before Cyprian, the theory is right to highlight the essentially biblical character of Adversus Judaeos literature.

   Actual extant texts that have a strongly Adversus Judaeos character are first witnessed with Barnabas (c.132 CE) (see Apostolic Fathers) and then more clearly with Justin Martyr’s Dialogue with Trypho (c.160 CE), ostensibly an account of a discussion between Justin and a named Jew, Trypho, and his companions in Ephesus a little time after the Bar-Kokhba revolt (the dialogue form, which was well known in antiquity, may have first been used in an anti-Jewish setting in The Dialogue of Jason and Papiscus, now lost, and sometimes dated as early as the 130s CE). This type of writing is then regularly evidenced in Christian literature throughout the patristic and medieval periods and beyond, in a variety of languages and forms, and from the pen of such Christian luminaries as Chrysostom, Augustine and Luther. Some have sought to posit a change in emphasis after the arrival of Constantine, with a sharper, more condemnatory tone now in evidence. This can be overplayed, however, as can the claim that the contents of such literature changed from this time. In fact there is considerable continuity in the themes discussed.

   These themes concern the redundancy of the Jewish law, argued for in a variety of ways, either by reference to the law’s limited duration, its particularist and post-Abrahamic character, its inappropriateness now that the Temple had fallen or, finally, its allegorical intention (see, inter alia, Barn. 2, 9, 10 and 15; Justin, Dial. 18–24; Tertullian, Adv. Jud. 3–6; Novatian, On the Jewish Meats); the lost status of Jews as the chosen people and the corresponding assertion that the Gentiles/Christians are now the chosen people (see, inter alia, Barn. 13–14; Tertullian, Adv. Jud. 12–14; Cyprian, Test. 19–23; Pseudo-Cyprian, De Montibus et Sion) – in such discussions the Christian church was presented as the new Israel and the rightful owners of the scriptures, and much was made of the fact that since 70 CE the Jewish Temple had been destroyed and their land occupied (in this context we should note the harsh and febrile reaction of Christians to Julian the Apostate’s attempts to rebuild the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem c.362 CE, exemplified in the writings of Chrysostom, Gregory of Nyssa (330–c.395), and Cyril of Alexandria); enumeration of biblical evidence for the view that Jesus is rightfully termed the Messiah (Justin, Dial. 48f.; Cyprian, Test. 2.1–7; Aphrahat, Homily 17); and, connected with the previous theme, a defence of Christian trinitarianism, or, more particularly, the status of Jesus as the Son of God, and this often against Jewish accusations that Christians were guilty of idolatry in worshipping Christ. While much of this ancient Christian anti-Jewish polemic reflected specific Christian concerns and did not seek to pick up on anti-pagan polemic against Jews (often accusations laid against Jews could also be laid against Christians; and the fact that Christians shared part of their Bible with the Jews made their attitude towards Judaism a complex and double-edged one), there were some continuities, not least in aspects of Christian criticism of Jewish laws and in their keenness to play up the Jews’ fallen state.

   In the western medieval tradition this material was reused and to a certain extent updated. A particular new feature is the increasing use of rabbinic material brought to a climax in the thirteenth century by Raymond Martini in his Pugio Fidei, where an attempt is made to prove Christianity out of  Talmud and midrash. Soon afterwards we witness a similarly tendentious use of Jewish mystical writings, especially the Zohar (see mysticism).

   Scholarly discussion of this literature has made much of the related questions of its purpose and audience. To some scholars, notably Harnack, R. Ruether (b. 1936), D. Rokeah (b. 1930) and to a slightly lesser extent H. Schreckenberg (b. 1933), the literature is quite unconcerned with its ostensible aim, the conversion of Jews, and gives voice much more clearly to internal Christian needs, many of which were taken up with proving the biblical basis of Christianity. In asserting that Christianity was the fulfilment of promises in the Hebrew scriptures, it was necessary, so the argument goes, to argue against those – that is, the Jews – who would interpret those same scriptures in a contrary way. Christian Adversus Judaeos literature simply gives voice to the anti-Jewish tendency of Christian parenesis. In a variation on this argument, some have wanted to assert that a pagan audience might be more appropriate for such literature, not least because pagan critics of Christianity, such as the second-century Celsus, as recorded in Origen’s Contra Celsum, saw Christians as renegades from Judaism, implicitly denying Christian claims to be the true Israel. In positing such views, these scholars have highlighted the repetitive and stereotypical character of the content of Adversus Judaeos literature, the unreal representation of both Jews and Jewish opinion (is not Justin’s Trypho, for instance, portrayed as a bit too amenable to Christian views when he asserts that he could believe in a suffering Messiah in Dial. 90?), a point that becomes clear in those dialogues where Jews end up converting to Christianity. Emphasis is also laid upon the apparent lack of evidence for Jewish–Christian contact and on the fact that material from Adversus Judaeos writings can end up in texts that are not of that genre (a famous example here might be the fact that parts of Tertullian’s Adversus Judaeos end up almost word for word in Book 3 of his Adversus Marcionem). Responses to such positions have come from scholars such as Jean Juster (c.1886–1916) Marcel Simon (b. 1907) and William Horbury (b. 1942). They have argued that the Jewish community was too large and significant to avoid, that there is in fact more evidence than some would allow for contact between Christians and Jews, that the Adversus Judaeos literature is not without variety, and that on occasion it betrays genuine knowledge of the Jewish community and its practices. While admitting that some anti-Jewish statements appear in settings of a strictly parenetic kind and so may be said to assume no Jewish opponent, the fact that there is literature Adversus Judaeos should be taken seriously. Such a view comes closer to seeing this literature as evidence for Jewish–Christian contact. In recent times, and broadly in line with this view, some have argued that the same literature is seeking to assert a clear-cut distinction between Jews and Christians, which in fact did not reflect the reality on the ground, where interaction and exchange, as Chrysostom implies in his Adversus Judaeos, was much more commonplace.

See also anti-Judaism; antisemitism


African theology

Developed by sub-Saharan black Africans, African theology appears at first glance to demonstrate little awareness of the Jewish–Christian encounter. However, African emphasis on the Old Testament, such as the biblical understanding of creation, the life cycle, and the family and community – expressed, for example, in African sacrifices at births, weddings, funerals and other religious ceremonies, hand-washing ceremonies and the rite of circumcision – provides a natural link between Judaism and Christianity. Western missionaries were in fact reluctant to use the Old Testament in the instruction of converts, fearing that its atmosphere would be too close to indigenous African culture and converts might feel that there was no need to proceed to the New Testament.

   An African Christian–Jewish consultation took place in Cameroon in 2001, under the auspices of the World Council of Churches, and pointed to a number of ‘convergences’ in African theology and Judaism, other than the centrality of the biblical text and story. These included the similarities between the concept of shalom and Ubuntu (humaneness or humanity), the role of the word and of palaver (discussion, consensus-formation) and the idea of tikkun (repair) and the theology of reconstruction.

   African theology is unhindered by many of the concerns underlying Jewish–Christian dialogue in Europe. An example is the topic of memory, since Jews and Africans have experienced a similar history of exclusion, exploitation and violence (from antisemitism and the Shoah to the slave trade, apartheid and the Rwandan genocide) as well as of survival. In this context, the biblical account of the Exodus and the journey from bondage to freedom plays a central role in African as well as in Jewish theology.



   Traditionally, Judaism and Christianity both have affirmed belief in an afterlife, and Christian expressions of this belief are, to a large extent, rooted in Judaism. The ancient Israelite belief in Sheol, a netherworld abode of the dead – whether they had been righteous or wicked in life – had little influence on either Rabbinic Judaism or Christianity. Instead, beliefs in the resurrection of the dead, expressed in a few late passages in the Hebrew scriptures (most explicitly in Dan. 12.2), and in the heavenly immortality of the soul, found in the apocryphal writings of the Second Temple period, were developed in both traditions. There are a wide variety of traditional Jewish beliefs regarding the soul after death, the resurrection of the body and the nature of the ‘world to come’ (olam ha-ba). This makes it virtually impossible to articulate a generally accepted Jewish view of an afterlife. It is clear, however, that the emphasis on the sanctity of this life has always been more important in Judaism than belief in an afterlife, and, therefore, the latter is less central to Judaism than to Christianity, which is based on belief in the resurrection of Jesus and on the resurrection of believers to new life in Christ.

   In both Judaism and Christianity, resurrection of the body has been understood both literally and metaphorically. When taken metaphorically, it has often been understood in terms of spiritual immortality. Even when resurrection of the body has been understood literally, theologians have usually meant not merely the resuscitation of the body but the transformation of it. Also, in both traditions, it has generally been believed that the righteous are rewarded with eternal life while the wicked are punished. But the idea of eternal damnation has not been taught in Judaism as it has been in Christianity, and Judaism has consistently affirmed the belief that the righteous of all nations will be saved, whereas traditional Christianity has taught (though with various interpretations) that there is ‘no salvation outside the Church’.

   Despite traditional Jewish affirmations of an afterlife, one of the ways that Christian apologists of the Middle Ages attempted to demonstrate the superiority of Christianity over Judaism was to contrast what they claimed to be the unambiguous Christian promise of immortality with ambiguous Jewish promises of an afterlife. Some Jewish philosophers responded by claiming that Judaism does contain the unambiguous promise of immortality, while many other Jews have suggested that a preoccupation with and certainty about the hereafter may be indicative of spiritual immaturity: failure to face the finality of death; failure to acknowledge the limits of what can be known; failure to appreciate fully the value of life this side of the grave; failure to obey God out of love rather than for the sake of earning eternal reward and avoiding eternal punishment. Even today, in the context of irenic interfaith encounters, many Christians express surprise at how Jews minimise the importance of belief in an afterlife, while many Jews express bewilderment at what they consider a Christian preoccupation with an afterlife.


Aggadah see midrash

Agobard (779−840)

Archbishop of Lyons, author of several letters criticising the integrationist policy toward Jews of Carolingian Emperor Louis the Pious (778−840) and – with other colleagues – a treatise On Jewish Superstitions and Errors. Agobard accused Jews of flaunting their success and reviling Christianity, and called for the enforcement of earlier legislation that consigned them to a status of clear subservience. He was especially scandalised by reports that Christians turned to Jews for blessings over their crops and preferred Jewish preachers to their own. His writings reveal a knowledge of post-biblical Jewish literature, which he strongly condemned. Agobard’s vigorous efforts to reverse the pro-Jewish imperial policy were not successful.


Akedah see binding of Isaac

Akiba (c.40–c.135)

An outstanding tannaitic sage, famous for his contribution to both the evolving hermeneutical principles in halakhah and the texture of aggadah. During the second Jewish revolt he supported Shimon bar Koseba, acclaiming him to be Bar Kokhba, ‘Son of the Star’ (a Messianic title; see Num. 24.17). One of many points of contact between the Jewish and Christian traditions is the statement assigned to Akiba in Leviticus Rabbah 1.5, which has a clear-cut parallel in Luke 14.7–11: both these passages illuminate the importance of humility with a parable about a guest who, having taken the lowest place at a feast, is invited by the host to move to the table of honour.



‘It is incumbent upon us’, the first Hebrew word of an important Jewish prayer. Originally composed for the liturgy for the New Year (Rosh Hashanah), since the late Middle Ages it has been used at the conclusion of all three daily worship services. The first part proclaims the obligation of Jews to praise and extol God, who has made them different from the other nations. A contentious passage follows: ‘For they [the nations] bow down before vanity and emptiness (hevel va-rik, Isa. 30.7) . . . while we bow down . . . before the King of kings of kings, the Holy One blessed be He’. A medieval apostate claimed that since the numerical equivalent of the letters in va-rik equal the value of the letters in Yeshu (Hebrew for Jesus), the phrase was an encoded slander against Christian worship. Martin Luther railed vitriolically against the prayer; Jewish leaders insisted that it referred only to pagan idolatry. In 1703 the Prussian government ordered that the offending clause be eliminated, and it was dropped from the Ashkenazi (though not from the Sephardi) liturgy. The remainder of the prayer is a stirring expression of the hope for universal, all-inclusive recognition of the one true God.


Alexander Ⅱ (d. 1073)

Pope (1061–73). He wrote that unlike Saracens, who were active enemies, Jews ‘were always prepared to be subservient’ and should be allowed to live in peace. Citing the precedent of Gregory the Great, Alexander’s formulation – perhaps elicited by the Jews of Rome, who looked to the bishop of the city as their secular ruler – was incorporated about 1140 into Gratian’s legal textbook, the Decretum, as the canon Dispar nimirum est (23.8.1). Afterwards, the concept of Jewish acquiescence was cited repeatedly, notably by the ex-General of the Dominicans Humbert of Romans at the Second Ecumenical Council of Lyons in 1274.


Alexander Ⅲ (c.1105–81)

Pope (1159–81). He presided over the Third Lateran Council, 1179, which declared all Christian testimony against Jews valid ‘since . . . Jews [must] be subservient’, forbade Christian servants in Jewish homes and the erecting of new synagogues. All these laws had antecedents in the canonical collections of Burchard of Worms (c.965–1025), Ivo of Chartres (1040–1116) and Gratian (c.1140) (see Alexander Ⅱ). Alexander Ⅲ enforced these rules, overcoming opposition from the French kings Louis Ⅶ and, initially, Philip Augustus (r.1180–1223); by 1283, royal charters prohibited Jews from holding Christian servants; before 1179, the opposite was expressly permitted. Following the Summa Coloniensis (2.136) – an anonymous collection of canons prepared in Cologne in 1169 – Alexander was possibly seeking to prevent ritual impurity, acquired through ‘overfamiliarity’, including dining in common, which disqualified Christians from receiving the Eucharist. Out of context for a twelfth-century pope, Alexander assumed converts might ‘backslide’ unopposed into Judaism.



   Founded in 332 BCE by Alexander the Great (d. 323 BCE) on the Mediterranean coast of Egypt close to the Nile Delta, Alexandria rapidly emerged as a great city, becoming the capital of the Ptolemaic Empire and retaining its importance under the Romans, under whose sway it passed in 31 BCE. The city fell to the Arabs in 642 and has remained under Muslim control ever since. Alexandria has long been the home of very significant Jewish and Christian communities, both of whom have made a distinctive (and in some respects analogous) contribution to their respective traditions. The Jewish presence in the city dates back to its beginnings. Jews were guaranteed religious freedom, civil rights and a substantial degree of autonomy by Alexander and his successors. The community grew rapidly, numbering perhaps 500,000 by the second century BCE. Alexandria fostered an immensely creative engagement between Jewish and Greek culture, witnessed perhaps most iconically in the translation of the Hebrew Bible into Greek, the famed Septuagint which also became the Old Testament of the Christian community. This interaction with the Greek world can also be seen in Philo, whose brilliant expression of the Jewish faith using the language and conceptual tools of the Greek philosophical tradition laid the foundations for much subsequent (and mainly Christian) theological endeavour. Relations with the pagan inhabitants of the city deteriorated in the Roman period, as witnessed in the persecution launched under Gaius Caligula (r.37–41) and the prominent role of the Jews of Alexandria in the abortive rising of the Jewish Diaspora (114–17), after which the community was drastically reduced in size and influence. It is after this time that the Christian community of the city begins to come into focus. A number of early Christian texts, such as the Epistle of Barnabas (a text with close affinities to the Jewish tradition; see Apostolic Fathers), are often associated with Alexandria. Alexandria nurtured some of the key theologians of the early Church. Clement (c.150–c.215) was certainly familiar with Jewish customs, theology and exegetical traditions, making extensive use of Philo. Origen knew the Jewish tradition extremely well and took the trouble to learn Hebrew, as witnessed in his famous Hexapla. In his lambasting of the pagan philosopher Celsus, Origen notes the superiority of the Jewish way of life over that of the pagans – an unusual line of argument. Relations between Jews and Christians appear to have steadily worsened under the Christian Empire. There are reports of clashes during the episcopate of Athanasius. The fiery polemic of his later successor, Cyril of Alexandria, inflamed an already heated situation. Under Islamic domination, the city lost importance to Cairo, but Jewish and Christian communities remained very visible parts of the city’s fabric, albeit rarely in close contact. In recent years the Greek and Jewish communities have almost vanished, largely due to economic pressure exerted by Nasser’s Arab socialist government and the promise of a better life in Greece or Israel. This has left the Coptic Christians as the only significant non-Muslim community in what was once a city famed for its multiplicity of cultures (and, sadly, for the tensions between t

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