Augustine and the Jews: A Christian Defense of Jews and Judaism

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"In Augustine and the Jews, Paula Fredriksen draws us into the life, times, and thought of Augustine of Hippo (396-430). Focusing on the period of astounding creativity that led to his new understanding of Paul and to his great classic The Confessions, Fredriksen shows how Augustine's struggle to read the Bible led him to a new theological vision, one that countered the anti-Judaism not only of his Manichaean opponents but also of his own church. The Christian empire, Augustine held, was right to ban paganism and to coerce heretics. But the ...
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Overview

"In Augustine and the Jews, Paula Fredriksen draws us into the life, times, and thought of Augustine of Hippo (396-430). Focusing on the period of astounding creativity that led to his new understanding of Paul and to his great classic The Confessions, Fredriksen shows how Augustine's struggle to read the Bible led him to a new theological vision, one that countered the anti-Judaism not only of his Manichaean opponents but also of his own church. The Christian empire, Augustine held, was right to ban paganism and to coerce heretics. But the source of ancient Jewish scripture and current Jewish practice, he argued, was the very same as that of the New Testament and of the church - namely, God himself. Accordingly, he urged, the Jews were to be left alone. Conceived as a vividly original way to defend Christian ideas about Jesus and about the Old Testament, Augustine's theological innovation survived the demise of the western Roman Empire, and it ultimately served to protect Jewish lives against the brutality of the medieval crusades." Augustine and the Jews sheds new light on the origins of anti-Semitism and, through Augustine, opens a path toward better understanding between two of the world's great religions.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"It is a pleasure to write on a book that derives from a modern scholar's brain wave about the fateful insight of a thinker over a millennium and a half ago...This is the story that Fredriksen tells with gusto. Her book is a masterpiece of passionately argued Augustinian scholarship." --Peter Brown, The New York Review of Books

Praise for Paula Fredriksen

Jesus of Nazareth

“Tightly reasoned, learned and readable . . . engagingly written.” —National Review

“Marked by the utmost clarity . . . good sense and the judicious weighing of evidence.” —Times Literary Supplement

From Jesus to Christ

“Brilliant and enjoyable . . . Magisterial.” —Times Literary Supplement

“Brilliant and lucidly written, full of original and fascinating insights.” —Journal of the American Academy of Religion

“Fredriksen confronts her documents—principally the writings of the New Testament—as an archeologist would an especially rich complex site. With great care she distinguishes the literary images from historical facts.” —Christian Science Monitor

“This is a first-rate work of a first-rate historian.” —Journal of Religion

Publishers Weekly

In this densely argued and exhaustive book, religion professor Fredriksen (Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews) does for Augustine what she has already done so brilliantly for the historical Jesus. Drawing primarily on Augustine's Confessions and on his little-studied treatise, Against Faustus, she recreates the religious and political tensions of late fourth-century Christianity in North Africa and its attempts to understand its relationship to Judaism. While many early Christian writers condemned Jews as killers of Christ, Augustine turned the rhetorical tables on such polemic. As Fredriksen elegantly contends, Augustine argued that the Jews should be exempt from Christian persecution. Since the religious practices of the Jews devolved from God the Father-the same God Christians worshipped who was also the source of Jewish scriptures, tradition and practice-therefore God and the Jews, and thus the church and the Jews, maintain an abiding relationship. Contrary to many traditional interpretations, Fredriksen's deeply nuanced study demonstrates that the bishop of Hippo's later writings forcefully challenge the anti-Jewish tendencies of much of early Christianity and offer fresh ways of thinking about contemporary dialogue between the two religions. (Dec.)

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Library Journal

A recognized scholar of the historical Jesus, Fredriksen (Aurelio Professor of Scripture, Boston Univ.; From Jesus to Christ ) explores Augustine of Hippo's journey into his own particular understanding of Scripture and of the place of Judaism in the Christian world. She particularly focuses on Augustine's commentaries on Paul's letters, the Psalms, and recorded disputations with the Manicheans whom he had once embraced. Over time, Augustine (354-430) arrived at his ideas of a just God and of human freedom, which in turn led to his teaching that Jews, divinely chosen, were necessary witnesses in the development of Christianity. The author draws especially on Augustine's Confessions and City of God and also references writings of contemporaries such as Ambrose and Jerome. She points out that despite the early development of anti-Judaism in the rhetoric of the day, the populations of urban Mediterranean cities intermingled socially, with Jews practicing their religious traditions, holding civil office, etc. Featuring textual analysis of a very high caliber and an extensive bibliography, this worthy contribution to the literature on Augustine is recommended for scholarly and religion collections.-Anna M. Donnelly, St. John's Univ. Lib., NY

Bryn Mawr Classical Review

“Marvelous . . . Even in the massive field of Augustinian studies, this work stands out . . . A triumph of scholarship on issues which are still debated today.”—Robert McEachnie, Bryn Mawr Classical Review

— Robert McEachnie

Booklist - Bryce Christensen

“A formidable work of cultural archaeology.”—Bryce Christensen, Booklist
New York Review of Books - Peter Brown

"It is a pleasure to write on a book that derives from a modern scholar's brain wave about the fateful insight of a thinker over a millennium and a half ago. . . . This is the story that Fredriksen tells with gusto. Her book is a masterpiece of passionately argued Augustinian scholarship."--Peter Brown, New York Review of Books
Religious Studies Review - Paul R. Kolbet

“The important story of Augustine and the Jews has never been told as well or as thoroughly. . . . This book is one of those rare works that is both accessible to the general educated reader and of value to experts.”—Paul R. Kolbet,
Religious Studies Review

Bryn Mawr Classical Review - Robert McEachnie

“Marvelous . . . Even in the massive field of Augustinian studies, this work stands out . . . A triumph of scholarship on issues which are still debated today.”—Robert McEachnie, Bryn Mawr Classical Review
Theological Studies - Roland J. Teske

"A major contribution to the study of Augustine and to the history of Jewish-Christian relations"—Roland J. Teske, Theological Studies
Booklist

“A formidable work of cultural archaeology.”—Bryce Christensen, Booklist

— Bryce Christensen

New York Review of Books

"It is a pleasure to write on a book that derives from a modern scholar's brain wave about the fateful insight of a thinker over a millennium and a half ago. . . . This is the story that Fredriksen tells with gusto. Her book is a masterpiece of passionately argued Augustinian scholarship."--Peter Brown, New York Review of Books

— Peter Brown

Religious Studies Review

“The important story of Augustine and the Jews has never been told as well or as thoroughly. . . . This book is one of those rare works that is both accessible to the general educated reader and of value to experts.”—Paul R. Kolbet, Religious Studies Review

— Paul R. Kolbet

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780385502702
  • Publisher: The Doubleday Religious Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 12/2/2008
  • Pages: 488
  • Product dimensions: 9.50 (w) x 6.34 (h) x 1.31 (d)

Meet the Author


Paula Fredriksen is the Aurelio Professor of Scripture Emerita at Boston University and professor of religion at the Hebrew University, Jerusalem. Besides Augustine on Romans, her translation of Augustine’s early works on Paul, she has authored From Jesus to Christ, which was the basis of a popular Frontline documentary, and Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews, which won a 1999 National Jewish Book Award. She divides her time between Boston and Jerusalem.
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Table of Contents


Pt. 1 The Legacy of Alexander
1 Gods and Their Humans 3
2 Gods and the One God 16
3 Paideia: Pagan, Jewish, Christian 41
4 Pagans, Jews, and Christians in the Mediterranean City 79 Pt. 2 The Prodigal Son
5 The Heretic 105
6 The Sojourner 122
7 The Convert 155
8 The Biblical Theologian 190 Pt. 3 God and Israel
9 The War of Words 213
10 The Redemption of the Flesh 235
11 The Mark of Cain 260
12 "Slay Them Not ..." 290 Epilogue 353 Acknowledgments 367 Time Line 372 Chronology of Augustine's Life and Work 374 Notes 377 Primary Bibliography 429 Secondary Bibliography 435 Indexes 463
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