Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy
Dr. Paul L. Maier
Dr. E. Rozanne Elder
Dr. Brian Wilson
Dr. Dimiter G. Angelov
This dissertation examines the historical development of Christian attitudes toward the Jews up to c. 350 A.D., seeking to explain the origin and significance of the antagonistic stance of Constantine toward the Jews in the fourth century. For purposes of this study, the early Christian sources are divided into four chronological categories: the New Testament documents (c. 50-95 A.D.), the Apostolic Fathers (c. 90-135 A.D.), apologists and theologians (c. 130-260 A.D.), and an era of conflict (c. 250-350 A.D.). Within the last period, special attention is given to the work of Eusebius, particularly The Proof of the Gospel (Demonstratio ). This author's relationship with the Christian emperor and his development of explicit theological responses to the Jews make his contributions especially significant to the question at hand. Jewish and classical sources are also briefly examined to place the Christian views in historical context.
The conclusions of this study challenge the work of Rosemary Radford Ruether, who asserted that there was a consistent anti-Jewish theological bias present within Christianity as far back as its New Testament roots. Instead, this research finds that relations between the Christians and Jews in this period were much more complex and diverse than her view suggests, and that political considerations, rather than theological differences, were the most significant factor in the development of Constantine's stance.
The research revealed that anti-Jewish sentiment was relatively absent among Christians in the earliest periods and increased noticeably only in the fourth century. Throughout the first three centuries A.D., Christian attitudes toward the Jews were built on an underlying foundation of dependence and appreciation, and the occasional outbursts against the Jews were the consequence of the Fathers' awareness that absorption back into Judaism was a constant threat for a religion so reliant upon its Jewish legacy. Especially enlightening are the instances in which Christian writers align themselves with the Jews against pagan and heretical opponents, for these occasions demonstrate that Jewishness continued to be a sign of Christian orthodoxy throughout the period.
Veldt, S. Mark, "Christian Attitudes toward the Jews in the Earliest Centuries A.D." (2007). Dissertations. 925.