Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Julian among Jews, Christians and ‘Hellenes’ in Antioch: Jewish Practice as a Guide to ‘Hellenes’ and a Goad to Christians
by Finkelstein, Aryay Bennett, Ph.D., Harvard University, 2011, 293; 3462773
Abstract (Summary)

Emperor Julian the Apostate ruled the Roman Empire between 361–363 CE in the midst of its Christianization. Born and raised a Christian, Julian turned to theurgic Neoplatonism and converted to Mithraism. As emperor he set out on a contentious policy to turn the empire into a Neoplatonic ethnically-ordered empire in which his 'Hellenes' would dominate.

Julian's project required that he create a 'Hellenic' identity based on Neoplatonic principles. He also had to counter significant Christian opposition to his program. Julian's rhetorical presentation of Jews played an important role in solving these issues and in the creation of his Neoplatonic empire.

This dissertation analyzes Julian's rhetorical representation of Jews in his anti-Christian polemic Contra Galileos and in his epistles to his high priests, Arsacius and Theodorus. It demonstrates that Julian engaged in scriptural exegesis in order to define ideal Jewish practice. By doing so Julian defined the boundaries of Jews, 'Hellenes' and Christians, ethne which he placed on his imperial Neoplatonic ethnic map.

Julian's portrayal of Jewish practice was complex. Jewish practice was both a model for 'Hellenic' practice and an example of un-'Hellenic' practice. Julian employed a Neoplatonic hermeneutic in order to model ideal 'Hellenic' practice.

At the same time Julian appropriated Jewish and Christian Scriptures to demonstrate the efficacy of Jewish practice and prove Christian supersessionist claims false. As emperor he could combine interpretation with action to prove the truth of his claims and the superiority of his exegesis while delegitimizing Christian practices and interpretations using the voices of Christianity's own prophets and apostles.

In his effort to destroy Christianity, Julian commented on specific Jewish texts and practices that were hot-button issues in intra-Christian circles in order to persuade the Judaizers in Antioch to question Christian interpretations of Scripture and join with Jews in Jewish practice. In order to appeal to the Judaizers, who were familiar with Jews, Julian's descriptions of Jewish practice resembled Jewish practice in Antioch.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Cohen, Shaye J. D.
Commitee:
School: Harvard University
School Location: United States -- Massachusetts
Source: DAI-A 72/09, Dissertation Abstracts International
Source Type: DISSERTATION
Subjects: Religious history, Ancient history, Judaic studies
Keywords: Christians, Contra Galileos, Hellenes, Jews, Judaizers, Julian, Emperor of Rome, Neoplatonism, Roman Empire
Publication Number: 3462773
ISBN: 9781124737652
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