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Between Polemic and Propaganda: Evoking the Jews of Fourth-Century Antioch Christine Shepardson University of Tennessee, Knoxville | JJMJS No. 2 (2015): 147---182

Despite narratives that Jews had a long history in ancient Antioch (Antakya, Turkey), modern perceptions of the late antique city are often still shaped by John Chrysostom’s aggressive Christian rhetoric. John’s sermons encouraged readers to imagine shadowy rhetorical “Jews” lurking in demon-filled synagogues, rather than Jews as otherwise undifferentiated synagogue-attendees among the crowd at the hippodrome, members of the bouleutērion, and fellow vendors in the agora who closed their shops on the Sabbath and contributed public festival celebrations to the city’s already busy calendar. 1 Decades ago Robert Wilken, Wayne Meeks, and others gathered the extant evidence for Jews in fourth-century Antioch, 2 but the quantity and lurid quality of the anti-Jewish 1

It is difficult to represent the various shades of rhetorical construction and historical reality that the extant data represents. I have put the term “Jews” in scare-quotes when I want to highlight the narrative construction of the category, and have left it without when I intend the term to lean closer toward the historical than the rhetorical. Nevertheless, this binary choice does not capture the complexity of the situation. 2 Robert Wilken’s groundbreaking work explicitly addressed the problem that in his view most scholars except for Marcel Simon had largely “ignored” the Jews’ “vital” presence in Antioch: Robert Wilken, John Chrysostom and the Jews: Rhetoric and Reality in the Late Fourth Century (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1983), xvi; see Marcel Simon, Verus Israel: Étude sur les relations entre chrétiens et juifs dans l’empire romain (135–425) (Paris: Editions de Boccard, 1964). Emmanuel Soler’s book also asked readers to remember Antioch’s Jews: Le Sacré et le Salut à Antioche au IVe siècle apr. J.-C.: Pratiques festives et comportements religieux dans le processus de christianisation de la cité (Beirut: Institut français du Proche-Orient, 2006), 2–3, 5, 107–11; see also Carl Kraeling, “The Jewish Community at Antioch,” Journal of Biblical Literature 51.2 (1932): 130–60; Glanville Downey, A History of Antioch in Syria: From Seleucus to the Arab Conquest (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1961); Wayne Meeks and Robert Wilken, Jews and Christians in Antioch in the First Four Centuries of the Common Era (Missoula: Scholars Press, 1978); Johannes Hahn, “Die jüdische Gemeinde im spätantiken Antiochia:

JJMJS 2 2015  

Christian Origins, New Testament studies, Early Jewish Studies (including Philo and Josephus), the Dead Sea Scrolls, Apocrypha and Pseudepig...

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