Studies in Rabbinic Judaism and Early Christianity (texts in French & English) by edited by Dan Jaffe (Ancient Judaism and Early Christianity: Brill Academic) The question of the origins of Christianity is a theme still discussed in historical research. This book investigates the relations between the Rabbinic Judaism and the Primitive Christianity. It studies the factors of influences, the polemics in the texts and factors of mutual conceptions between two new movements: Rabbinical Judaism and Primitive Christianity. Finally it offers an analysis of the perception of Christianity in the corpus of talmudic literature.
La question des origins du christianisme est un theme encore débattu par la recherche historique. Cet ouvrage choisi d'explorer les relations entre le judaisme rabbinique et le christianisme primitif. II étudie les facteurs d'influences, les polémiques dont témoignent les textes et les emprunts réciproques entre les deux mouvements naissant : le judaIsme rabbinique et le christiansime primitif. Ii propose également une analyse sur la perception du christianisme a l'oeuvre dans la littérature talmudique.
This volume emerged from the symposium held at Paris in March 2007 on the theme "Rome, Athens or Jerusalem. Where does Christianity Come From?" under the auspices of the College des Etudes Juives (Alliance Israelite Universelle) and jointly organized by Professor Shmuel Trigano (Paris X-Nanterre University, Paris) and Doctor Dan Jaffe (Bar-Ilan University, Israel).
The main purpose of this symposium was to outline the origins of Christianity, taking a variety of parameters into consideration. To this end, it has been proposed to establish the conceptual and historical foundations of primitive Christianity and to shed light upon the society in which the first Christians appeared.
Initially we place Jesus in the society of his time (contributions of Daniel Marguerat and of Francois Blanchetière); we then analyze references to the first Christians in Talmudic literature (contributions of Barak Cohen, of Avinoam Cohen and of Dan Jaffe); we then proceed to an examination of the attitude of early Christianity toward the Temple of Jerusalem (contribution of Eyal Regev). Afterward we offer a general definition of the Jewish context in which Christianity took shape (contributions of Daniel R. Schwartz and of Jonathan Bourgel) and ask whether early Christianity was influenced by concepts and beliefs from the pagan world (Emmanuel Friedheim). Finally weshed light on the Partings of the Ways between Jews and Christians (contribution of Stephanie E. Binder).
Francois Blanchetière surveys the fundamental issue of the innovative aspects of the Nazarene beliefs in relation to Judaism. This question has led him to wonder whether Jesus is to be seen as a "founder" or as a "reformer". Arguing that "Judaism and polytheism found innovation in religion (in the modern sens) viscerally repugnant" and that the first Christians did not advocate the abandonment of Jewish precepts, he concludes that Jesus cannot be considered as a "founder". Blanchetière prefers to describe Jesus as a "reformer." He writes: "All things considered, the expression Jesus founder of a new religion turns out to be an assemblage of concepts with no real historical justification." Blanchetière does concede, though, that the Nazarene stream refers to a religious movement of Semitic character within the Judaism of the first decades of the Common Era.
Daniel Marguerat discusses the results of the "third quest" for the historical Jesus, which correctly emphasizes the Jewishness of Jesus. But for him, this view must include the singularity of the emergence of Jesus within first century Judaism. Herein would lie the answer to the riddle of the transformation of the message of Jesus, which was initially Jewish, into a universal religious appeal. Although Jesus must be understood as belonging integrally to the Judaism of his time, he bore with him the seeds of the future split. Marguerat has highlighted three characteristics peculiar to the teaching of Jesus: the radicalness of the imperative to love, which can invalidate strong prescriptions of the Torah; an offensive conception of purity in opposition to the defensive conception of purity that was widespread in Judaism of the time; the eschatological emergency illustrated by an ethical approach, which put the observance of the law into a relative perspective. Marguerat concludes that the figure of Jesus cannot be assigned to any particular variety of the Judaism of his time. He evokes a transcendant dimension, which makes him very singular. The second part of the book opens with the contribution of Barak Cohen dealing with the question of possible Jewish-Christian contacts in Nehardea during the Sasanian Period. Historians of the rabbinic period have identified some remarks made by prominent Babylonian Nehardean rabbis from the Sasanian period as being aimed at Christians currently active in their region. In contrast, Cohen's analysis of the passages in which these remarks are embedded raises doubts as to the accuracy of these claims. Cohen argues that there is no evidence in the Bavli that Nehardean sages had any direct contact with Christians or were familiar with Christian daily practice. This conclusion concurs with the information provided in Christian chronicles regarding the spread (or failure to spread) of Christianity in Nehardea, Pumbedita and the surrounding areas during the talmudic period (third-fifth centuries C.E.). The absence of Christians in this region during the talmudic period is further corroborated by a statement in BT Pesahim 56a, according to which there were no heretics, Christians or otherwise, in Nehardea during the amoraic period. Cohen concludes that, in order to draw a reliable picture of the historical situation in Sasanian Babylonia, each geographical area should be studied per se.
Dan Jaffe deals with the expressions of the attractions of Christianity and its representation in Talmudic sources. He offers a new paradigm to think of these notions, basing his argument upon the text of Tosefta Hulin II, 24, which is regarded as a locus classicus in the study of the relations between Jewish-Christians and Tannaim.
In light of his analysis, Dan Jaffe contends that this passage attests: 1) to the attraction manifested by R. Eliezer ben Hyrcanus to the teaching of Jesus; 2) to a desire to expel the Jewish-Christians from the Jewish community, which was undergoing a process of socio-historical normalization; 3) to an effort to create a norm forbidding Jews to study or to receive the teaching of the Jewish followers of Jesus; and, finally, 4) to a time of high tension illustrated by the deterioration of the relations between Tannaim and Jewish-Christians.
The representation of Christianity in the Talmudic sources is reflected in the teaching attributed to the Jewish-Christians. The later editors of the Talmud identify Jacob, the min of Tosefta Hulin II, 24, not only as a follower of Jesus but more generally as a symbol representative of Christianity. They correlate his teaching with prostitution, which in Talmudic thought, suggests deviance and aberration. Furthermore, prostitution represents the archetype of illicit attraction, and as such it is placed on an equal footing with Christianity, which exerts a baneful influence on the Jewish community.
Avinoam Cohen explores the ostensibly contradictory meaning of two biblical verses (Nb 6:26; Dt 10:17) about birkat cohanim and their interpretations in the midrashic literature.
He highlights the way the classic Jewish exegetes tried to resolve this contradiction and explains that the Sages presented a defensive position. The context of the exegetical debate in which these verses are quoted is essential for understanding the deep purpose of the Sages. According to Cohen, their intent was to polemicize against the first Christians, who are referred to as minim in the Talmudic literature. Cohen connects this controversy to an older Palestinian tradition from the period of Yavneh, which is recorded in the Babylonian Talmud. This makes absolute sense when we consider that it was precisely at Yavneh, under the leadership of Rabban Gamaliel, that the Palestinian Jewish community closed in on itself and rigidly opposed doctrinal dissent. Now, it appears that the main dissenters to the Sages were the Jewish-Christians.
Cohen argues that the intense rabbinic occupation with the supposed contradiction between these two verses began in Yavneh as a result of their theological debate with the minim (mainly, early Christians), who claimed that the crisis in Judaism was proof that God had abandoned Israel.
The third part of this volume on the origins of Christianity opens with the study by Daniel R. Schwartz. Schwartz deals with the Jewish origins of Christianity by relating to ethnic and historical considerations regarding Jewish identity. According to Schwartz, Jews have historically been identified on the basis of their place of origin and residence, their ancestry, and their religious affiliation, and, in antiquity, each of these was most prominent in a different period.
The topos marked Jewish identity in the course of the First Temple period, during which territorial attachment was of considerable importance—but the basis for that disappeared with the dispersion of the Israelite states and with the creation of the Diaspora. The criterion of ancestry was most dominant in the next period of Jewish history, under Persian domination—a criterion illustrated by Ezra and Nehemiah, who considered the notion of zera haqodesh ("holy seed") as a condition sine qua non for Jewish identity, and by the prominence of the priesthood—defined by its pedigree—in this period.
With Alexander the Great and the advent of Hellenism, however, the idea of cultural affiliation became the primary marker of identity. Just as one could be Greek without living in Greece and without being of Greek descent, if one's language and culture were Greek, so too could one be a Jew if one adhered to Jewish culture—Judaism.
It is to this period that the roots of Christianity are to be traced, and Schwartz indeed argues that the Jewish background from which Christianity emerged must be situated in this universalistic context. In this respect, Paul of Tarsus, who grew up in the Hellenized Diaspora, is to be understood as having undercut the significance of Jewish place and Jewish descent, just as he did for the legal component of Jewish culture. In doing so, however, he matched moves already made by the Qumran community, mutatis mutandis—the community that provides the background for understanding the appearance of John the Baptist.
According to Schwartz, Jesus should basically be understood as having had quite a different orientation: an anti-Roman political agenda preaching Davidic messianism and the coming restoration of the Kingdom of Israel. When that movement failed, although, as Jesus' followers believed, he was nonetheless vindicated by resurrection, he became available to serve in the individualistic and universalistic agendas that were the focus of the John and Paul types, and the result was Christianity.
Jonathan Bourgel deals with the Jewish Christian community of Jerusalem and the patristic tradition of the flight to Pella during the Great Revolt against the Romans. This episode has been the subject of intense debate in modern scholarship; the disagreement in this discussion con cerns both the reliability of this tradition and its significance for the historiography of Jewish-Christianity in the post-apostolic period.
Bourgel considers that, to be interpreted correctly, this tradition must be situated in the specific political context of the Jewish revolt against Rome. In his opinion, there is reason to presume that the flight to Pella was a desertion or even a surrender—an attitude that was strongly encouraged by the Roman armies. This approach echoes the famous thesis defended by Gedaliah Alon a few decades ago, according to which R. Yohanan ben Zakai was a Jewish prisoner in the hands of the Romans, not a Jewish deserter from the cause of the revolt.
These pertinent remarks point out to an interesting correlation between the conduct of the Jewish-Christian communities and the military policy of the Romans. Did the Jewish-Christians deliberately choose Pella as a place of residence or, as captives, were they forced to settle there by the Roman authorities?
Bourgel reconstructs the course of events of the Jewish Christians' move from Jerusalem and argues that their transfer to Pella and settlement there were supervised by the Roman armies. It is likely that their removal occurred in the late spring of 68 C.E. as the legions of Vespasian advanced in the vicinity of Jerusalem and numerous Jews fled from the city to surrender to the Roman authorities. Furthermore, Bourgel thinks that, like other Jewish prisoners who surrendered to the Roman forces, the Jewish-Christians negotiated the terms of their surrender. We note lastly that the author reflects a historiographical trend, according to which the flight to Pella by no means marked a watershed in the relations between Jews and Jewish Christians.
The third part of this volume ends with the study of Eyal Regev on the attitude of the gospel of Mark toward the Temple in Jerusalem. Unlike many critics, Regev maintains that Jesus felt no acrimony toward the Jewish sanctuary but protested against the exchange of money, which he considered unclean, since it was corrupted by the sins of the people. Thus, Jesus was not criticizing the institution of the Temple but rather the use of money within its compound.
In this case, Regev stresses that the gospels do not identify with Jesus' famous attack against the Temple (destruction and reconstruction within three days), which raises questions about the attitude of the historical Jesus to the Temple. According to Regev, there are two ways to solve this riddle: either 1) Jesus actually made a speech against the Temple, but it was less radical than that which was later attributed to him, or 2) the Jesus' opponents considered the "cleansing" of the Temple to be a threat although this was not his original intention.
Nevertheless, it is likely that Jesus did express some criticism of the sanctuary of Jerusalem. In the same spirit, Regev considers that the attitude toward the Jewish law is generally positive in the gospel of Mark despite some criticism against it in light of the revelation of Jesus. The Gospel of Mark is depicted as mixture of Jewish and non-Jewish Christianity. However, as Regev observes, its non-Jewish aspects do not necessarily imply a rejection of its Jewish aspects.
The fourth part of the volume ends with the studies of Emmanuel Friedheim and of Stephanie E. Binder.
Friedheim addresses the question of the pagan origins of Christianity, arguing that in the course of the second century pagan beliefs and cults were deep factors of influence on Christianity, while a significant wave of conversion from polytheism to Christianity occurred. What can be said about these factors of influence for the period spanning Jesus lifetime and extending to 70 C.E.? Although the Gospel of John manifests Hellenization in some of his speeches, the Jewish heritage remains firmly anchored there. Pagan influence was minimal in primitive Christianity, because of the clearly negative attitude of Jesus and of the whole Jewish society towards paganism.
Moving from textual analysis to methodical historiography, Friedheim explains that the (alleged) pagan influences on primitive Christianity must be considered within the wider context of the pagan influences on the pre-70 Jewish world. As he shows, toward the end of the Second Temple period Jews were extremely radical in opposition to pagan cults and images and rejected paganism completely. Hence, Friedheim concludes: "Agreeing with the thesis of Flusser on the fundamentally Jewish origins of primitive Christianity, we could not have detected any pagan influence inevitably echoed in the synoptics that was not similarly anchored in contemporary Judaism stemming from the pharisee or the essenian movements and even from the Judeo-Hellenistic conceptual world of Philo of Alexandria."
In the final article, Stephanie Binder surveys the existence and nature of the connections that may have existed between Jews and Christians at the end of second and the beginning of the third century C.E. within the framework of discussions on what has been termed the parting of the ways between Jews and Christians. At issue is the question whether Jews and Christians were different and separate from each other or similar and intermingled at this time. To address this question, Binder examines the similarities between two texts on idolatry—De Idololatria by the Carthaginian Church father Tertullian and the roughly contemporaneous Mishnah Avodah Zarah, committed to writing in Palestine. These works were composed to guide Christians and Jews respectively in living their lives of truth in the same idolatrous environment. After a discussion of the origins of the Christian community of Carthage, Binder shows that the Carthaginian Jews and the Palestinian rabbis could very well have been in contact. She then displays some of resemblances and differences between the approaches to idolatry of the rabbis and of the Church father and attempts to account for them. Via the explanations of the nuances between both texts on idolatry, she reaches the issue of active Jewish proselytism which, she argues, was internally oriented in Carthage and aimed at protecting Jews and prospective Jews already engaged within the Jewish community from the seduction of the Christian mission, which was still present among the Jews. Binder concludes that the Jewish and Christian communities in Carthage had to have been in contact and that they must have inspired or influenced one another, which raises the question of other places and times where and when both communities were in contact.
Jews, Christians and Jewish Christians in Antiquity by James Carleton Paget (Gebundene Ausgabe: Mohr Siebeck) The book, which consists of some previously published and unpublished essays, examines a variety of issues relevant to the study of ancient Judaism and Christianity and their interaction, including polemic, proselytism, biblical interpretation, ssianism, the phenomenon normally described as Jewish Christianity, and the fate of the Jewish community after the Bar Kokhba revolt, a period of considerable importance for the emergence not only of Judaism but also of Christianity. The volume, typically for a collection of essays, does not lay out a particular thesis. If anything binds the collection together, it is the author's attempt to set out the major fault lines in current debate about these disputed subjects, and in the process to reveal their complex and entangled character.
The Parting of the Ways: The Roman Church As a Case Study by Stephen Spence (Interdisciplinary Studies in Ancient Culture and Religion, 5: Peeters: David Brown Book Company) This book seeks to inject into the general discussion of the "Parting of the Ways" of Judaism and Christianity the social realities of the separation of a particular Christian community and a particular Jewish community. By drawing upon the literary and the historical data available concerning the church in Rome, Spence seeks to discover when and how Christians came to see themselves as an identifiably distinct community. His findings will surprise those who see the "Parting of the Ways" as a slow process. He argues that although the "parting" was early, it was not without its complications. Drawing upon the work of Rodney Stark, a sociologist of religion, Spence suggests that within the church in Rome there was a struggle between those who saw the church as a Jewish sect and those who saw the church as a Roman cult — a struggle already under-way when the Apostle Paul wrote Romans. This struggle, however, was not an even one, because it was the cultists, those for whom the church's primary social location was the pagans of Rome, who held the positions of power over the numerically smaller sectarians who sought to maintain the church's primary identity as a Jewish sect acceptable within the synagogues of Rome.
Stephen Spence was born in Scotland and raised in Australia. He has degrees from Melbourne University, Asbury Theological Seminary, the Bible College of Victoria, and a Ph.D. from Fuller Theological Seminary. In 1997 Stephen was appointed to the position of Lecturer in New Testament and Theology at Burleigh College (Adelaide, South Australia) and in 2001 he was appointed Principal. He is married to Colleen and has two teenaged children, Elissa and Jordan.
Excerpt: It is the goal of this study to bring into focus what is often left in the background when the New Testament is studied — the struggles of a new religious movement to establish itself as an independent community. It has long been our conviction that each New Testament document addresses this struggle at some level, and to read these documents as if the Church as we have come to know it was already a conceptual, if not social, reality would be to seriously misread them. Not surprisingly, this anachronistic practice is epidemic among the members of today's Church. However, we believe that this practice can still be found in many current New Testament studies. Even when there is recognition of doctrinal development through the New Testament period, there is little recognition both of the social development of the Christian community and of the impact that this would have had upon the theologising of the early church.
It is the intent of this study to consider the social development of one particular Christian community: the church in Rome.' This community was not chosen because it is representative of all the developing churches of this period; no church could function in this role. The historical and social accidents of each individual church are too great to generalise from one to another. Neither was this community chosen because the evidence available is complete; it is barely adequate, even though it is as plentiful as that of any first-century church. The church in Rome was chosen because the evidence associated with it provides us with an opportunity to see the changes that time brought. Snap-shots of the church in 49 C.E., in 57 C.E., in 64 C.E., and then around the end of the century, when juxtaposed, provide us with some sense of this community's development. Of course, juxtaposing does not tell the tale by itself. The connections that are made and the implications that are drawn from these connections owe themselves to the interpreter's under-standing of how such a new religious movement might be expected to develop.
This study, then, must not only undertake the task of historical analysis but also that of sociological reconstruction. It is not a case of whether or not an investigator of the early church chooses to use sociological theory in this process, but a case of whether or not they will be explicit in their use of it. It is for this reason that we have chosen to investigate various theories associated with analysing sects and cults. This field within the discipline of the sociology of religion is a developing one, and it is our hope that the work presented here will contribute to a better-informed use of sect-theory.
The church in Rome has already been the object of much study, so it is unlikely that our observations or our conclusions will provoke much surprise. Yet, we believe that the observations made will con-tribute to a better understanding of the church in Rome, that the methodology employed will contribute to a better understanding of the significance of these observations and that the conclusions reached will suggest new possibilities for how we read the texts associated with this particular developing Christian community.
Jews & Gentiles: A Historical Sociology of Their Relations by Werner J. Cahnman, edited by Judith T. Marcus, Zoltan Tarr (Transaction Publishers) Studies of the Jewish experience among peoples with whom they live share some similarities with the usual histories of anti-Semitism, but also some differences. When the focus is on anti-Semitism, Jewish history appears as a record of unmitigated hostility against the Jewish people and of passivity on their part. However, as Werner J. Cahnman demonstrates in this posthumous volume, Jewish-Gentile relations are far more complex. There is a long history of mutual contacts, positive as well as antagonistic, even if conflict continues to require particular attention.
Cahnman's approach, while following a historical sequence, is sociological in conception. From Roman antiquity through the Middle Ages, into the era of emancipation and the Holocaust, and finally to the present American and Israeli scene, there are basic similarities and various dissimilarities, all of which are described and analyzed. Cahnman tests the theses of classical sociology implicitly, yet unobtrusively. He traces the socio-economic basis of human relations, which Marx and others have emphasized, and considers Jews a "marginal trading people" in the Park-Becker sense. Simmel and Toennies, he shows, understood Jews as "strangers" and "intermediaries." While Cahnman shows that Jews were not "pariahs," as Max Weber thought, he finds a remarkable affinity to Weber's Protestantism-capitalism argument in the tension of Jewish-Christian relations emerging from the bitter theological argument over usury.
The primacy of Jewish-Gentile relations in all their complexity and variability is essential for the under-standing of Jewish social and political history. This volume is a valuable contribution to that understanding.
Cahnman's historical account runs from Roman antiquity through the Middle Ages, into the era of emancipation and the Holocaust, and finally to the present American and Israeli scene. To be sure, as far as the "present" American and Israeli scene is concerned, the account appears unfinished as well as dated. But the basic similarities and dissimilarities throughout history are laid out and analyzed. He tests the theses of classical sociology implicitly, yet unobtrusively. For example, he traces the socio-economic basis of human relations emphasized by Marx and others, and considers Jews as "strangers" and "intermediaries." He disagrees with Max Weber in that for him Jews were not "pariahs" although he finds a remarkable affinity to Weber's Protestantism-capitalism argument in the tension of Jewish-Christian relations emerging from the bitter theological argument over usury, where the antagonism between Jews and Gentiles took on a pronouncedly socio-economic rather than religious character. It is depicted how the nineteenth century added a nationalist dimension as well as the distortions of biology and race, with fateful consequences.
For Werner Cahnman, the sociological study of Jewish Gentile relations was of importance for more than one reason. For one, he held that the preservation of past history "must serve as pillars of the new Jewish consciousness which is to arise out of the memories of the past." And similarly to his promotion of intercultural relations that guided his establishment of The Rashi Association, he counted this time too on the psychological and educational impact of the examination of Jewish history that proved to be part and parcel of Gentile history. Finally, it attests to Cahnman's self-understanding as a sociologist and a student of Jewish life. On the occasion of his seventieth birthday, he was asked about his approach to Jewish history. His answer? An approach from the vantage point of the historical sociologist, and a scholar who is not chiefly concerned with "isolated phenomena but with relations between phenomena." In fact, he continued,
When I came to understand that the trader and the peasant live in symbiosis and conflict, I was relieved....The Jewish people dwells among the nations, whether in Israel or in the Diaspora, and the tensions between intimate symbiosis and bitter conflict remains a guiding theme of Jewish history.
In sum, for Cahnman the primacy of Jewish-Gentile relations in all their complexity and variability seemed essential for the under-standing of Jewish social and political history. While it is evident that the history of post-Emancipation German Jewry and of the Holocaust aftermath has received considerable scholarly attention, the study of Jewish life in the Diaspora, or the migrational movements has been somewhat neglected; Cahnman clearly was intent to fill the gap. His research data, his personal experiences, and historical view combined resulted in a scholarly lifework that should constitute an important element in any future large-scale historical account. Reminiscent of Martin Buber, Cahnman makes a confessional statement in this regard: "I shall try to testify... in the belief that what I have to say will stand for the truth which, while it becomes manifest only in personal experience, nevertheless transcends it."
Eusebius of Caesarea Against Paganism by Aryeh Kofsky (Jewish and Christian Perspectives: Brill Academic) Excerpt: Eusebius began his apologetic‑polemical writing early in his literary career. The new polemics against Christianity, written by pagan authors, especially Porphyry, demanded a fresh, up‑to‑date response to the new challenge. Literary polemics quickly became linked to the socio‑religious attacks on Christianity by the authorities. From the moment he joined the campaign, Eusebius never forsook the struggle and his apologetic works became a major part of his literary activity. Many of his writings have a distinctly apologetic character. Even those works that are not particularly apologetic‑polemical in content have apologetic motives and motifs. He had in mind a specific audience and well‑defined goals for early apologetic works such as those refuting the polemics of Hierocles and Porphyry, the General Basic Introduction, and texts composed to resolve the difficulties and contradictions in the Gospels that had been targeted by pagan critics. Eusebius' early works outline the major concepts and motifs that would be fully expanded and refined in his great apologetic project, the Praeparatio Evangelica and Demonstratio Evangelica.
This two‑part work was conceived as a comprehensive response to the attacks of all the enemies of Christianity. Its encyclopedic structure relates to several major pagan arguments raised by the pagan‑Christian polemic, rather than refuting individually the many different charges leveled by pagan polemicists, although several of their secondary arguments can also be found in the text. The main part of the PE is a critique of the philosophy and forms of pagan religion, for which Eusebius adduces copious quotations from pagan, Jewish, and Christian scholars. However, Eusebius saw the main thrust of his work as the presentation and demonstration of the truths of Christianity; this was the affirmative aspect of his apologetic undertaking‑first in the Praeparatio Evangelica, but mainly in the Demonstratio Evangelica. This section of his work is distinguished by the way in which Eusebius deals with the problems posed by polemics.
In the course of this endeavor, Eusebius formulated his principal concepts and arguments. Thus the central concept of Christian prehistory evolved as a reply to the two‑fold pagan argument that Christians had abandoned the traditions of their ancestors and deserted the gods for a strange and alien religion, and that they had perversely betrayed Judaism in order to blaze a convoluted trail in the wilderness guided by ignorance and irrationality. The reply to the second part of the argument also includes the refutation of Jewish arguments against Christianity‑arguments that were actually expounded in the Jewish‑Christian debate, or else, perhaps, presented by Christian apologists as Jewish arguments within the framework of the pagan‑Christian polemic. Eusebius' main arguments are based on prophecy and miracles, but these became problematic in light of pagan criticism. Thus Eusebius had to examine these arguments and reformulate the fundamental principles of his work, which he had derived from many earlier apologetic texts, notably Origen's Against Celsus. On the other hand, motifs that had appeared only briefly in these writings were revised and expanded in his large work. He pledges that he will be a fair opponent, presenting an objective account of his rivals' views, and he states that his polemic is honest and unprejudiced. Nevertheless, he frequently resorts to rhetoric to cover the weak points in his argument. Considering, however, the sarcastic and caustic style of pagan polemics, Eusebius manages to keep his promise.
We have noted the major influence of Porphyry in stimulating Eusebius' earlier polemical writing. The question of Porphyry's role in Praeparatio Evangelica and Demonstratio Evangelica is more problematic. Although Porphyry was a key figure behind the work, close scrutiny of the text shows that Eusebius did not want the work to be seen as just another refutation of Porphyry's Against the Christians. There is no direct polemic against arguments presented in the latter work, despite the fact that pagan arguments identical to Porphyry's appear anonymously as the fundamental points around which Praeparatio Evangelica and Demonstratio Evangelica is structured. Direct polemic against Porphyry relates to him only as the leading representative of pagan philosophy and chief commentator on religion of his day; also targeted are his statements in various works, but not the criticism expressed in Against the Christians. Thus even if it was Porphyry's polemic that motivated the writing of Praeparatio Evangelica and Demonstratio Evangelica, the purpose of Eusebius' work extends beyond any limited polemic against Porphyry. In this work, Eusebius embarked on a comprehensive campaign against pagan culture, along with a defense of Christian tenets. Porphyry plays a leading role in the campaign, in the course of which his status and authority are undermined, thus devaluing his critique of Christianity. Moreover, Porphyry himself contributes many statements to the critique of pagan philosophy and religion, and even appears to attest to the truth of Christianity.
The Theophany, Eusebius' last apologetic work written near the end of his life, is an abridgment and simplification of his major ideas in Praeparatio Evangelica and Demonstratio Evangelica. But it also contains new emphases and perspectives with regard to several issues. In addition, The Theophany introduces new material, not found in his other compositions, and probably taken from earlier, lost works. Examples include the detailed discussion of the Resurrection of Jesus and the detailed treatment in Book IV of the prophecies of Jesus as a major argument and proof of the truths of Christianity. The additions and new viewpoints reflect the great change undergone by Eusebius in the period between the Demonstratio Evangelica and The Theophany, when euphoria reigned in the wake of the dramatic events that changed the course of Christianity in his generation.
This study has traced the development of Eusebius' apologetic-polemical writing. I have dealt with the main factors that shaped his great apologetic project, in the Praeparatio Evangelica and Demonstratio Evangelica, by closely examining the polemical context that formed his views, and the emergence of ideas from his experience of contending with pagan criticism. His intensive apologetic enterprise testifies to the vitality of pagan‑Christian polemics in his day, and the importance of such writing for Eusebius and his contemporaries.
I have limited the scope of this study to a discussion of Eusebius' works and earlier apologetic literature, and have not broached the subject of his influence on subsequent apologetics. Porphyry's legacy to pagan polemics against Christianity in subsequent generations has been partially investigated by other scholars. In contrast, the influence of Eusebius on Christian apologetic literature has received only scant attention. Further study of this subject could reveal that his impact was considerable.
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