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

Paula Fredriksen, Author . Doubleday $32.50 (488p) ISBN 978-0-385-50270-2

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.)

Reviewed on: 10/13/2008
Release date: 12/01/2008
Genre: Nonfiction
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