From Hellenistic Judaism to Christian Hellenism

[RG #81] From Hellenistic Judaism to Christian Hellenism

September 1, 2000 - June 30, 2001


David Satran (The Hebrew University of Jerusalem)
Daniel R. Schwartz (The Hebrew University of Jerusalem)

No problem has so stubbornly accompanied the investigation of Second Temple period Judaism and of early Christianity -- and the nature of the relationship between the two -- as that of "Hellenism". How deeply were both Judaism and Christianity in their formative stages influenced by the larger cultural and religious streams of the Greco-Roman age? To what extent did the phenomenon of "Hellenism" -- in its varied literary, social and political expression -- shape the defining characteristics of Jewish and Christian belief and practice in the period between Alexander and Constantine? What role did the medium of the Greek language and of Hellenistic cultural forms play in the translation of ideas and allegiances from Judaism to Christianity during the early centuries of the Common Era?

Our group will focus on precisely this problem and these questions, addressing the pendular tendency of modern scholarship to wholeheartedly affirm or passionately deny the hellenization of early Judaism and Christianity. The general orientation of recent research has been toward the Palestinian Jewish background of the early Church, with a clear proclivity for sources preserved in either Hebrew or Aramaic. In light of this trend, we will attempt to reassess the role of Greek-speaking, Hellenistic Judaism as a fertile context for Christian origins.




John G. Gager

Princeton University
John is a professor in the Department of Religion at Princeton University. His research interests are new interpretation of the apostle Paul.