Thursday, 2 April 2015

Mark Genter: 'Their Plots Against Our Savior' (Hist. eccl. 1.3): Anti-Jewish Exegesis in Euesbius of Caesarea's Sections and Canons

Eusebius of Caesarea's anti-Judaism is well-known. In the fourth century, Christian churches were numerous and flourishing, while Judaism had suffered political marginalization. For Eusebius, the Old Testament predicted it all, and history validated his understanding of Scripture. While Eusebius' anti-Judaism is seen in his interpretation of the Old Testament and current events, this paper argues that Eusebius' Sections and Canons, an innovative biblical study tool for the gospels, also harbors anti-Jewish readings of the Gospels. Far from simply being a cross-reference system, I suggest that the logic of the Sections and Canons, when approached by a post-structuralist analysis, reveals theologically-driven reading strategies for the gospels. This approach analyzes the ways Eusebius divided the gospel texts and created parallels in the canon tables. I argue that the Sections and Canons form strategic parallels from events in the Passion Narrative in order to emphasize the Jewish leaders' role in Jesus' crucifixion, while minimizing Pilate's involvement and culpability. In this way, the Sections and Canons give specific anti-Jewish and pro-Roman reading strategies for the gospels. While one is accustomed to reading anti-Jewish thoughts in Eusebius' historical and apologetic works, we see this same trope here in what is usually seen as a technical apparatus. This ubiquitous anti-Judaism demonstrates its deep-seatedness in Eusebius' thoughts and, by extension, the ongoing tension between Jews and Christians in the fourth century.

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