Thursday, 30 April 2015

William Rutherford: Entropic Judaism? Rhetoric of Divine Unity in Ignatius of Antioch and Christian Civic Libel in Anatolia

This paper investigates the function of civic discourse against the Jews in the letters of Ignatius of Antioch To the Magnesians and To the Philadelphians.  Ignatius declaims against “Judaism” and invokes language of “Christian” unity, harmony, and solidarity.  Ignatius’s fascination with unity has engendered much debate.  Early proposals highlighted mystical and “gnostic” aspects of unity discourse (Schlier, Bartsch).  Such readings treated his unity rhetoric as ahistorical and radically intellectual.  They alienated Ignatius’s language from social contexts in urban settings.  Others minimized supposed gnostic influences (Swartley, Grant) and promoted the notion that Ignatius’s language “builds on ideas of concord and unity drawn from Greek political thought” (Schoedel).  Few have asked how Ignatius’s unity rhetoric may have influenced the urban climate of Jewish and Christian relations in Anatolia.
This paper situates Ignatius’s discourses within the civic ideals articulated in the Second Sophistic (Puech, Whitmarsh) and lionized in the Greek cityscapes transformed under Roman imperial power (Boatwright, Nasrallah).  In his unity rhetoric against the “Jews,” Ignatius merges ancient Greek values of urban solidarity and Roman imperial interests in stability and order.  His vitriol against the “Jews” suggests that Christians, as citizens of a divine monarchy, represent the best citizens in the earthly empire, though their admixture with “Jews” in Asia threatens civic strife and participation in the divine order.

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