Aaron Butts is Associate Professor in the Department of Semitic and Egyptian Languages at The Catholic University of America, Washington, DC.
A New Look at the Anti-Judaism of Jacob of Serugh (d. 521)
September 15, 2021, at 10:00 (Washington, DC Time)
It is no exaggeration to say that the study of Christian anti-Judaism has seen a revolution over the past quarter of a century, from Miriam Taylor’s provocative (and at times criticized) Anti-Judaism and Early Christian Identity: A Critique of the Scholarly Consensus (1995) and Judith Lieu’s insightful and nuanced Image & Reality: The Jews in the World of the Christians in the Second Century (1996) to David Nirenberg’s magisterial longue durée study Anti-Judaism: The Western Tradition (2013). This lecture aims to re-evaluate the anti-Judaism of Jacob of Serugh (d. 521) in light of this growing body of research. It is well-known that Jacob’s homilies are full of harsh, vitriolic anti-Jewish polemic. Sufficient attention has not, however, been paid to analyzing Jacob’s anti-Judaism critically, especially in view of the methodological and theoretical insights made in the works of Taylor, Lieu, Nirenberg, and others. In particular, the present lecture argues that at least some of Jacob’s anti-Jewish polemic is not actually directed against ‘real’ Jews; rather, in at least some cases, Jacob seems to map his dyophysite adversaries (whether Chalcedonian or not) onto Jews. Such ‘mapping’ has a long history in (Syriac) Christianity, attested already when Ephrem (d. 373) depicts his Arian adversaries as Jews, and continuing into the Islamic period when Timothy I (d. 823) contrasts “those old Jews” from the days of Herod and Pilate with the “new Jews among us,” that is, Muslims. This lecture will locate Jacob’s anti-Jewish polemic within this long trajectory of Syriac Christians’ mapping their adversaries onto ‘Jews’.
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Butts, Aaron Michael and Erho, Ted, ”Jacob of Serugh in the Ambrosian Homiliary (ms. Ambros. X.198 sup. and Its membra disiecta)”, Δελτίο Βιβλικών Μελετών 33B (2018): 37-54.
‘The Classical Syriac Language”, Pages 222-242 in The Syriac World. Edited by King, Daniel. Routledge Worlds. London: Routledge, 2019.
“The Christian Arabic Transmission of Jacob of Serugh (d. 521): The Sammlungen,” Journal of the Canadian Society for Syriac Studies 16 (2016): 39-59.