Jewish Acts in the polis: ethnic reasoning and the Jewishness of Christians in Acts of the Apostles
Stroup, Christopher R.
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This project examines the depiction of Jewish and Christian identity in Acts of the Apostles by placing the writer’s ethnic claims within a broader material and epigraphic context. Scholarship on Jewish identity in Acts has often emphasized Jewish and Christian religious difference, an emphasis that has tended to mask the intersections of civic, ethnic, and religious identifications in antiquity. Such identity categories did not exist as distinct, stable entities. Rather, as discussions of identity in antiquity demonstrate, they were contested, negotiable, and ambiguous. Bringing Acts into conversation with recent scholarly insights regarding identity as represented in Roman era material and epigraphic remains shows that Acts presents Jews and Jewish identity in multiple, complex ways, rather than as a simple foil for “Christianity.” The dissertation argues that when the modern distinctions between ethnic, religious, and civic identities are suspended, the innovative ethnic rhetoric of the author of Acts comes into focus. The underlying connection between ethnic, religious, and civic identities provided him with space to present non-Jewish Christians as converted Jews and therefore to identify all Christians as Jews. On the basis of this identification, he marked Christians as a unified Jewish community that enhanced the stability of the city, contrasting them with other Jewish communities. By creating an internal distinction between Christians and other Jews, he privileged Christians as the members of an ideal, unified Jewish community and contrasted them with what he identified as factious, local Jewish associations.