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Augustine and the Jews: A Christian Defense of Jews and Judaism Hardcover – Bargain Price, December 2, 2008

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 512 pages
  • Publisher: Doubleday Religion (December 2, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385502702
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.1 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,107,768 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In this densely argued and exhaustive book, religion professor Fredriksen (Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews) does for Augustine what she has already done so brilliantly for the historical Jesus. Drawing primarily on Augustine's Confessions and on his little-studied treatise, Against Faustus, she recreates the religious and political tensions of late fourth-century Christianity in North Africa and its attempts to understand its relationship to Judaism. While many early Christian writers condemned Jews as killers of Christ, Augustine turned the rhetorical tables on such polemic. As Fredriksen elegantly contends, Augustine argued that the Jews should be exempt from Christian persecution. Since the religious practices of the Jews devolved from God the Father—the same God Christians worshipped who was also the source of Jewish scriptures, tradition and practice—therefore God and the Jews, and thus the church and the Jews, maintain an abiding relationship. Contrary to many traditional interpretations, Fredriksen's deeply nuanced study demonstrates that the bishop of Hippo's later writings forcefully challenge the anti-Jewish tendencies of much of early Christianity and offer fresh ways of thinking about contemporary dialogue between the two religions. (Dec.)
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From School Library Journal

A recognized scholar of the historical Jesus, Fredriksen (Aurelio Professor of Scripture, Boston Univ.; From Jesus to Christ) explores Augustine of Hippo's journey into his own particular understanding of Scripture and of the place of Judaism in the Christian world. She particularly focuses on Augustine's commentaries on Paul's letters, the Psalms, and recorded disputations with the Manicheans whom he had once embraced. Over time, Augustine (354–430) arrived at his ideas of a just God and of human freedom, which in turn led to his teaching that Jews, divinely chosen, were necessary witnesses in the development of Christianity. The author draws especially on Augustine's Confessions and City of God and also references writings of contemporaries such as Ambrose and Jerome. She points out that despite the early development of anti-Judaism in the rhetoric of the day, the populations of urban Mediterranean cities intermingled socially, with Jews practicing their religious traditions, holding civil office, etc. Featuring textual analysis of a very high caliber and an extensive bibliography, this worthy contribution to the literature on Augustine is recommended for scholarly and religion collections.—Anna M. Donnelly, St. John's Univ. Lib., NY
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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46 of 48 people found the following review helpful By J. Moran VINE VOICE on February 15, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Alone among the early Christian theologians Augustine taught that Jews continued to be a chosen and protected people and that Christians should neither harm them nor attempt their forcible conversion. He did not come to these views for what we today would call humanitarian reasons, still less because he was in favor of tolerance or of modern "multiculturalism." Indeed he favored coercion when it came to pagans and (especially) as it applied to "heretical" Christians such as the Donatists.

Instead Augustine had reached a theological conclusion unprecedented in Christian history. The Jews and their scriptures, argued Augustine, still had an important role to play in salvation history. Their books bore witness to the truth of Christianity. There were prophecies, of course, that could be seen by anyone to have been fulfilled by the events of the life of Christ. The events and people of Jewish history, moreover, were types for the events not only of Christ's life but of salvation history down to the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE (which Augustine saw as God's punishment of the Jews and the beginning of the Diaspora). Even the continuing failure of the Jews to recognize and accept Christ helped the Christians because the Jews continually "witnessed" both the antiquity and the authenticity of their own scriptures, which in turn validated Christ as lord and Messiah. Augustine saw this as the mission that God imposed upon the Jews whom He had made willfully blind to Christ's truth just so that they could assist in Christianity's mission "to the nations."

The book chronicles how Augustine painstakingly worked out this position and what he based it on. He changed his thinking (but not his conclusions) somewhat over time. In order to do this, Prof.
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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful By James D. Williams on March 10, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Augustine is one of the more interesting figures of late antiquity. His exploration of Scriptures and theology was a significant factor in developing Christian doctrine. In the process, he changed the nature of rhetoric, shifting its focus from oratory to textual exegesis, what George Kennedy called "secondary rhetoric." His application of allegoresis to biblical interpretation laid the foundation for modern literary hermeneutics, and his CONFESSIONS provided a new model for autobiography.

A significant factor in the rise of early Christianity was the movement's hostility toward Jews, who--owing to the influence of Greek philosophy--were viewed as followers of the subordinate, "fleshly" God of the Old Testament and whose innate obstinance would not allow them to accept the True God, who existed outside the realm of the flesh.

Fredriksen examines how Augustine came to reject this view and to argue that the Jewish God and the Christian God were one and the same. In doing so, Augustine fundamentally altered the relationship between Christianity and Judaism and one might argue saved Jews from the widespread persecution that Christians carried out against all other religious groups between the 4th and 6th centuries.

Fredriksen is a first-rate scholar and a brilliant writer. Her book is beautifully written, thoroughly researched and documented, a sheer joy to read, and it certainly should be required reading for anyone interested in Augustine. Arguably, it is the best book written on Augustine since Peter Brown's classic AUGUSTINE OF HIPPO.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Dr. Fournier on April 11, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Who would think that a scholarly book on such a seemingly arcane topic could be so thoroughly enjoyable! With the right balance of scholarship, detail and humor, Paula Fredriksen makes the classical era of Greco-Roman learning come alive, while leading readers through the evolution of thought on many philosophical and theological issues, some of which haunt us to this day. In the process, the personalities of the principles - St. Augustine the erudite scholar, St. Paul, the conflicted Jew, St Jerome, "the diva" (as the author terms him) - come shining through. A "must-read" for students of philosophy, theology and history, as well as general readers who wish to trace the evolving polytheism to monotheism, Paganism, Judaism and Christianity.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Grannyles on August 6, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book provided insights to both religious and to the historic background of the times. As someone who has read widely in this area, I find myself recommending this book to all the friends who have an interest in theology and history.
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