THE' DETROIT JEWISH NEWS
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world. Judaism was still consid-
ered a real threat to the daughter
faith. This threat was increased
seven-fold when the emperor Ju-
lian (known in church sources as
"the apostate") sought, in the
Fourth Century to declare Chris-
tianity an illicit faith and to assist
the Jews in the reconstruction of
the Temple of Jerusalem.
While Julian's heroic gesture
failed, the Christian world, or at
least the theological arbiters of
Christianity understood, that the
spectre of a re-built Jerusalem
would sap Christianity of its
theological truth. After all, had
not the Temple of old been de-
stroyed because of the Jewish re-
jection of Jesus. How could one
reconcile the rebuilding of the
Temple and the "new dispensa-
tion brought by Jesus?
These issues and questions
were very much in the air in Anti-
, och in the fourth century when
John Chrysostom began his
meteoric climb to the preaching
heights. The ferocity of his advo-
cacy of Christian "truths" versus
Jewish ones must be understood,
says Wilken, in the light of the
Chrysostom came from an
environment which honored the
traditions of classical rhetoric.
The rhetor or public speaker was
one of the most admired men in
antiquity. Christian preachers
borrowed heavily from the rhetor-
ical lessons of ancient Greece and
Rome and absorbed them into
their apologetic discourses.
In the hands of John Chrysos-
tom rhetorical devices were re-
fined to a degree probably un-
equalled in early Christianity.
While Jews were the principal
targets of many of Chrysostom's
verbal assaults they were not the
only people in antiquity who were
subjected to such abuse. Pagans
and heretics received their fair
share of Christian vituperation as
The problem with Chrysostom,
however, is that he perfected the
rhetorical technique known as
psogos, that is, the art of invective
and he used it expertly in his at-
tack on the Jewish people and on
Judaism. In the psogos, exaggera-
tion, mendacity and coarseness
were taken for granted.
Says Wilken: "Every act of his-
torical understanding is an act of
empathy. When I began to study
John Chrysostom's writings on
the Jews, I was inclined to judge
what he said in the light of the
unhappy history of Jewish-
Christian relations and the sad
events in Jewish history in mod-
"As much as I feel a deep sense
of moral responsibility for the
attitudes and actions of Chris-
tians towards the Jews, I am no
longer ready to project these later
attitudes onto the events of the
fourth Century. No matter how
enraged Christians feel over the
Christian record of dealings with
the Jews, we have no license to
judge the distant past on the basis
of our present perceptions of
events of more recent times."
Robert L. Wilken has taught us
an important historical lesson in
this book, one of the finest of its
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