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Beginnings: Jews, Christians and the Roman Empire

04Feb(Feb 4)6:00 pm12May(May 12)6:00 pmBeginnings: Jews, Christians and the Roman Empire(February 4) 6:00 pm - (May 12) 6:00 pm(GMT+00:00) Italian Jewish Studies SeminarItalian Jewish Studies Seminar

Event Details

A collaborative series of Centro Primo Levi with the Herbert Katz Center for Advanced Judaic Studies at the University of Pennsylvania.

Each year CAJS invites some twenty scholars from around the world to study in depth a central theme of Jewish history and culture. This year the center highlights the period of Late Antiquity, focusing on the interactions between Jews, Christians, and pagans and the rise and development of Judaism and Christianity. The lectures at Centro Primo Levi in New York emerge from the year long seminar in Philadelphia and include three of the most promin ent scholars and most dynamic speakers on early Judaism and Christianity. Through this collaboration between the two centers, these experts will share some of the most recent work and latest insights regarding this seminal er a in Jewish and Christian history.

In the fourth century C.E., the Roman Emperor Constantine converted to Christianity, forever altering the religious history of the Western world. At about the same time, Christians shifted their religious attention back to the place where their faith was born, constructing the notion of a Holy Land by trying to locate the settings of the life and passion of Jesus in and around Jerusalem and building shrines and churches on those spots.  The creation of a Christian Holy Land symbolically appropriated the land from its earlier sovereigns and inhabitants, the Jews. The Jewish reaction to the Christianization of both the Roman Empire and Holy Land was astounding — a complex mix of roaring silence, acceptance, and a series of active alternative strategies, both territorial and rhetorical, to counter the Christian challenge.

February 4

When Christians were Jews: Honoring Israel’s God, from Jesus to Constantine

Paula Fredriksen, Aurelio Professor of Scripture, Boston University. Introduction by David Ruderman, Joseph Myerhoff Professor of Modern Jewish History and Ella Darivoff Director at the Center for Advanced Judaic Studies, University of Pennsylvania.

April 14

Contesting the Land: Christians and Jews in Late Roman Palestine

Oded Irshai, Senior Lecturer of Ancient Jewish history, Hebrew University. Introduction by Cynthia Saltzman, Director for Public Programs at the Center for Advanced Judaic Studies, University of Pennsylvania.

May 12

Gods and Laws: The Roman Empire and the Rabbis in Pre-Christian Palestine.

Natalie Dohrmann, University of Pennsylvania, Executive Editor, The Jewish Quarterly Review, Center for Advanced Judaic Studies.

The speakers

Paula Fredriksen is one of the world’s leading scholars in the field of Jewish-Christian relations in Late Antiquity and is the Aurelio Professor of Scripture at Boston University. She is author of three books and over a dozen articles on early Christianity. Among her numerous awards and honors are a National Endowment for the Humanities grant for University Professors and a Lady Davis Visiting Professorship of Ancient Christianity at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. Professor Fredriksen’s second book, From Jesus to Christ: The Origins of the New Testament Images of Jesus, received the Yale Press Governors’ Award for Best Book in 1988. More recently, her book Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews, won the Nation Jewish Book Award in 1999. Professor Fredriksen holds a Ph.D. in history of religions, ancient Christianity, and Greco-Roman religions from Princeton University and a theology diploma from Oxford University. Dr. Fredriksen has gained wide acclaim on account of her public lectures on television and radio programs. She edited and contributed to a collection of essays about Mel Gibson’s controversial film, On The Passion of the Christ (University of California Press 2005). She also served as historical consultant for the BBC production The Lives of Jesus and was a featured speaker and historical consultant for U.S. News and World Report’s The Life and Times of Jesus. Her most recent study, Augustine and the Jews, is forthcoming from Doubleday and will no doubt become a major contribution to the field of the Judaeo-Christian dialogue.

Dr. Natalie Dohrmann is the Adjunct Assistant Professor in Religious Studies and the Jewish Studies Program at the University of Pennsylvania. As the Executive Editor of the Jewish Quarterly Review, and director of Publications at the Center for Advanced Judaic Studies, she is responsible for revitalizing the journal and turning it into cutting-edge scholarship with an ever increasing readership.

She received her B.A. from Princeton and her doctorate from the University of Chicago in the History of Judaism under Michael Fishbane. Before coming to Penn she was Assistant Professor of Early Judaism at North Carolina State University.

Dr. Dohrmann has published on early rabbinic midrash with an emphasis on its relation to Roman law. Her most recent project is a book edited with David Stern called Jewish Interpretation and Cultural Exchange: Comparative Exegesis in Context, University of Pennsylvania Press, spring 2008.

Dr. Oded Irshai, professor of Jewish history at Hebrew University, is one of the leading Israeli scholars in patristic and rabbinic history. He is respected for combining sensitivity to literary texts with insightful historical reconstructions, and for navigating the complex literary corpora of both the Church Fathers and rabbinic literature.

His research interests include Palestine in the Second Temple period, Jews and Judaism in early Christian historiography, and social and cultural dimensions of Jewish life in Late Antiquity.  Particularly important is his scholarship on the reemergence of the Jewish priesthood in Late Antiquity as a social force.

Among his many publications in Hebrew and English, he has produced groundbreaking work on Cyril of Jerusalem, and has written a seminal article titled “Constantine and the Jews: the Prohibition Against Entering Jerusalem – History and Hagiography.”

He received his Ph.D. in 1993 from Hebrew University. He was awarded a postdoctoral fellowship from Oxford University and a Starr Fellowship from Harvard University ’s Center for Jewish Studies. In recent years, his collaborative work with Paula Fredriksen has contributed to a landmark study of Jewish-Christian relations in Late Antiquity.

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