Religious Studies Faculty Publications

Document Type

Conference Paper

Publication Date


Publication Source

Ascension of Isaiah Symposium


The Question of the “Parting of the Ways” between Jews and Christians has become a matter of debate again: is it really appropriate to speak about two more or less coherent groups going two different ways from a certain point in history – perhaps after Paul’s mission, after the destruction of the Second Temple (70 CE), or after the Bar-Kokhba War (132-135 CE)? Does the image of a tree with one root and two different trunks going into two different directions really fit what the extant sources tell us about the complexities of the past? Or shouldn’t we distinguish between the situations at different geographical places and times, under different social and political circumstances, and of partly very different groups? Do categories like “Jew,” “Christian,” or “pagan” help us to understand how real people and real groups understood themselves? Of course, we have to use “categories” if we want to describe the past – we should, however, always be aware that our categories are likely not the categories of people living hundreds of years ago, and that, in any case, they are only heuristic tools which can even impede proper understanding, if we use them too schematically.

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Presented at the Ascension of Isaiah Symposium, March 14-16, 2013, University of Regensburg, Germany. Also presented as an invited paper at the 2013 Society of Biblical Literature (SBL) Meeting, November 2013.