Between "Judaism" and "Christianity" in Late Antique Syria

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This book, from Penn's Rare Book and Manuscript collection, is one of the earliest printed versions of the Pseudo-Clementine Recognitions. The Recognitions were written in Greek in fourth-century Syria (possibly in Edessa). Today, the text of the Recognitions is preserved in whole only in Rufinus' Latin translation of 407 C.E. It is one of the two major surviving forms of the Pseudo-Clementine novel. Like the other major form - the Pseudo-Clementine Homilies - it appropriates the Greco-Roman genre of the novel to tell the story of the life of Clement of Rome, his travels with the apostle Peter, and Peter's debates with Simon Magus. The Homilies and Recognitions are widely believed to preserve important first-hand evidence for "Jewish-Christianity." Both celebrate Peter, James, and the Jerusalem Church as the true heirs to Jesus. These books also voice surprisingly positive views of Jews and Judaism, and they outline dietary restrictions and prescriptions for ritual purity for Gentile followers of Jesus. In addition, they contain hints of familiarity with roughly contemporaneous Rabbinic traditions.

Rufinus' Latin translation of the Recognitions circulated widely in the Roman Empire in Late Antiquity and in Western Europe during the Middle Ages. The first printed edition of the Recognitions was that of Jacques Le Fèvre in 1504. The 1526 Basel edition, pictured here, was printed by Johannes Sichard, who appended a number of letters pseudepigraphically attributed to Clement of Rome, including the Epistle of Peter to Jamesand Epistle of Clement to James (both of which originally circulated with the Homilies). Sichard followed late antique and medieval tradition in asserting the authentic sub-apostolic origins of these writings. Although Sichard defended them against the charge of "apocrypha," John Calvin, Voltaire, and others soon dismissed them as papal forgeries. The denunciation of these writings, during the Reformation and Enlightenment, arguably played a part in fostering modern scholarly assumptions of their marginal status and significance. It is only recently, for instance, that scholars have begun to recover the significance of the Pseudo-Clementine literature for our understanding of the interactions (and overlaps) between Jews, Christians, and "pagans" in late antique Syria.

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Late Antique Syria

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Between "Judaism" and "Christianity" in Late Antique Syria

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