Education and theological culture

One can perhaps extrapolate, mutatis mutandis, from the few examples of contacts between mystical stances among Christians and Jews to other fields of cultural contact. Mystical experience, at least what we can know from our sources, was a matter for intellectuals, or at least religious virtuosi. Education, religious law and theology are fields in which it is plausible to expect some kind of cultural dynamics between the elites of the two communities. Despite the deep lack of symmetry between them, stemming from the fact that the Christians represented (in the Roman empire) the religion in power, and from the lack among the Jews of both priests and monks or nuns, there are still likenesses.

Polemics is perhaps even more difficult to use because we do not possess a single autonomous Jewish voice, and what we hear from the Christians is usually what they liked to say when they wrote against the Jews. In Babylonia, at least, the Jews had over the years established some kind of educational system (the yeshivot, or Talmudic academies), but this system was organised on principles greatly different from those of the Christian academies in the East, like the one in Nisibis. The variance is due essentially to the lack of Greek philosophy in the literary canon of the Jews, and to the huge contrast in the expression of theological thought that ensued. The two systems of theological education must have remained quite impermeable to one another - except for Jewish converts to Christianity (we do not hear of any Christian convert to Judaism in our period). In the West as well as in the East, the monasteries began to offer a parallel educational system, which gave up the grounding in classical paideia. Without Greek philosophy, Jewish theology remained, to a great extent, implicit, and focused upon religious law. Christians, on the other side, focused upon theological discussions, usually linked to the fight with heresies of all sorts, leaving law, mainly, to imperial legislation.

Popular piety and magic

The whole fields of popular piety, magic, and holy men must be considered. The evidence for relationships between the two groups is here much less ambiguous than in theological or mystical thought, although the lack of sources here remains even more dreadful than elsewhere. Jewish holy men played in their community, mutatis mutandis, a role similar to that played by Christian holy men in their own community. Popular religion is in many ways a problematic concept, postulating a dubious two-tiered hierarchy. But there is

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