Info

spectrum of magic themes and practices. In this respect, there are some obvious links between magic and mysticism, reflected both in Jewish and in Christian texts.

A final point should be mentioned in the search for the proximate channels permitting the transmission of knowledge between Jews and Christians. It appears more and more probable that Jewish Christian communities remained extant much after the fourth century, when they were usually thought to have become extinct. As late as the first half of the eighth century, for instance, John of Damascus knew of a Jewish Christian community on the shores of the Dead Sea.33 Even if the size of these communities and their geographical location makes them quite marginal, the very fact of their existence cannot be ignored, and cannot have remained without consequences upon the perceived boundaries between Christians and Jews.

The impact of Islam

In conclusion, we may ask whether, at the end of our period, the relationship between Jews and Christians was more or less significant than it had been at its start. There is no doubt that it was different. The Jews in the Christianised Roman empire were now clearly lowered to the more or less stable nadir, a state of total weakness and humiliation to which they would be confined for more than a millennium, until at least the Emancipation. Both in the Latin West and in the Greek East, they seem to have generated much less interest for theologians than in an earlier period. Christians no longer expected conversion as when Theodoret had noted, in the fifth century, that the Jews struck a disturbing note in an ecumene that saw the conversion of various exotic peoples to Christianity. Christian writers certainly seem to have known much less about Judaism and about Jewish exegetical traditions than in previous generations. To a great extent, later Byzantine and Latin polemical literature reflect this state of affairs.

In the Near East, however, the situation was different, as the Christians had in their turn been reduced in the new Islamic empire to a situation comparable to that of the Jews. For Eastern Christians, the nemesis was now Ismael, not Israel. For John of Damascus, the worst heresy was the most recent one, that of the Ismaelites.34 The Jews do not seem to have overly concerned him. But such an attitude was also shared by Christians in the Byzantine

33 See G. G. Stroumsa, 'Gnostics and Manichaeans in Byzantine Palestine'.

34 See D. J. Sahas, John of Damascus on Islam.

0 0

Post a comment