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these contacts are not specifically religious. Most Jews, like most Christians, were no theologians, and the study of religious dynamics must deal with the various ways in which they interacted, for instance in language, folklore or magic.

The Islamic conquest must also be taken seriously. It would again change in drastic ways the terms of the relationship throughout the Near East and North Africa. From then on, both Jews and Christians partook, more or less, of the same status as ahl al-kitab, a religious community tolerated because it had a scripture. More precisely, one can perhaps claim that the emergence of Islam represents one result of the cultural dynamics between Christianity and Judaism. Mohammed knew both and both rejected and used parts of each. In a sense, the very concept of ahl al-kitab represents a broadening to Christians (and to Zoroastrians) of the Christian theological attitude toward Jews since the fourth century, while the imperial legislative limitations would be echoed in the Islamic concept of the ahl al-dhimma.7 Even the Byzantine empire's definition of itself developed religiously and politically in relationship to the emerging competitor to Christianity, Islam, yet the immediate counterpoint of Byzantine identity, at least from a religious viewpoint, remained the Jews, both in their present gloomy obstinacy and in the past glory of their sacral kingship.8

A few caveats are in order. First, the two communities (or, rather, webs of communities) are far from being comparable by almost any criterion. While we remain ignorant about Jewish demography in late antiquity, the Jews were much less numerous in the fourth century than they had been under the early Roman empire (although they probably never represented a significant part of the overall population, as estimated by some).9

The relations between Christians and Jews in antiquity are usually compared to those between Christians and pagans, and the natural tendency is to focus upon the Roman empire, forgetting that some important Christian communities (both Miaphysites and Nestorians) were present in the Sassanid empire, and had some cultural visibility, as doctors (Nestorians in Gundishapur, for instance) and translators of Greek literature. They must have developed at least some contact with the Jewish communities there, sharing Aramaic as

7 See A. Fattal, Le statut legal des non-musulmans en pays d'lslam.

8 For Byzantine anti-Jewish polemics, see A. Kulzer, Disputationes Graecae contraJudaeos. For the relationship of the Byzantine emperors to Israelite kingship, see G. Dagron, Emperor and priest.

9 See B. McGing, 'Population and proselytism: How many Jews were there in the ancient world?'

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