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that some of the earliest and most important collections of midrashim date from Byzantine Palestine. It has been suggested, again recently by Nicholas de Lange, that the genre midrash offers striking similarities to the series, or catenae ('chains'), of patristic interpretations of biblical texts.20 It so happens that the first catenae were also composed in late fifth-century or early sixth-century Palestine. Procopius of Gaza (c. 465-c. 530) apparently created this genre, in which he worked the different exegeses into a sort of continuous interpretation, in which the wordings of all of them appeared.21 Some kind of contact between the two phenomena is plausible, but we must not forget their common ground: 'secular' rather than 'pagan' culture, as can be seen in Gaza. Only a comparative study, however, might be able to seek an answer to the link between them.

We are still far from understanding the mythopoietic process involved in the formation of Midrashic literature. We do not even know their original purpose: were the collections of midrashim meant to be used as 'raw material' for the preparation of homilies? Obviously, they were taught (and learned by heart) in the rabbinical paideia, as they would not otherwise have been preserved before they were committed to writing. Various midrashim show at least a blurred consciousness of Christian doctrines. Does this indicate that they were redacted as offering a Jewish answer to Christian biblical interpretation? Similarly, we still do not know the original function of the catenae, although they may well have been used for homiletic purposes.

Hermeneutic practices and the koinos bios

In any case, both genres show the extent to which Jews and Christians, in Byzantine Palestine, partook of a very similar hermeneutical tradition of the same texts, even though they were reading them and commenting upon them in different languages. Indeed, the idea of a koinos bios should refer not only to the material aspects of life, but also to intellectual and spiritual life, to patterns of mind and of religious life. The case for such an intellectual and spiritual koinos bios might be made, of course, for all the various groups living in Byzantine Palestine, including Samaritans and polytheists, both Hellenised and Bedouins. But it is all the more true about Jews and Christians.

The comparative study of synagogal piyyut and Byzantine liturgical poetry (kontakia), which has barely begun, might also shed light on the dynamics

20 N. de Lange, 'Midrach et Byzance. Une traduction francaise du Midrash Rabba'. See further N. de Lange, 'Jews and Christians in the Byzantine empire: Problems and prospects'.

21 See The Palestinian catena on Psalm 118 (SC 189: 7).

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