and Jewish converts. His major interest in pursuing his contacts with Jews was intellectual in nature. First, he needed them as teachers of Hebrew, a language he never succeeded in quite mastering, despite his constant efforts. Second, he wanted to learn from them about various hermeneutical and exegetical traditions ofthebiblicaltext. Hebraica Veritas: Jerome's motto singled him out as a philologist in a world that did not particularly appreciate, or even understand, such an urge.18 Indeed, his correspondence with Augustine reveals how the latter remained unable to understand Jerome's efforts to read the Bible in the original Hebrew. (Jerome appears here to be a lonely figure, also in his dealings with Jews, but he is following Origen, an earlier biblical exegete.) Jerome's contacts with Jews do not seem to have helped him develop any sympathy for them. Regular contacts, indeed, have never represented a panacea against ethnic, religious or community tensions.

Archaeological remains, which often reflect a more positive image of the interaction between communities than polemics, also reflect a blossoming of Jewish communities, groups that did not shun cultural influences from the surrounding world. Jews and Christians lived both in towns (except Jerusalem on principle) and villages. In Tiberias, the seat of the Jewish patriarchs until 420, the spread of Christianity seems to have been inhibited for some time. The villages were often mixed, but there seems to have been a tendency toward separation between the communities in these villages. Synagogue mosaics from Byzantine Palestine, in particular, show an impressive ability to play with non-Jewish themes. While such themes are not directly Christian, it is highly plausible that they sometimes reflect use among Christians, hence echoing the polemical dialogue between the two communities. One instance may be the depiction of the Akedah on the floor of the Beit Alpha synagogue. The importance of Abraham's sacrifice of Isaac among late ancient Jews might well reflect its centrality among Christians, for whom Isaac (as well as the ram) was a typos, or sacramentumfuturi, of Jesus Christ.19

Midrashim and catenae

Midrashic Hebrew literature is a literary genre sui generis, which was born in late antiquity and continued to develop throughout the middle ages. The fact that it was composed and redacted orally, and only later committed to writing, makes the exact dating of the texts quite difficult. Yet it is possible to establish

18 On Jerome and hebraica Veritas, see A. Fürst, Hieronymus: Askese und Wissenschaft in der Spätantike, 102-6 and bibl. 316-17, as well as R. Gonzalez Salinero, Biblia y polemica antijuida enJeronimo, 53-91.

19 G. Stroumsa, 'Christ's laughter: Docetic origins reconsidered'.

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