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Playing a Jewish Game

Gentile Christian Judaizing in the First and Second Centuries CE

By Michele Murray
Subjects History, Religion, Jewish Studies
Series Studies in Christianity and Judaism Hide Details
Hardcover : 9780889204010, 224 pages, April 2004


Is it possible that early Christian anti-Judaism was directed toward people other than Jews?

Michele Murray proposes that significant strands of early Christian anti-Judaism were directed against Gentile Christians. More specifically, it was directed toward Gentile Christian judaizers. These were Christians who combined a commitment to Christianity with adherence in varying degrees to Jewish practices, without viewing such behaviour as contradictory. Several Christian leaders thought that these community members dangerously blurred the boundaries between Christianity and Judaism. As such, Gentile Christian judaizers became the target of much anti-Jewish rhetoric in various early Christian writings.

Evidence of Gentile Christian judaizers can be found in canonical sources, such as Pauls Letter to the Galatians and the Book of Revelation, as well as non-canonical sources, such as the Epistle of Barnabas, the Didache, and Justin Martyr’s Dialogue with Trypho. In order to compare the phenomenon of judaizing and the reaction to it of ecclesiastical authorities, Murray organizes the evidence by probable geographical location, using Asia Minor and Syria as the two main loci.

The phenomenon of Gentile Christian judaizing is examined within the broader context of Jewish-Christian relations in the early centuries, and is the first attempt to draw all possible references to Gentile Christian judaizers together into one study to consider them as a whole. This discussion invites readers to reflect on the existence of Gentile Christian judaizers as another point on the continuum of Jewish-Christian relations in the Greco-Roman world — an area, Murray concludes, that needs to be more carefully defined.


  • Short-listed, Grand Prix du Livre de la Ville de Sherbrooke 2006


``Arguments and assumptions are presented thoroughly and consistently. The book is clearly written and can be assigned to undergraduates. ''

- American Historical Review, October 2005

``There is much to commend Murray's presentation of the literature at her disposal. In collating the evidence, Murray is careful not to rely on outmoded arguments misconstruing the sources in light of preconceived notions about the relationships between Christianity and its parent religion in the early years of its development. ...Murray's book is a fine primer on the subject, accounting for a wide variety of materials and treating said materials in a responsible and constructive fashion. ''

- Joshua Ezra Burns, Review of Biblical Literature, 2004

``By. ..encouraging us to look at [the adversus Judaeos] material from a new perspective, [Murray] has made a significant scholarly contribution. For this reason her work is to be warmly welcomed. ''

- Terence L. Donaldson, University of Toronto Quarterly, Letters in Canada 2004

``Murray succeeds in providing an informed and thorough study of Gentile Christian judaizers that likely serves as a harbinger of future trajectories in the study of the relationship between early Christianity and Judaism. ''

- Shofar

``This carefully crafted and intellectually stimulating monograph is an admirable contribution to an important Canadian series on relations between Judaism and Christianity in the ancient world. ''

- Jay Newman, Canadian Book Review Annual, 2006

``Playing a Jewish Game offers a new perspective upon history and religious definition that reverberates as vital to better understanding Judaism and Christianity alike in contemporary times. ''

- John Taylor, The Midwest Book Review, September 2004

``Playing a Jewish Game is praiseworthy for challenging deeply rooted yet inadequate identifications of the subjects and audiences of so-called `anti-Jewish' early Christian literature. Murray's work is notable also for employing a wide assortment of eveidnece, including canonical, non-canonical and patristic literature, all of which is introduced with requisite background information for readers who may be new to the texts. Murray's efforts at making her work approachable to both scholarly an dnon-scholarly readers will help to bring this complex problem to a wider audience. ''

- Tony Chartrand-Burke, Toronto Journal of Theology, Vol 21, no 2, Fall 2005