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By Thomas A. Robinson / Hendrickson / 2009
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How did the early Christian movement, which began among Jewish people and in close association with the Jewish temple and synagogues of the first century, develop into a predominantly Gentile movement by the end of the first century? Was this “parting of the ways” spurred by internal tensions within the Christian church, socio-political factors in the Roman city of Antioch, or growing hostility from the larger Jewish community? In Ignatius of Antioch and the Parting of the Ways, Thomas A. Robinson addresses this intriguing historical question by taking a careful look at the writings of one of the few Christian writers who wrote about this parting firsthand—Ignatius, the Bishop of Antioch, who was martyred in the early years of the second century. Through a careful examination of the historical and sociological setting of first-century Antioch, Robinson sifts the testimony of this church father on issues such as the nature of Christian conversion at Antioch, the sources of Jewish-Christian tensions in that city and in the broader Roman world, and the development of the terms “Christian” and “Christianity.” Assessing a number of current theories about the nature of the Jewish-Christian parting, Robinson stresses the importance of hearing the voice of Ignatius himself on these questions. This is an excellent resource for anyone interested in the early days of Christianity and in Jewish-Christian relations.
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A vigorous, impressively researched, and incisive study of Ignatius, firmly rooting him in historical context. Robinson challenges effectively some fashionable ideas about Ignatius and early Christianity, e.g., multiple ‘Christianities’ and ‘Judaisms,’ and the supposedly late differentiation of Christianity from its Jewish matrix. This is an important work whose arguments must be reckoned with hereafter.
—Larry Hurtado, professor, New Testament language, literature, and theology, New College, University of Edinburgh
Thomas Robinson succeeds in introducing readers to the multiple issues involved in interpreting Ignatius’ comments about Judaism with an accessible style alongside evident mastery of a wide range of recent discussion. Its detailed analysis of the social and historical setting of Jews and Christians in Antioch is a model of what is needed in exploring particular situations and writings, and will ensure that the book becomes a standard contribution to the ‘the Parting of the Ways debate’ as well as to the study of Ignatius himself.
—Judith Lieu, Lady Margaret’s Professor of Divinity, Faculty of Divinity, University of Cambridge
Robinson provides excellent engagement with and documentation of the varied discussions. In all of this, he proves a careful scholar, respectful of ancient sources (thought not naively so), and a challenger of current scholarship especially when modern sensibilities drive contemporary academics to restructure the past to make it more palatable. . . . Ignatius of Antioch and the Parting of the Ways is a wonderful volume, useful to scholars in New Testament, early Christian, and Jewish-Christian studies. The book provides a wealth of critical information and carefully reasoned arguments from a seasoned scholar, unafraid to challenge consensuses, yet careful and nuanced in his judgments.
—Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
This tightly argued book contends that the letters of Ignatius provide clear evidence that Judaism and Christianity were distinct religious phenomena and knew themselves as different by the early years of the second century. . . . This is an important book. Robinson’s arguments lay bare significant weaknesses in the dominant hypotheses about the development of the church in the late first and early second centuries. . . . Thus, he provides a needed corrective for scholars of Ignatius and more broadly for those who offer reconstructions of the developing church and who discuss the early relationship between Judaism and Christianity.
—Biblical Theology Bulletin
Thomas A. Robinson is professor of religious studies at the University of Lethbridge in Alberta, Canada. He specializes in the relationship between Christianity and Judaism and the development of Christianity’s distinctive identity in the Roman Empire. His books include Early Christian Reader, World Religions, and Mastering New Testament Greek.