May 28, 2008
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v2.1 Reference

Tertullian's Aduersus Iudaeos

A Rhetorical Analysis

Tertullian's Aduersus Iudaeos (Against the Jews) is one of the most controversial works of early Christian literature for modern scholarship not only because of its subject matter, which denies the enduring validity of Judaism subsequent to the appearance of Christianity, but also because of the debate surrounding the authenticity of the second half of the work itself. Many believe that the parallels with the third book of Aduersus Marcionem indicate that someone other than Tertullian completed this work by taking material from the latter source. As a result, historical studies of the relationship between Jews and Christians have widely neglected this work.

Geoffrey D. Dunn is the first scholar to use classical rhetoric as the interpretative tool for analyzing the question of the authorship of Aduersus Iudaeos. He argues that Tertullian structured this work according to the rules of classical rhetoric and employed arguments familiar to anyone with training in oratory. This analysis demonstrates that the work's conceptual structure matches what is written, that there are parts of the pamphlet that remain an unrevised draft, and that it was Tertullian himself who later used the material from this work in Aduersus Marcionem.

A rhetorical perspective suggests that this work was intended as an idealized Christian contribution to be employed in the debate between Christians and Jews. The intended readers of Aduersus Iudaeos were Tertullian's fellow Christians, and, by writing the work, he sought to provide them with better debating points to use in their own encounters with Jews.

This book presents valuable evidence of an ongoing, lively interaction between Jews and Christians in late second-century Carthage about the validity of both religions and their interpretations of the scriptures.


Geoffrey D. Dunn is an Australian Research Council-funded Australian Research Fellow in the Centre for Early Christian Studies at the Australian Catholic University. He is author of Tertullian and Cyprian and the Bishops of Rome: Questions of Papal Primacy in the Early Church, and co-editor of Prayer and Spirituality in the Early Church, Volume 3: Liturgy and Life.

"Dunn is to be thanked for drawing serious attention to this oft-neglected work, and for highlighting its significance not only for an understanding of Tertullian but also for that of Judaism and early Christianity." — Judith Lieu, Ecclesiastical History

"Dunn's impressive learning and agile mind lend conviction to his thesis, which in turn has important implications for our understanding of Tertullian's theology, while his keen analysis establishes a context that enables the reader to become present in Tertullian's world." — Robert Sider, Religious Studies Review

"Dunn is a logical and clear writer. . . . [T]his is a fine example of careful work. . . . It should find a home in research libraries and be read not just by students of theology but also by anyone interested in classical rhetoric." — Maureen A. Tilley, Theological Studies

"Tertullian's Aduersus Iudaeos is the first lengthy treatment in English of a neglected work. . . . A lengthy, updated bibliography, a general index, and indexes of references to Tertullian's works and to the Bible complete the book, which will be useful to anyone who studies AI or Christianity and Judaism in second century Roman Africa." —J. Kevin Coyle, Theoforum

The Catholic University of America Press
Patristic Monograph Series

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