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Augustine and the Jews by Paula Fredriksen

- Abstract

The purpose of this book is to chart the way in which Augustine of Hippo (354-430), among the most influential thinkers in the history of the Christian Church, arrived at a “unique” and even “revolutionary” doctrine of “Jewish witness”—witness, that is, to the truth of Christianity. The author, Paula Fredriksen, is the Aurelio Professor of Scripture at Boston University; her previous books include From Jesus to Christ and Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews. For what it is worth, she is also a convert to Orthodox Judaism.

Augustine’s theology of Jewish witness can be briefly summarized. Following a well-established Christian tradition, Augustine identified Cain as a symbol of the Jews and his slain brother Abel as a prefiguration of Jesus. For their guilt in the murder of Jesus, the Jews (like Cain) had been exiled from their land, and in exile they would continue to live—in sorrow, anxiety, and servitude—until the end of time. But they were indeed to be permitted to live; this was God’s will, mandated (Augustine says) by Psalm 59:12, “Slay them not, lest at any time they forget Your law; scatter them in Your might.”

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