The Judge and the Martyr

Beth A. Berkowitz

in Execution and Invention

Published in print February 2006 | ISBN: 9780195179194
Published online February 2006 | e-ISBN: 9780199784509 | DOI:
 The Judge and the Martyr

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This chapter juxtaposes the death penalty discourse of the Rabbis with that of Christians. It shows that the early Christians, like the Rabbis, used death penalty discourse to great effect, but in an almost diametrically opposite way — Christian identification was with the executed, not the executioner. It examines the passion narrative in the four gospels: the stories of the execution of Stephen and the conversion of Paul in Acts, martyrdom narratives, and the writings of Ignatius and Justin to show that the identification with the judged and correlative criticism of the judge was central to the development of early Christian culture. It shows that the rabbinic and Christian discourses are not as far apart as they might initially seem — both produce new sites of authority for their respective audiences. The chapter considers the paradoxical ways in which the rabbinic embrace of power functions as critique, and the Christian critique of power functions also as an embrace, in an attempt to undermine enduring stereotypes of both the religious constellations of early rabbinic Judaism and early Christianity.

Keywords: early Christianity; executed; passion narrative; martyrdom; Ignatius; Justin; identification; critique; stereotypes

Chapter.  17695 words. 

Subjects: Religious Studies

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