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The race of the God-fearers.

The 'God-fearers' have been so regularly appraised, eliminated, and reappraised that it may seem tedious to devote yet another article to asking, 'Who are the "God-fearers"?' Yet the question asked by modern scholarship is not that asked by the texts themselves - therein, no doubt, lies part of the problem. While modern scholarship seeks to identify the bearers of the epithet and to fill out their profile and historical role, in the texts it belongs to a rhetoric of claims and counter-claims, betraying an implicit if not explicit competition between religious groups. Although the main concern of this paper is to trace the rhetoric of 'the God-fearers', it may be helpful first to summarize the main elements which constitute the modern debate and so shape the modern definition of the God-fearers.

Here the focus has been the existence of the 'God-fearers' as a class of gentile sympathizers with a close relationship to the Jewish synagogue which was, however, less than full conversion.(1) The starting-point has often been the distinctive references in Acts to 'those who fear God' ([Greek Text Omitted]: Acts 10: 2, 22, (35); 13: 16, 26) or 'those who revere God' ([Greek Text Omitted]: Acts 13: (43), 50; 16: 14; 17: 4, 17; 18: 7). These formulae, despite the enigmatic switch between them half way through Acts (between 13: 26 and 13: 43 or 50), appear to be used in a near technical sense, especially when put alongside 'the Jews', as in 17: 17 ([Greek Text Omitted]).(2) In the context of Luke - Acts' own ideology this group plays a significant role as a bridge between Jews and Gentiles in the wider extension of Christianity, and it is this theological raison d'etre which has given room for doubt as to the historical reliability of Luke's picture when taken on its own.(3)

However, this putative group of 'sympathizers' have gained their name not only from the Lukan material but also from the use of the term [Greek Text Omitted] (pl. [Greek Text Omitted]) in inscriptions from Jewish contexts where it is applied to people who in some cases appear to be adherents rather than full members of the synagogue. It is this term which is the main concern of this article. The most notable and most compelling - perhaps only certain - example of this use is the recently discovered early third-century(?) inscription from Aphrodisias which lists some 52 male names under the heading 'such as are God-fearers', clearly differentiating them from the earlier list(s) of apparently full-members of what is probably a Jewish association of some sort.(4) The fact that both participial phrases from Acts and this adjective can be translated as 'God-fearing' has sometimes made it possible to hide the difference between the terms as well as the significant failure of Acts either to use the inscriptional term or to have its own witnessed epigraphically; equally important is the chronological distance between the attestation of the different terms which makes it hazardous to interpret one by the other when there may be more pertinent parallels.

That 'Gentile sympathizers' did exist is clear and can be illustrated by such diverse examples as the father of Juvenal's satire whose reverence for the seventh day and avoidance of pork is the first step down a slippery slope which ends with the son's full conversion (Sat. xiv.69), or Josephus' reference to the 'masses' who have long 'joined themselves to us in some measure' (BJ vii.45; cf. c. Apion ii.23),(5) or the implied audience of some hellenistic Jewish literature. Yet it is equally significant that these sympathizers are given no regular profile or epithet and are never called 'God-fearing'.(6) We may also put to one side the limited references in rabbinic sources to [Hebrew Text Omitted], 'those who fear heaven', apparently of Gentiles who show some loyalty to the Jewish people, since it is impossible to demonstrate a link between the admittedly similar terminology.(7)

While modern scholarship has focused on the possibility of drawing these diverse bodies of evidence together in pursuit of a single historical referent, the texts themselves are motivated by different concerns and arguing separate causes. It is this which we shall be exploring here with specific reference to the use of 'God-fearing', [Greek Text Omitted]. However, while the epigraphic evidence has been analysed frequently, the use of this same term in literary sources has not received similar systematic attention.

I. The race of God-fearers

The general history of [Greek Text Omitted] or the noun [Greek Text Omitted], fear of God, can be traced from its occasional use by Aristophanes and Euripides, through to its adoption by hellenistic Judaism and then by Christianity, where it finally becomes a technical term and even an ecclesiastical title. In his survey of this history G. Bertram commented, 'On the whole the history of the term [Greek Text Omitted] displays the penetration into the Biblical sphere of a word group alien to the biblical revelation';(8) although criticizing its anthropocentric spiritual attitude, he nonetheless did recognize its significance in denoting 'the true worship of God in contrast to pagan superstition and idolatry'.

It is indeed this which provides the setting when the term first emerges clearly in the Christian tradition in the second century. A good starting point is afforded by the Martyrdom of Polycarp. Although it has been argued that in its present form the Martyrdom shows evidence of late redaction, the passages with which we are here concerned fit well in a second-century context and, for our present purposes, we may accept a date in the third quarter of the second century and also put to one side the question of the historical accuracy of the reporting.(9)

In the form of a letter from the Church at Smyrna, which had experienced the brunt of persecution, to the Church at Philomelium 'and all the sojouring [churches] of the holy and catholic Church in every place', the Martyrdom is no mere historical record nor an ephemeral missive. It is both a testimony and a summons to imitation; imbued with echoes of the account of Jesus' own passion, Polycarp's trial and death, supported by that of his fellow martyrs, becomes a display which compels 'the whole crowd to marvel that there was such a difference between the unbelievers and the elect' (16: 1). Despite its apparent apologetic tone, that motif of contrast was probably directed not to a pagan audience but to the beleagured church forced into an interpretation of the suffering it was enduring; opposition and persecution encourage tighter self-definition, a self-definition which is often expressed in terms which reverse the judgement made by the oppressors. Avoiding any overt apologetics - when invited by the governor 'to persuade the people'; Polycarp considers the crowd not worthy of any (10: 2) - a covert apologetic has voices from every side contributing to the key terms of that self-definition.

Thus for the narrator, the Evil One, whose hand lies behind the worst moments of the story, is the one 'who opposes the race of the righteous' (17: 1 [Greek Text Omitted]). Polycarp, with the authority of the hero soon to be martyred, confirms this designation of the Christians: as he dedicates himself as a sacrifice he prays, 'O Lord God Almighty, Father of ... Jesus Christ ... God of angels and powers and all creation and of the whole race of the righteous who live before you' (14: 1).(10) Earlier, the mob, who later will observe with amazement that distinction between unbelievers and the elect, add another testimony; a young man, Germanicus, resolutely rejects any inducement to apostasize and instead entices the wild beast to help him leave 'this unjust and lawless life', this time compelling the watching crowd 'to marvel at the nobility of the God-loving and God-fearing race of Christians' (3: 2 [Greek Text Omitted]). The bold apologetic force of the epithets is underlined by the crowd's responding cry, 'Away with the god-less [atheists]'.

This assertion that Christians form a 'race' or [Greek Text Omitted] of their own is also expressed in other ways - they imitate and so offer an alternative to the life of the city. It is Polycarp's life-long faithful 'citizenship', [Greek Text Omitted], which so provokes the jealousy of the Evil One and is equally valued by the Christian community (13: 2; 17: 1); clearly this citizenship was not exercised in Smyrna itself but within the Christian community.(11) The 'whole crowd of pagans and Jews who live in Smyrna' add further testimony when they call him 'the father of the Christians' and 'the destroyer of our gods' (12: 2); the first of these labels clearly echoes the regular epithet with which the Emperor was celebrated in decrees and inscriptions at Smyrna and elsewhere in this period, 'father of the fatherland'.(12) Together, the two titles place Polycarp in an alternative and antithetical system.

Brought before the proconsul, Polycarp is urged to swear by the fortune of the Emperor; this he refuses to do with the proud claim, 'I am a Christian' ([Greek Text Omitted]). He even offers, if the proconsul so wills, to teach him 'the message of Christianity' ([Greek Text Omitted]) (10: 1). In the context of his refusal to swear by the Emperor's 'fortune', 'Christianity' clearly indicates a total pattern of belief and practice, and is that for which Polycarp will die. The use of a single term to express this is distinctive; the Martyrdom is only the second text to use '[Greek Text Omitted]', which first appears in Ignatius in the early second century. For Ignatius, who may have coined it himself, the term has a double point of reference. In his letter to the Romans 3: 3, 'but [Greek Text Omitted] is not the work of persuasiveness but of greatness when it is hated by the world', it belongs in the context of anticipated suffering and martyrdom, as it does in the Martyrdom of Polycarp. In two letters (Magn. 10: 1, 3; Philad. 6: 1), however, it appears in explicit contrast with 'Judaism', '[Greek Text Omitted]', a term that is already to be found in earlier Jewish tradition and which may have provided Ignatius with a model for his own coinage of 'Christianism':(13) 'If anyone interpret Judaism to you, do not listen to him. For it is better to hear Christianism from a man who is circumcised than Judaism from the uncircumcised' (Philad. 6: 1). The name 'Christian' belongs to the same contexts: in contrast to the other Apostolic Fathers (where it otherwise comes only in Didache 12: 4 and the apologetic Epistle to Diognetus), it is important for Ignatius,(14) as well as for MPoly; it is equally important for the other Martyr Acts, and for the apologists who both claim it as a self-designation and defend it against outsiders' use of it as a basis for attack.

Each of these terms plays a role in the developing self-consciousness of separate identity of the early Christians and invites further analysis. Here, however, it is 'the race of the God-fearers' which is of particular interest. Both the idea of Christians as a race, [Greek Text Omitted], and an emphasis on their 'fear of God' ([Greek Text Omitted]) are not peculiar to the Martyrdom of Polycarp but seem to have been emerging more widely in the middle of the second century. Although these terms are foreign to the New Testament and earlier Apostolic Fathers,(15) the Epistle to Diognetus takes as its starting point the pagan recipient, Diognetus', enthusiasm to learn more about the 'fear of God of the Christians' (1: 1 [Greek Text Omitted]); this is defined as both 'who is the God in whom they have put their trust and how they worship him so that they all disregard the world and despise death'. The theme of the Epistle is that by their rejection of those who are considered gods by the Greeks and of the superstition ([Greek Text Omitted]) of the Jews, Christians are constituted a new race ([Greek Text Omitted]) or practice ([Greek Text Omitted]). The author goes on to demonstrate both the folly of Greek worship of images made of wood, stone, or metal and the self-deception of Jewish claims to worship the one God. Jewish sacrificial worship and attention to the calendar is folly and not the fear of God ([Greek Text Omitted]) they assume it to be (3: 3; 4: 5), while sabbath observance is simply impious ([Greek Text Omitted], 4: 3). It is only the Christians who can validly claim a [Greek Text Omitted] (4: 6; 6: 4).(16) Furthermore, although they live in the midst of Greeks and barbarians and have none of the institutions of a separate people, Christians do have their own distinctive citizenship ([Greek Text Omitted], 6: 4), and yet they are hated and persecuted by all.

The differentiating use of '[Greek Text Omitted]' and the polemical defence of Christianity over against the worship or 'fear of God' of Greeks and Jews are also to be found in other contemporary Christian texts. In the Kerygma Petri, which survives only in a few quotations and which may have been a source for Diognetus,(17) Christians are those 'who worship [fear] God ([Greek Text Omitted]) in a new way and third type' or 'as a third race' ([Greek Text Omitted]: Clement, Strom. vi.5.41), to be contrasted with the old ways of both Greeks and Jews.

It is, however, in the Apology of Aristides that the sense of '[Greek Text Omitted]' as a subdivision of the human race with genealogy and extended characteristics is most developed.(18) Writing in the time of either Hadrian or Antoninus Pius, Aristides divided the world, according to the Greek recension, into three races, [Greek Text Omitted] - those who worship the so-called gods, Jews, and Christians (2: 1); the Syriac speaks of four races, adding the barbarians, which brings the Jews and Christians closer together but ignores the fact that for many ancient authors the Jews were barbarians.(19) Again it is their understanding and worship of God which, as the author demonstrates at length, differentiates the 'races' from each other; the Jews, it is true, are given a special place particularly in the more eirenic Syriac version which acknowledges the links between the Christians and the Jews through Jesus Christ who was born of a Hebrew. Yet for all this the Christians are a 'new people' and blessed more than all other people (16: 4; 17: 5).(20) Needless to say, a paramount concern of the Apology is the necessity of worshipping ([Greek Text Omitted]) only the unseen and all-seeing God ([Greek Text Omitted]) (13: 8). Although the specific terms 'fear of God' or 'God-fearing' are not used in the extant text, the original title may have been 'concerning the fear of God' ([Greek Text Omitted]). This is implied by the Syriac version which alone preserves a title ([Hebrew Text Omitted]) and by Eusebius' reference to the Apology, in the Chronicle,(21) although 'piety', [Greek Text Omitted] would be another possibility (cf. Eusebius' description of Aristides as 'faithful and devoted to our [Greek Text Omitted]' (HE iv. 1.3)).

The importance of [Greek Text Omitted] in an apologetic setting is confirmed by Quadratus who, probably under Hadrian, also penned an apology. According to Eusebius (HE iv.3.1) this was 'concerning our fear of God' ([Greek Text Omitted]) and was provoked by those who sought to 'cause us trouble'.(22) Unfortunately, nearly all traces of this apology are lost, despite Eusebius' assertion that it was still extant in his own time and testified to its author's insight and apostolic correctness. Later, Melito of Sardis addressed an apology or appeal to the Emperor Marcus Aurelius; in this he complained of the unprecedented persecution being suffered by 'the race of the God-fearers' ([Greek Text Omitted]) as a result of new decrees throughout Asia (Eusebius, HE iv.26.5). Precisely what these decrees were remains unclear; if they were provoked by particular charges against the Christians or by civil unrest, Melito may have chosen the epithet 'God-fearers' for its apologetic note. The few surviving fragments of his Apology offer limited hints of his argument; they do suggest that he tried to claim civic loyalty by pointing to the correlation between the rise of Christianity and the security of the empire since Augustus. To this end Melito distances 'our philosophy' from the 'barbarians' among whom it first flourished, preferring to claim a place among 'your nations' and a security alongside other forms of worship ([Greek Text Omitted]) (Eusebius, HE iv.26.5-11); perhaps he found the claim to be a separate [Greek Text Omitted] one to be handled with care or avoided entirely.

In these texts we see two concerns in close combination. Christians are a 'race' ([Greek Text Omitted]), a term which both claims a cohesive identity and differentiates them from others, not least the Jews.(23) At the same time they are those who fear God, the God-fearers, a claim which in the contexts reviewed carries both a defensive and an offensive note - defensive against possible detraction, offensive against other such claims, again not least from the Jews. The background to these two ideas helps explain the force of the argument.

II. A race

Two trajectories seem to lead to the designation of Christians being 'a race'. First, Tertullian knows but also rejects the label 'the third race' (tertium genus) as a slur on the lips of the Christians' opponents (Ad Nat. i.8; Scorp. 10.10); what he seems to find particularly unacceptable is the 'third' with its implications of last and least significant. Perhaps behind the accusation lies something like Suetonius' designation of Christians as a 'race (genus) of men holding a new and mischievous (malefica) superstition', with its implication of alienation from and a threat to the state (Vita Neronis 16.2); in a world divided (according to one side) into barbarians and non-barbarians there was - as Melito may have realized - no room for a 'third' race.(24) Yet in this sense the term could also be used by the Christians to good effect, to claim both universality and independence of any other national or Empire cult;(25) another source for this, but notably without the use of the term 'race', was the New Testament sense of being a new creation.

However, behind the Christian affirmation also lies the Jewish. The sense of being a race or people is one proudly held in Jewish literature from the Maccabaean period, often in a context of suffering and persecution. The threat from the Assyrians is directed against 'the race of Israel' (Jdt 6: 2, 5, 19; 8: 20, 32; 11: 10), while Judith herself prays, 'may your whole nation ([Greek Text Omitted]) and every tribe know that you are God ... and there is none other who shields the race ([Greek Text Omitted]) of Israel' (9: 14). In her triumph Judith is acclaimed as 'the glory of Jerusalem, the great pride of Israel, the great boast of our race' (15: 9), while she herself proclaims, 'Woe to the nations who attack my race' (16: 17). The same is true in the Maccabean literature: [Greek Text Omitted] joins the more widespread and older [Greek Text Omitted] in proclaiming a sense of identity in the midst of hostility and attempted annihilation and in implying a contrast with all the other nations who give way to the oppressor's demands (2 Macc. 8: 9; 14: 8). The author admonishes his readers 'not to be disheartened by these events but to consider them as penalties not for destruction but for the discipline of our race' (2 Macc. 6: 12), while the last of the brother martyrs prays that 'the wrath of the almighty which has justly fallen on all our race be halted with me and my brothers'.(26) A similar sense of internal loyalty is expressed when Tobit practises his acts of charity towards those who are of his [Greek Text Omitted] or [Greek Text Omitted] (1: 3, 16-17; 2: 3), while in apologetic literature the term defines more clearly a particular pattern of life and a contrast with other peoples. The Sibylline Oracles speak of the Jewish people as 'the race of the most righteous' or 'of the pious', distinguishing them by their virtues and divine favour from all other peoples: 'There is a city... on earth, Ur of the Chaldees, from which stems a race of the most righteous men' (iii.219; see iii.573 discussed below and v.249: 'the divine and heavenly race of blessed Jews'). Although contemporary Jewish testimonies are lacking, it is possible that the Jews already spoke of themselves as the 'third race', only to have the epithet taken over by the Christians.(27) For the latter, then, the definition of 'third' as a contrast to 'Greeks and Jews' would have been a Christian appropriation and redefinition of a term which originally had other connotations.(28)

Other elements of self-conscious separate identity parallel to those in the Martyrdom of Polycarp are also found in this literature. It was this setting which prompted the creation of the term 'Judaism' ([Greek Text Omitted]) as an all-embracing term to encompass the life and beliefs for which the battle was fought: 'those who for the sake of Judaism vied in acting the man' (2 Macc. 2: 21; cf. 8: 1; 14: 38; 4 Macc. 4: 26).(29) Perhaps inevitably, bound up with the threat of martyrdom there developed an understanding of Judaism and of the Jewish people set over against a hostile world which was bent on its destruction. Judaism demanded a loyalty of belief and life that could lead to death itself and set the Jewish people apart from all other peoples. It provided a citizenship or city life of its own, even when circumstances gave this no political reality. Language drawn from the city is common: the Jewish way of life is a 'citizenship' [Greek Text Omitted] which is defined by its opposition to alien (or Greek) practices (2 Macc. 4: 11; 8: 17; 4 Macc. 5: 16; 8: 7; 17: 9);(30) in 2 Macc. 14: 37 Razis is, on account of his loyalty, named 'father of the Jews', perhaps an echo of the Roman title 'father of the Roman people', but one which is echoed by the charge brought by the mob against Polycarp with which we started.(31) In even closer parallel, in 4 Maccabees it is the martyrs who are called father or mother of the Jewish people: 'But the daughter of the God-fearing [Greek Text Omitted] Abraham remembered his bravery: O mother of the nation, avenger of the law and champion of piety [Greek Text Omitted] and victor of the contest of the heart' (4 Macc. 15: 28-9, cf. 7: 1, 9).

III. Those who fear God

This brings us back to the second theme, the claim that Christians are those 'who fear God'. Here, while our particular interest is with the [Greek Text Omitted] word group we cannot ignore the near equivalent [Greek Text Omitted] here rendered 'pious/piety'. This concept is a common one in Greek sources, both literary and epigraphical, and could encompass respect due to the gods, respect due to family and state, and appropriate behaviour and attitudes. However, while both Jews and Christians did adopt it, there is some evidence that they particularly favoured [Greek Text Omitted] as a more appropriate equivalent. Whereas pagan inscriptions are apt to celebrate their honorand as 'pious' [Greek Text Omitted], the claim that he or she was [Greek Text Omitted] seems to have been monopolized by the Jews.(32) At Sardis, for example, one of the donors of the mosaics decorating the synagogue - almost certainly a Jew - proclaims to posterity, 'Aurelius Eulogios, God-fearing [Greek Text Omitted], I fulfilled a vow'.(33) Despite this preference, the development of the use of the terms may initially be viewed together.

Bertram's claim that both terms reflect the piety of hellenistic Judaism (as opposed to that of the 'Old Testament') arises from their relative infrequency in the Septuagint, except in 4 Maccabees and, in the case of [Greek Text Omitted], in the wisdom tradition.(34) The common Old Testament concept of 'fear (of God/the Lord)' [Greek Text Omitted] is usually rendered by [Greek Text Omitted], probably providing the model for (one of) the formulae used by Acts.(35) The rare use of [Greek Text Omitted] of the 'non-Jew' Job (1: 1, 8; 2: 3) and of [Greek Text Omitted] in a 'non-Jewish' context by Abraham (Gen. 20: 11) and Job (28: 28) may have been more influential in later Jewish and Christian usage than is now apparent;(36) both continue to be remembered as preeminently God-fearing (Abraham: 4 Macc. 15: 28; TNaph. 1: 10; anon. in Eusebius, Praep.Ev. ix. 17.3; Job: Ps.Aristeas in Eusebius, Praep.Ev. ix.25.4).(37) However, the development of the concept in 4 Maccabees takes us further.

The governing theme of 4 Maccabees, where the [Greek Text Omitted] word group appears over 60 times, is a demonstration of how 'devout reason', [Greek Text Omitted], should be master of the emotions (1: 1; 6: 31; 17: 1, 3; 13: 1; 18: 1-3, etc), as evidenced by the readiness of each of the martyrs to die [Greek Text Omitted] (7: 16; 9: 6, 7, 23, 29, 30, etc.). This represents a combination of the hellenistic commitment to 'reason' with the Jewish commitment to the Law, even as expressed in maintenance of food regulations (5: 18, 24), so that the Jews can be shown to have a pre-eminent claim to [Greek Text Omitted]. [Greek Text Omitted] is used in a broadly similar way, in contrast to the 'Old Testament' pattern just noted.(38) It is for this that the martyrs suffer and which in them conquers and wins a crown of victory (4 Macc. 7: 6, 22; 15: 28; 16: 11; 17: 15); as just noted, the mother of the seven martyrs is likened to Abraham as [Greek Text Omitted] (15: 28; 16: 11; cf. Jdt. 11: 17).

A similar convergence with hellenistic ideals is made by the Letter of Aristeas; here [Greek Text Omitted] is both the answer to the questions of the true identity of beauty and of sound judgement, and is itself defined as the recognition of God's continuing activity and omniscence ([sections]229; 255; 210). Similarly, when TReub. 6: 4 says that in sexual promiscuity there is place for neither understanding nor piety [Greek Text Omitted] Jewish values are being expressed in hellenistic terms. At times, then, piety or to be pious comes close to the Hebrew use of hesed/hasid as a self-designation of covenant faithfulness; for 4 Macc. 17: 22 the martyrs are the pious [Greek Text Omitted] whose blood is a source of salvation, while TLevi 16: 2 anticipates a generation which will 'persecute just men and hate the pious'. This becomes explicit in the Third Sibylline where the Jews are 'a holy race of pious men' [Greek Text Omitted], a piety expressed in their honour of the Temple, their sacrifices, their rejection of idols, their sanctification of the flesh with water, their honour of parents, and their rejection of marital infidelity and homosexuality ([section]573; cf. [sections] 213; 769). Both the Fourth and Fifth Sibyllines also see the Jews as a race or tribe of 'pious men', even at the point of their defeat by the Romans ([Greek Text Omitted]: iv.136; cf. v.36). This is a piety which is defined in terms of 'the common ethic' of trust in and reverence towards the one God and a rejection of idolatry, but it is a definition which is fulfilled by the Jews alone (iv.24-26, 35, 156; v.284); they surely are the 'pious' who will survive the judgement and inherit the earth (iv.40-46, 152-56, 187-90; v.281-83). Thus the Jewish claim to piety rejects all alternative claims.

In much of this literature [Greek Text Omitted] is less common. It is comparatively infrequent in Josephus, although much has been made of his description of Poppaea, the wife of Nero, as [Greek Text Omitted] (Ant. xx. [section] 189-96); this, however, is probably an appreciation of her support or patronage rather than a claim for any overt allegiance to Judaism on her part, and only serves to demonstrate the wide usefulness and reference of the term.(39) Neither does the term figure frequently in Philo although he does rate [Greek Text Omitted] the fairest possession (De Fuga 27 (150)) and the greatest of the virtues (De Opificio 54 (154)).(40) However, in Joseph and Aseneth the [Greek Text Omitted] word group alone is used to the complete exclusion of [Greek Text Omitted]. Here it is Joseph who is 'God-fearing' (4: 9), particularly in his refusal to kiss an 'alien' (8:5-8 [Greek Text Omitted]) whose lips would have blessed 'dumb idols' and touched food and drink offered to them; neither could one who was 'God-fearing' sleep with his future wife before the wedding (21: 1), while his brothers as [Greek Text Omitted] are forbidden any form of retaliatory action (21: 1; 23: 9-10, etc.) such as other people might take.(41) It is then an exclusive term applicable only to the Jews who 'fear (the true) God' and observe the appropriate ethical behaviour; in theory it might be equally applicable to others who adopt this pattern of belief and behaviour, including Aseneth, although it is never explicitly applied to her (but cf. 8: 7, a woman who is [Greek Text Omitted] should also not kiss a strange man). In the light of the parallels from Acts we should notice that Joseph can also be described as 'humble and compassionate and one who feared the Lord' ([Greek Text Omitted]: 8: 9; cf. 22: 8; 27: 2).

The evidence is uneven, just as is the survival of hellenistic Jewish texts. Yet clearly the claim to be 'pious' carried an important apologetic note both within the Jewish community and in the face of pagan detraction. 'God-fearing', [Greek Text Omitted], offered further advantages over [Greek Text Omitted], for it pointed more directly to Jewish worship of the one God and rejection of idolatry, a theme already present in their use of the latter term. Therefore we should not be surprised that in a community context Jews proudly declared themselves to be [Greek Text Omitted], just as their pagan neighbours celebrated their own [Greek Text Omitted].(42) We have seen this for a 'home' audience in the synagogue at Sardis where the epithet is claimed by a number of donors; yet it might be equally important for them to make a point of calling themselves 'God-fearing' in an appropriate setting of public display of loyalty to the city. Perhaps this was in the mind of the Jews of Miletus who inscribed on their theatre seats 'place of the Jews who are also theosebioi' ([Greek Text Omitted] [sic]: CIJ II. 748); they were turning the adjective into a party label and not, as so often claimed, including an adherent group of 'God-fearers'.(43) The theatre was the place for party claims as later centuries were to demonstrate;(44) it was also the place, as Acts 19: 33-34 testifies, where doubts about such loyalty might readily be expressed. That the term could equally be used of, or claimed by, those non-Jews who put into action their attraction for or active patronage of Judaism is self-evident; the Aphrodisias inscription fits well here - the label is an appreciation of patronage and not an acknowledgement of obedience to certain practices. As well as this more positive assertion it would also counter any suggestions that such supporters were, as Tacitus said of converts, taught 'to despise the gods, disown their country, hold cheap parents, children and brothers' (Hist. v.5) - a succinct definition of the rejection of 'piety'. Yet it is equally self-evident that the Jews would be unlikely to restrict such an effective term to 'fellow-travellers'.

How far the choice of [Greek Text Omitted] rather than [Greek Text Omitted] became a matter of conscious preference among Jews - as Joseph and Aseneth might suggest - must remain uncertain. We also find it used in a number of first- and second-century pagan texts: according to Cassius Dio Marcus Aurelius showed himself to be [Greek Text Omitted] by even sacrificing at home on days when no public business was done (Hist. Rom. lxxii.34.2), while that Emperor himself rates the 'fear of God' alongside holiness and justice as the ultimate goals of reason (Medit. xi.20.2).(45) Dionysius of Halicarnassus describes Numa and Xenophon as 'righteous and God-fearing' ([Greek Text Omitted]: Antiq. Rom. ii.60.4; Pomp. 4.2.7) just as Josephus describes David and the Maccabaean loyalists (Ant. vii.7.1 (130); xii.6.3 (284)).(46) What does seem certain is that the terminology belongs to the religious claims and counter-claims of the period, with some roots in hellenistic or diaspora Judaism.

IV. Polemic and Propaganda

Against this background we may return to the Christian sources of the second century. We have already seen how, in contrast to the insignificance of the concept in the New Testament and earlier Apostolic Fathers, the Epistle to Diognetus takes up its polemical value, denying any Jewish claims to '[Greek Text Omitted]' and reserving it for the Christians alone (3: 1, 3; 4: 5, 6; 6: 4). However it is Justin Martyr who provides us with the broadest range of nuances that the term could carry. Not surprisingly Justin shows a slight preference for [Greek Text Omitted], while [Greek Text Omitted] is restricted to the Dialogue with its context of debate with Judaism - thus confirming the significance of the term in a Jewish matrix. In his Apology Justin combines [Greek Text Omitted] with [Greek Text Omitted] as a self-evident norm in a calculated appeal to the contemporary political ideal of the philosopher-ruler: 'reason dictates that those who are in truth god-fearing and philosophers should honour and love the truth alone' (2: 1-2; 3: 2; 12: 5; II Apol. 15: 2).(47) This notion is entirely absent from the Dialogue: here [Greek Text Omitted] is defined, instead, by its association with righteousness [Greek Text Omitted],(48) and the Jews are condemned for thinking that such piety is fulfilled by washings or sabbath observance (12: 3; 14: 2). Indeed any Jewish claims to [Greek Text Omitted] are denounced (46: 7; 95: 2), while for Christians their piety, along with their 'confession' [Greek Text Omitted], is a cause of their suffering (11: 4; 131: 2). For Trypho, Justin's Jewish opponent, however, Christian claims to [Greek Text Omitted] are proved false by their failure to distinguish themselves from the pagans by religious observance: 'This in particular perplexes us, that you, who claim to be pious [Greek Text Omitted] and consider yourselves different from the rest, do not distance yourselves from them in any respect' (10: 3). This contest over who can properly claim [Greek Text Omitted] is much more sharply expressed in Justin's use of [Greek Text Omitted]. Christians, particularly gentile Christians, are described as those who have become [Greek Text Omitted] (52: 4; 53: 6; 131: 5) or who have turned to [Greek Text Omitted] from idolatry (30: 3; 91: 3; 110: 4). By contrast, the Jews, who are tainted with idolatry (1 Kings 19: 18!), fail to maintain an attitude of 'fear of God', although this was their proper vocation (46: 6).(49) In the face of potential Jewish counter-claims Justin can affirm on behalf of the Christians: 'this happened by the marvellous foreknowledge of God, so that we might be found to be richer in understanding and more God-fearing than you who are neither esteemed nor lovers of God nor understanding' (118: 3); it is the Christians, and not the faithless Jews, who constitute the nation [Greek Text Omitted] promised to Abraham, sharing his faith, God-fearing and righteous ([Greek Text Omitted], 119: 6).

The implicit - and sometimes explicit - countercharge to the claim to be pious or God-fearing is, of course, [Greek Text Omitted], impiety. As Athenagoras more sanguinely observes, [Greek Text Omitted] belongs to those who fail to share your own [Greek Text Omitted] (Legatio 14.7). For Justin the heretics can be indicted for impiety (Dial. 35: 5; 80: 3) but also so can the Jews (46: 5; 92: 4), as we have seen they were also by Diognetus.(50) No doubt the Jews levelled the same accusation against the Christians: Justin complains that they seize upon the slightest weakness in exegesis as criminal and impious (115: 6). Yet it was, of course, equally a charge laid against the Christians by their pagan neighbours (Apol. 4: 7; 27: 1; II Apol. 10: 4); in this case it might be combined with the charge of being 'atheists' (II Apol. 3: 2), a double accusation which Christians were proud to share with Socrates (Apol. 5: 3). This confrontation between the charge of 'atheism' and the affirmation of being 'God-fearing' is one which we have already met in the Martyrdom of Polycarp.

That Christians are in fact '[Greek Text Omitted]' served as a defence against accusations of both impiety and atheism, and is used as such by other Apologists of the second century.(51) While for Athenagoras piety [Greek Text Omitted] concerning the divine is a widespread concern (Legat. 7: 8; 28: 2; cf. 13: 1; 30: 7), that Christians alone are God-fearing [Greek Text Omitted] is warmly defended against charges of their being atheists (Legat. 4: 2, 5; 12: 3; 14: 2; 37: 1) and is denied of other claimants (12: 2, the Epicureans).(52) For Theophilus of Antioch, too, the atheists are rather those who bring slanderous charges against 'those who are called God-fearers and Christians' ([Greek Text Omitted], ad Autol. iii.4). Like the other Apologists mentioned earlier, Theophilus describes his work as giving an account 'of my fear of God' ([Greek Text Omitted], 11.1). Yet there are some hints that he was adopting and adapting the claims of the synagogue; in his account of the ten commandments as observed by the Christians he acknowledges the place of the Jews as a righteous seed of 'God-fearing and holy men, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob' (iii.9) and speaks of the Scriptures as books 'which belong to us, the God-fearers' ([Greek Text Omitted]. 11.30). Such assertions could well have originated on the lips of his Jewish peers.

It is not a large step from this contrastive and defensive use of [Greek Text Omitted] to its becoming a general designation for the true Christian religion. Already in Irenaeus (Adv. Haer. i.16.3) [Greek Text Omitted] can be paralleled with [Greek Text Omitted] in opposition to heresy, while the Christian women of the Apocryphal Acts refuse intercourse with their husbands for the sake of 'the fear of God' (Act. Ioh. 63: 6-64: 7; Act. Petri 34: 11). Yet one further text, the Cohortatio ad Graecos falsely attributed to Justin, although composed at the end of the third century when other authors were using [Greek Text Omitted] widely and in this increasingly technical sense, epitomizes the picture we have been able to draw.(53) Avoiding [Greek Text Omitted] altogether, Ps. Justin consistently defends 'our' or 'the true' [Greek Text Omitted] against 'yours' which is falsely called (1: 1; 2: 1; 3: 3, etc.). In fact the whole treatise is a defence of the Christians as alone preserving the true [Greek Text Omitted], accompanied by an indictment of the total bankruptcy of the Greeks including Aristotle and Plato, who learned from Moses but apostasized from the 'true fear of God' (25: 24; 36: 33). There is also implicit rivalry with Judaism: Ps. Justin is confident that the Christian 'fear of God' is to be found in the Scriptures and can claim all the antiquity of having been taught first by Moses (9: 9-10: 18). He knows too that some may object that 'these writings even now are to be found preserved in their synagogues and that we claim to have learnt the 'fear of God' from them falsely' (13: 5); yet, he responds, this is but an act of divine providence preserving the books which support 'our [Greek Text Omitted]'. It is not difficult to catch an echo of the earlier Jewish claim to be God-fearing and to possess the true 'fear of God' in the Scriptures. Seeking pagan support for the epithet, Ps.Justin appeals to a Greek oracle which, when asked who were the 'God-fearing men', declared that 'only the Chaldaeans achieved wisdom, and then the Hebrews who hold God in holy awe as self-begotten and lord' (11: 2, repeated at 24: 28-29). Whether or not he drew this from hellenistic Jewish sources, as he did some of his other testimonies, the oracle would have served a Jewish apologetic better than it does Ps. Justin.(54)

V. Conclusion

To successfully claim to be 'God-fearing' was to secure a multiple advantage; it offered a defence against charges both of impiety and atheism and of superstition - the two extremes which might normally be contrasted with true piety or [Greek Text Omitted] and which were levelled against Christians in the second century.(55) Unlike [Greek Text Omitted] it allowed an assertion of Christian monotheism and rejection of idolatry, an assertion inherited from its Jewish antecedents. Consequently it also carried an implicit or explicit denial that anyone else, particularly the Jews, could also claim the epithet. Yet this was only because they did so claim it. Indeed, as we have seen, both groups were making the same claim in a context of accusations or persecution and both associated that claim with persecution and with suffering.(56) Both, too, were refusing the title to their opponents and claiming it for themselves as part of a cluster of terms asserting a rhetoric of identity, of belonging, and of loyalty. Quite how this rhetorical competition was played out on the historical stage may remain uncertain, but those who pursue the history need to recognize the rhetoric: 'Who are the God-fearers?' was then an even more urgent and divisive question than it is now.(57)

1 The bibliography is extensive and growing; see J. Reynolds and R. Tannenbaum, Jews and Godfearers at Aphrodisias, Cambridge Philological Society Suppl. 12 (Cambridge, 1987), 48-66, and the articles cited in the footnotes there, as well as those referred to below.

2 M. Wilcox, 'The "Godfearers" in Acts. A Reconsideration', JSNT 13 (1981), 102-22 denies that the Acts references need be taken consistently in this sense.

3 So A. T. Kraabel, 'Synagoga Caeca: Systematic Distortion in Gentile Interpretations of the Evidence for Judaism in the Early Christian Period', in J. Neusner and E. S. Frerichs (eds.), 'To See Ourselves as Others See Us': Christians, Jews, 'Others' in Late Antiquity (Chico, California, 1985), 219-46, at 224-30; idem, 'Greeks, Jews and Lutherans in the Middle Half of Acts', in G. Nickelsburg and G. MacRae (eds.), Christians Among Jews and Gentiles. Essays in Honor of Krister Stendahl (Philadelphia, 1986), 147-57. Kraabel also notes the lack of reference to such a background in the Pauline letters, although some would argue that the assumption that gentile readers will follow the complex use of the 'Old Testament' suggests that they have come to Christianity via the synagogue.

4 Reynolds and Tannenbaum, Jews and Godfearers at Aphrodisias, 48-66; prior to this it could be questioned whether the term ever conclusively referred to a Gentile: so A. Kraabel, 'The Disappearance of the "God-fearers"', Numen 28 (1981), 113-26; L. Robert, Nouvelles Inscriptions de Sardes, vol. I (Paris, 1964), 43-45.

5 On these and more widely on the question of Josephus' presentation of 'friendly Gentiles' see S. Cohen, 'Respect for Judaism by Gentiles according to Josephus', HTR 80 (1987), 409-30.

6 J. A. Overman, 'The God-Fearers: Some Neglected Features', JSNT 32 (1988), 17-26 criticizes Kraabel for failing to deal adequately with this evidence, but in doing so he confuses two separate issues: the existence of sympathizers, and their inclusion in a designated group.

7 See F. Siegert, 'Gottesfurchtige und Sympathisanten', JSJ 4 (1973), 107-64, at 110-19 for a full discussion; for L. Feldman, 'Jewish "Sympathisers" in Classical Literature and Inscriptions', TAPA 81 (1950), 200-208 it is only the rabbinic term which is at all technical.

8 '[Greek Text Omitted]' TDNT III, 123-28, 128.

9 The considerable debate as to whether the traditional date of Polycarp's death as 156/7 CE can be sustained does not seriously affect the present argument; on the development of the text and the relation with Eusebius' 'excerpts' see B. Dehandschutter, Martyrium Polycarpi. Een literair-kritische Studie (BETL 52; Leuven, 1979).

10 An important parallel appears in Judith's prayer (9: 12, 14) where God is described as 'master of heaven and earth, creator of the waters, king of all creation... God of all power and might, there is none other than you who shields the race of Israel'; see below p. 491.

11 This terminology was by now a regular part of Christian discourse coming frequently in 1 Clem. and also in Justin.

12 E.g. CIG 3176 = G. Petzl, Die Inschriften von Smyrna (Bonn, 1982-87) no. 600 in a letter dated to the same period (157/8) where Marcus Aurelius is the son of 'the father of the fatherland'; see also CIG 3187 = Petzl no. 591 where a decree of the Commune of Asia speaks of the divinized emperor as 'father of the fatherland and saviour of the whole human race' (? time of Nero). See also M. d'Angelou, 'Abba and "Father": Imperial Theology and the Jesus Traditions', JBL 111 (1992), 611-30, at 623-24.

13 For [Greek Text Omitted] see below n. 29; there is nothing to confirm whether or not the term came directly to Ignatius from Jewish sources.

14 See K. Bommes, Weizen Gottes (Theophaneia 27; Koln, Bonn, 1976), 32 n. 35.

15 See only 1 Tim. 2: 10; John 9: 31; 1 Clem. 17: 3 (quoting Job 1: 1); 2 Clem. 20: 4. The more common Greek term 'piety', etc. ([Greek Text Omitted]-) is used more frequently by 1 Clem. (8 times), by 2 Clem. (3 times), but by Tatian not at all, and by Athenagoras as frequently as 'God-fearing' (5 times).

16 In the context 'religion' is an inadequate translation here; piety would capture the contrast with [Greek Text Omitted] but loses the connection with 'the God-fearers'.

17 See H. G. Meecham, The Epistle to Diognetus (Manchester, 1949), 58-59.

18 On the relation between Aristides and Diognetus see Meecham, Diognetus, 59-61 who notes points at which Aristides and the Kerygma Petri agree against Diognetus and points at which the last two agree against Aristides. There are undoubted links between all three documents but it is difficult to establish that these reflect literary dependence. 'Race' is also used of Christians in Hermas, Sim. ix. 17.5; 30.3 in describing apostates as losing their place in the 'race of the righteous'.

19 The Armenian recension also speaks of four: barbarians, Greeks, Hebrews, and Christians.

20 These are supplied from the Syriac.

21 The original heading of the Greek was lost when the Apology was incorporated into the later romance of Barlaam and Josaphat. Chron. 199 implies a common title for the apologies of Aristides and Quadratus, 'pro religione nostra', probably representing [Greek Text Omitted]. So J. R. Harris, The Apology of Aristides, Texts and Studies 1.1 (Cambridge, 1891), 10; R. Seeberg, Die Apologie des Aristides in T. Zahn (ed.), Forschungen zur Geschichte des neutestamentlichen Kanons vol. V (Leipzig, 1893), 161-411, at 264-65 argues for '[Greek Text Omitted]' on the grounds that borrowing from Aristides explains its use in Diognetus.

22 Jerome reports the apology as being 'pro [christiana] religione [nostra]' while in George Syncellus it becomes [Greek Text Omitted]'.

23 Justin does not use the concept of 'the third race': O. Skarsaune, The Proof from Prophecy (NovT Sup. 56; Leiden, 1987), 332.

24 So D. van Damme, 'Gottesvolk und Gottesreich in der christlichen Antike', Theologische Berichte III (Zurich, Einsiedeln, Koln, 1974), 157-68. A. Schneider, Le Premier Livre Ad Nationes de Tertullien (Neuchatel, 1968), 187-91 argues that the term originated with the Christians and was reinterpreted by the pagans, while H. Karpp, 'Christennamen', RAC II, 1114-38, at 1124-25 argues for independent development.

25 So van Damme, 'Gottesvolk', 160, but he is probably wrong to argue that this justification excludes any implied replacement of the Jewish people.

26 [Greek Text Omitted] is also used alongside [Greek Text Omitted] in this way (2 Macc. 10: 8; 11: 25, 27; 4 Macc. 4: 19); on this theme see J. W. van Henten, Die Enstehung der judischen Martyrologie (SPB 38; Leiden, 1989), 127-28. See also Dan. 1: 6 (LXX: the four are [Greek Text Omitted]. Theod. follows the MT in reading only 'of the sons of Israel'), 3 Macc. 1: 3; 7: 10.

27 So L. Baeck, 'Das dritte Geschlecht' in S. Baron and A. Marx (eds.), Jewish Studies in Memory of G. A. Kohut (New York, 1935), 40-46 who argues for a tannaitic origin to the rabbinic use of the phrase of those who have part in the messianic period, possibly drawing on Hos. 6: 2. Karpp, 'Christennamen' suggests a Jewish origin in Egypt in the contrast between Jews, Egyptians, and Greeks.

28 There are, of course, NT roots to this 'refinement'; see 1 Cor. 1: 22 and P. Richardson, Israel in the Apostolic Church (SNTSMS 10; Cambridge, 1969).

29 See Y. Amir, 'The Term '[Greek Text Omitted] (IOUDAISMOS); A Study in Jewish-Hellenistic Self-Definition', Immanuel 14 (1982), 34-41.

30 2 Macc. 6: 1; 11: 25; 13: 14; 3 Macc. 3: 4, 21, 23; 4 Macc. 2: 8, 23; 3: 20; 4: 23; Esther 8: 13. See M. Hengel, 'Die Synagogeninschrift von Stobi', ZNW 57 (1966), 145-83, 180-81.

31 Livy, vi.14.5; see van Henten, Die Enstehung, 143-44, and above p. 487 and n. 12.

32 So L. Robert, Nouvelles Inscriptions, 44; on the use of [Greek Text Omitted] in epitaphs see idem, Hellenica II (1946), 81.

33 Robert, Nouvelles Inscriptions, 39. There are other examples at Sardis. See also above p. 484 and n. 4.

34 G. Bertram, 'Der Begriff "Religion" in der Septuaginta', ZDMG 12 (1934), 1-5.; see n. 8 above.

35 Gen. 22: 12; Ps. 134: 20 and frequently; see Overman, 'The God-Fearers', 20-21.

36 [Greek Text Omitted] is also used at Exod. 18: 21, while Job 6: 14 unusually translates [Greek Text Omitted].

37 In Genesis Abraham (as a Jew?) is not 'God-fearing' but one who 'fears God' (22: 12), although he speaks of the lack of [Greek Text Omitted] in Egypt. For the parallel between Job and Abraham see also b. Sotah 31a cited by Wilcox, 'The "Godfearers" in Acts', 106 who argues that Luke is putting Cornelius, like Simeon and Lydia, within this tradition.

38 The two terms are used in parallel at 4 Macc. 7: 6 and 17: 15 and as v. l. at 7: 22.

39 On the passage see E. M. Smallwood, 'The Alleged Jewish Tendencies of Poppaea Sabina', JTS, NS, 10 (1959), 329-35; M. H. Williams, '[Greek Text Omitted]. The Jewish Tendencies of Poppaea Sabina', JTS NS, 39 (1988), 97-111. Josephus does not describe Izates as [Greek Text Omitted] although the question is how he may properly 'fear' God ([Greek Text Omitted] xx. [section]41).

40 It is the last word in De Virt. 34 (186); according to Eusebius Philo wrote [Greek Text Omitted], possibly to be identified with the Hypothetica.

41 See C. Burchard, Untersuchungen zu Joseph und Asenath (WUNT 8; Tubingen, 1965), 640 who says the word is 'fast technisch fur die Juden' and that it carries more weight than 'pious' (fromm). See also M. Philonenko, Joseph et Aseneth. Introduction, Texte Critique, Traduction et Notes (SPB XIII; Leiden, 1968) 142-43. At TJos. 6.7 Joseph can claim the epithet in his self-control towards Potiphar's wife.

42 See above p. 493.

43 So Robert, Nouvelles Inscriptions, 41, 47 following Bertram, TDNT III. 125. There is no need to see a mistake for [Greek Text Omitted], 'and the Godfearers'. The bibliography on this inscription is vast - not least considering the small number of people who could sit in the area explicitly designated. See H. Hommel, 'Juden und Christen im kaiserzeitlichen Milet', Sebasmata II (WUNT 32; Tubingen, 1984), 200-230 (reprinted from Ist.Mitt. 25 (1975), 167-95).

44 See C. Rouche, Performers and Partisans at Aphrodisias (London, 1992).

45 Marcus Aurelius appears not to have used [Greek Text Omitted], etc.

46 See below p. 498 on Justin's combination with [Greek Text Omitted] in Dial. 52.4; 53.6; 119.6.

47 See H. Holfelder, '[Greek Text Omitted]. Literarische Einheit und politischer Kontext von Justins Apologie', ZNW 68 (1977), 48-66; 231-51.

48 Combined with [Greek Text Omitted] in 23: 5; 93: 2; with [Greek Text Omitted] in 46: 7; 47: 2, 5.

49 In this section [Greek Text Omitted] is identified with the exclusive centering on God which was the purpose of phylacteries.

50 See above p. 488.

51 See P. Stockmeier, 'Christlicher Glaube und antike Religiositat', ANRW 23.2, 872-909, at 887-90 and 894 on the use of [Greek Text Omitted] in response to the charge of atheism.

52 Tatian does not use [Greek Text Omitted] in his Oration and speaks of [Greek Text Omitted] as the proper attitude to God whose opposite is being hostile to God [Greek Text Omitted] (Oratio 13: 3; 17: 3).

53 M. Marcovich (ed.), Pseudo-Iustinus. Cohortatio ad Graecos. De Monarchia. Oratio ad Graecos (PTS 32; Berlin & New York, 1990) accepts a date of between 260 and 302 (p. 4); [Greek Text Omitted] is used very frequently by Origen a little earlier, see Bertram, TDNT III. 127.

54 On his dependence on Jewish apologetics of the antiquity of Moses see Marcovich, Pseudo-Iustinus, 8-9; on this oracle see N. Zeegers-Vander Vorst, Les Citations des Poetes Grecs chez les Apologistes Chretiens du IIe Siecle, Rec. de Trav. d'Hist. et de Phil. 4.47 (Louvain, 1972), 216-23 who argues that it is of Greek and not Jewish origin in the light of its citation by Porphyry (ap. Eusebius, Praep. Ev. ix.10.4).

55 See J. J. Walsh, 'On Christian Atheism', VC 45 (1991), 255-77.

56 P. Stockmeier, Glaube und Religion in der fruhen Kirche (Freiburg, 1972), 32-37 recognizes that Jews and Christians shared the same pattern of response but does not note the implicit competition so implied.

57 Since this article has focused on the term [Greek Text Omitted] it does not try to answer directly the question of the interpretation of the references in Acts, which use a different terminology; the common appeal to the epigraphic use of [Greek Text Omitted] ignores both that difference and the wider and deliberate use of this epithet as it has been traced here.
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Author:Lieu, J.M.
Publication:The Journal of Theological Studies
Date:Oct 1, 1995
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