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Rome and Jerusalem: A Tale of Two Cities

Everyone knows that Rome destroyed Jerusalem in 70 CE. But most people do not appreciate how much, in the period before the War, Rome also built up Jerusalem, serving as a valuable ally and as a stabilizing force during the interminable Hasmonean family fights over who would be high priest. This evening together we will explore both the good and the bad in the the highly charged relationship between these two Eternal Cities. Join historian Paula Fredriksen (Hebrew University of Jerusalem) on a fascinating journey into the formative era of Western Judaism.

Everyone knows that Rome destroyed Jerusalem in 70 CE. But most people do not appreciate how much, in the period before the War, Rome also built up Jerusalem, serving as a valuable ally and as a stabilizing force during the interminable Hasmonean family fights over who would be high priest. This evening together we will explore both the good and the bad in the the highly charged relationship between these two Eternal Cities.

But here he [Josephus] was, in this room, in this chair, trying once more to explain – to explain the war, to explain his past, to explain his people. Explain to whom? Who still listened? His enemies, perhaps. Or that glittering circle that surrounded his imperial patrons – Vespasian at first, then Titus, later Domitian. Or perhaps he was speaking to his own people, those numberless wide-flung communities that flourished throughout the Mediterranean, from the rim of North Africa up through Alexandria to Caesarea to Antioch and Asia Minor and Greece and, indeed, who flourished even here, in Rome itself. Everywhere they flourish, he thought. Everywhere but Jerusalem.” (excerpt from Paula Fredriksen’s upcoming book Rome and Jerusalem: A Tale of Two Cities).

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Paula Fredriksen is the Aurelio Professor of Scripture emerita at Boston University and Distinguished Visiting Professor of Comparative Religion at the Hebrew University, Jerusalem. A graduate of Wellesley College (1973), Oxford University (1974) and Princeton University (1979), she has published widely on the social and intellectual history of ancient Christianity, and on pagan-Jewish-Christian relations in the Graeco-Roman world. The author of Augustine on Romans (Scholars Press 1982) and the award-winning From Jesus to Christ (Yale Governors’ Award for Best Book, 1988; 2000), she has also published Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews (Knopf 1999), which won a 1999 National Jewish Book Award. In Augustine and the Jews: A Christian Defense of Jews and Judaism (Doubleday 2008; Yale 2010), Fredriksen traced the development of Christian anti-Judaism and explored Augustine’s singular response to it. Her most recent work investigates the ways that ideas about God, humanity, and the world shift and grow during the charged period between Jesus and Augustine in Sin: The Early History of an Idea (Princeton 2012).

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