Asceticism, the sage, and the evil inclination : points of contact between Jews and Christians in late antiquity.
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Pendergrass, David W.
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In Jewish Christian comparative studies, especially concerning late antiquity, there exists a need to explore in more detail the ways in which Jews and Christians interacted religiously and socially. Scholars have hinted at the need to address salient issues in the histories of both Judaism and Christianity predicated upon their shared religious experience. The thesis of this dissertation is that natural asceticism, the sociological and religious role of the sage, and the anthropological belief in the evil inclination are three aspects shared between predominate groups of Jews and Christians in late antiquity. This dissertation argues the following things concerning why these three aspects are similar in late antiquity: (1) the similar social and religious environment which promoted ascetic practice as the means by which a person experienced salvation; (2) the increased role and perception of the biblical sage in late antiquity, which was often linked with ascetic practices; (3) the increased role that wisdom played in both Jewish and Christian minds as necessary to increase piety and achieve salvation; (4) the shared anthropological beliefs that each person was a unity of two, morally responsible halves, and that each person possessed an evil inclination which required some form of rigorous behavior to protect the purity of body and (especially the) soul. The role of the sage included passing on the necessary wisdom in the form of oral and written tradition that Jews and Christians needed not only to interpret the Bible correctly, but to achieve necessary levels of piety required for salvation. By studying the ways Jews and Christians shared similar practices in late antiquity, the theological history of both groups is futher illuminated and understood.