Cultural Agonism among Christians and Jews in the Roman Empire
How the Jewish and Christian communities that emerged in the early Roman Empire navigated a “Hellenistic” world is a longstanding and unsettled question. Recent scholarship on the intellectual cultures that developed among Greek subjects of Rome in the so-called Second Sophistic as well as models for culture and competition informed by mathematical and economic game theories have provided new ideas to address this question. This study offers a model for a kind of culture-making that accounts for how the cultural ecosystems of the Roman Empire enabled these religious communities could win legitimacy and build discourses of self-expression by competing on the same cultural fields as other Roman subjects. By considering a range of texts and figures -- including Justin Martyr, Tatian, the “second” Paul of the Acts and Pastoral Epistles, Lucian of Samosata, the author of 4 Maccabees, and Favorinus of Arelate -- this study contends that this competition for legitimacy served as a mechanism out of which those fledgling religious communities could develop cultural identities and secure social credibility within the complex milieu of Roman Imperial society.