Marcel Simon's classic study examines Jewish-Christian relations in the Roman Empire from the second Jewish War (132-5 CE) to the end of the Jewish Patriarchate in 425 CE. First published in French in 1948, the book overturns the then commonly held view that the Jewish and Christian communities gradually ceased to interact and that the Jews gave up proselytizing among the gentiles. On the contrary, Simon maintains that Judaism continued to make its influence felt on the world at large and to be influenced by it in turn. He analyses both the antagonisms and the attractions between the two faiths, and concludes with a discussion of the eventual disappearance of Judaism as a missionary religion. The rival community triumphed with the help of a Christian imperial authority and a doctrine well adapted to the Graeco-Roman mentality.
'He succeeds in weaving a thread through a labyrinth of confusing claims and reports ... a detailed picture of the nuances in the conflict of orthodoxies, underpinned by felicitous quotations ... splendid book ... will give the reader a feast ... this work is a polished translation by H. McKeating and with a first-rate index and notes, triumphs over the usual transitoriness of scholarly monographs. Its lasting value cannot fail to inspire the present endeavours to heal the wounds of antisemitism and to promote the true dialogue heralded by the Pope's visit to the synagogue in Rome.'
- Ulrich Simon, The Tablet
'This masterly study of Jewish-Christian relations in the Roman Empire ... smooth-running translation ... The translation is none the less welcome, for no comparable historical synthesis has appeared in English in the post-war period. This gap is a tribute to the excellence of Simon's work ... The abiding value of the book rests not only in its particular scope and insights and in its closeness to primary sources, but also in its balanced and judicious tone ... his calm judgement ... is in itself a fundamental contribution to debate on antisemitism. This is one of those historical works which cannot be neglected by those concerned with the position of the Jews in the contemporary world, and with Christian attitudes to Judaism.'
- William Horbury, Theology
'Yet, while new questions are being asked and new methods and sources used, Verus Israel remains a classic, indispensable as a model of careful analysis and for the wealth of material it contains ... it marked paths for future research ... Its translation is long overdue and we must be grateful to H. McKeating for a smooth and highly readable rendering'
- J. M. Lieu
REVIEWS OF THE PAPERBACK EDITION
'A masterly survey ... the sheer range of Simon's control of the Christian writers, and the sensitivity of his reading of the historical and theological elements in the process, will continue to make his study indispensable for anyone working in the field.'
- Judith Lieu, Journal of Religious History