The religious life within and around the Roman Empire, and the context into which Christianity emerged and where it spread, provides a topic of the widest interest. Yet this context was not that of a completely pagan world, for Judaism was already firmly established and continued as a vigorous contender in the field throughout the first four centuries after the death of Christ - a fact not always well recognised. Historically, Christianity's relationship with Judaism continued to be intimate but ambivalent long after their separation. This has distorted scholarly perceptions right down to our own day, when the religious history of the period still tends to be written from a Christianizing perspective. The suggestion of this book is that we can and should reassess, from a more neutral position, how the competition between these three religions influenced the development of each of them. The Jews Among Pagans and Christians offers a new model of this complex area by drawing on a variety of types of material and method. The essays, by some of the most eminent scholars in the field explore facets of the main theme in a challenging and unorthodox way.
They are written without excessive technicality but concentrate on specific historical problems rather than offering a generalised overview. Together with the overall assessment offered by the introduction they show how to understand the significance of Judaism is also to transform our ideas of how the other religions developed and how the societies worked.